Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. (ABC)
Georgia (10-2) vs. West Virginia (10-1)
This is the "I shouldn't be here" Bowl.
Georgia had the makings of an undefeated season, with DJ Shockley at the helm at QB. Starting out 7-0, the unthinkable happened and Shockley was injured, precipitating 2 losses in a row against Florida and Auburn. Although, even without Shockley's razzle dazzle footwork, Georgia only lost those two games by a combined 5 points. They did rebound nicely winning at a very respectable Georgia Tech (who beat Miami) and upsetting LSU handily with a healthy Shockley. Dawg fans, though left with an SEC championship and a BC$ berth, are left to ask what might have been.
Many are wondering why the Big East, after Miami and Virginia Tech bolted the conference, still has an automatic berth in the BCS. The Big East is, frankly, the worst BCS-invite conference, being little more than a MAC or Conference USA (who don't get invites). Still, West Virginia is 10-1 having only lost to Virginia Tech, the ACC runner up. West Virginia did win a shoot out against Gator Bowl bound No. 15 Louisville. However, that is the only other respectable team West Virginia has played this year.
Offensive Production: Perhaps the most telling statistic is the overall yardage. WVU averages 386.0 for 62nd while UGA averages 389.5 for 58th. So, on the surface, they seem fairly well matched. However, I'd take 389.5 yards a game in the SEC anyday over any stat from the Big East. Georgia passes more (65th) to WVU's lowly 118th ranking. WVU does rush a good deal more, averaging 262.5 for 5th in the NCAA. UGA averages 157.0 for 47th. WVU averages just over 30 points a game, and Georgia just under 30 points. Given the much better defenses in the SEC, Advantage: Georgia.
Defensive Production: Even with the two losses, Georgia's defensive speed kept them in the games. Shockley runs a la Marcus Vick. West Virginia lost badly to the same type of spread offense at Virginia Tech. WVU has not played a good defense all year, so it will be an adjustment. LSU was a good running team, and Georgia manhandled them. Advantage: Georgia.
Overall talent: Mark Richt has done an incredible job recruiting, essentially locking up football talent rich state like Georgia. West Virginia has not done bad in recent years, but they are a might smaller that the Dawgs. Advantage: Georgia
Special Teams: Richt has prided himself in special teams for some time. Georgia leads the nation in points scored off kicking, with 109 season points, and averages 42.7 yards a punt. West Virginia is 50th in kicking offense and not on the charts with punting. Punting return yardage is a different story, however, with WVU returning 11 punts for 20 yards or more. Playing in the Georgia Dome with perfect conditions, Advantage: Georgia.
Intangibles: West Virginia is a scrappy team, and has played and won a shoot out, if it comes to that. WVU an the Big East desperately need some respectability, and if they can knock off the SEC champ, they will get it. Georgia is playing their 3rd straight game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta (Georgia Tech, SEC championship, and Sugar Bowl), so its basically a home game. With everyone back and healthy and if the Dawgs bring their A game, Advantage: Georgia.