Georgia (9-3) vs. Louisville (9-3)
Dec. 30, 6 p.m. ET (ESPN)
• Reason to watch: Mark Richt’s team is playing Todd Grantham’s new defense, and Grantland’s Holly Anderson already summed that up better than we can.
“On the field, Mark Richt is going to approach former Bulldogs and current Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Grantham at midfield before this game, and they’re going to shake hands, and Grantham is going to put just a little too much aggressive squeeze into his side of things, and Richt is going to serenely ignore it and ask how Grantham’s family is doing, and he’s going to mean it, and that’s going to make Grantham soooooo much madder."
So, there’s that and a pair of nine-win teams with lots of good players playing for the right to be champion of a bowl game sponsored by a department store in the South that is kind of like Macy’s, only a little more polite.
• Keep an eye on: Georgia freshman running back Nick Chubb wasn’t supposed to be the guy this year. That spot was reserved for Heisman Trophy hopeful Todd Gurley. But then Gurley was suspended four games for signing autographs in exchange for money, and he later tore his ACL. Chubb slid into the feature back role and flourished. The freshman rushed for at least 100 yards in seven straight games and averaged a hair under seven yards per carry.
• Did you know: Louisville redshirt sophomore safety Gerod Holliman tied an NCAA record with 14 interceptions this season. Washington’s Al Worley set the previous record in 1968, when he racked up 14 picks in just 10 games.
• Final analysis: This is one of those irresistible-force-meets-immovable-object-type games, with Louisville’s stout defense taking on Georgia’s power-running game. Something has to give. The Cardinals will likely stack the box against Chubb and fellow freshman Sony Michel and force quarterback Hutson Mason to beat them over the top. Louisville’s nine-win campaign didn’t get much national fanfare, but installing new (and old) coach Bobby Petrino, replacing face-of-the-team quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and joining a new conference was a lot to handle. Getting to 10 wins would mark a nice feather in the cap (bird joke) for the program and an important victory for the ACC.
• The pick: Louisville 24, Georgia 21