Georgia's dynamic RB duo to challenge TCU in Liberty Bowl

FILE - In this Nov. 5, 2016 file photo, Georgia running back Sony Michel (1) dives into the end zone for a touchdown after getting past Kentucky cornerback Derrick Baity, left, and defensive back Blake McClain, right, during an NCAA college football game
David Stephenson, File

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) Now that they've decided to put potential pro careers on hold, Georgia running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel want to cap their junior seasons by setting the tone for a big 2017 campaign.

Chubb and Michel announced two weeks ago they would return for their senior years rather than entering the NFL draft. The talented tandem will try to lead Georgia (7-5) to a Liberty Bowl victory over TCU (6-6) on Friday.

''I think this game is the starting point to next season,'' Michel said. ''It will kind of give us that edge in showing us what type of team we'll have.''

Chubb has rushed for 988 yards and Michel has run for 753 yards this season. Both have produced 1,000-yard seasons earlier in their careers.

''They've both been a one-two punch,'' Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. ''Certainly I think those guys will tell you they didn't have as great of seasons as they'd like to have, but we certainly are excited about having them back. It shows a lot about the commitment and where the program is headed that both guys chose to stay in school - at their positions especially - and come back and help us build something special.''

They'll challenge a TCU defense that features the Big 12's top two tacklers in linebackers Travin Howard and Ty Summers.

''Our biggest thing is just tackling,'' TCU defensive end Josh Carraway said. ''We've got to tackle because they have two pretty good running backs, and if we don't tackle, they're going to run up and down (on) us.''

TCU was ranked 13th at the start of the year and Georgia was ranked ninth after opening with a victory over North Carolina , but both fell out of the Top 25 amid up-and-down seasons.

Each team wants to bounce back with a victory that it can carry into next year.

''There's no substitute for winning, I don't think, because that's what your kids leave with and that's what they take into the spring,'' said TCU coach Gary Patterson, whose first bowl victory came here when the Horned Frogs beat Colorado State in the 2002 Liberty Bowl. ''They take into the spring what you did and what you got accomplished in your bowl sites.''

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Some other things to watch in the Liberty Bowl:

HILL'S ANKLE: TCU quarterback Kenny Hill dealt with an ankle injury late in the regular season but has said that he'll be ready to play in the Liberty Bowl. ''He'll be able to play,'' Patterson said. ''I don't think he's 100 percent, but he's close.'' Hill acknowledges he's been ''very up and down, just inconsistent'' this season.

INJURY ISSUES: Georgia wide receiver Riley Ridley is unlikely to play Friday after injuring an ankle during bowl practices. Linebacker Natrez Patrick - the Bulldogs' second-leading tackler - is expected to play after missing Georgia's final three regular-season games with a shoulder injury. Georgia linebacker Reggie Carter hurt his knee in bowl practices and will be a game-time decision.

PROTECTING EASON: Georgia could have trouble giving freshman quarterback Jacob Eason enough time to throw. TCU has 40 sacks this season and averages 3.3 sacks per game, seventh among all Football Bowl Subdivision teams .

FAMILIAR FOE? TCU already played one SEC team this year when it fell 41-38 to Arkansas in double overtime. The Frogs believe they're facing a similar opponent Friday. ''Both being in the SEC, they both run about the same thing - a lot of power football, put it right down the middle, making you stand there and hit them,'' Summers said.

CONFERENCE PRIDE: SEC teams have won the last three Liberty Bowls and have beaten Big 12 teams in the last two, with Texas A&M defeating West Virginia in 2014 and Arkansas knocking off Kansas State last season . The Big 12 already has won one head-to-head matchup with the SEC in this year's postseason, as Kansas State beat Texas A&M in the Texas Bowl .

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More AP college football: www.collegefootball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

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Follow Steve Megargee at www.twitter.com/stevemegargee

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