In preparation for tomorrow’s Independence Bowl between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Texas A&M Aggies, I have looked at their common opponents, and why their common opponents do not matter, but it is time now to give this game the full Dawg Sports treatment . . . which, naturally, requires providing you not with a smidgen of insight, nor with a dollop of knowledge, but, rather, with Too Much Information:
It’s no secret where the problem lies for Georgia in Monday’s matchup in Shreveport. The Aggies rank third in the Big 12 in scoring offense (33.9 points per game), second in rushing offense (190.4 yards per game), and first in total offense (465.3 yards per game). Jerrod Johnson trails only the Texas Longhorns’ Colt McCoy and the Missouri Tigers’ Blaine Gabbert in pass efficiency rating, while Texas A&M underclassmen Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael are two of the top nine rushers in the conference. The Aggies can move the ball and score some points.
As I have discussed previously, the ‘Dawgs have history with the Maroon and White, most of it bad. The Classic City Canines lost to Texas A&M thrice during Wally Butts’s fairly dismal final decade on the Georgia sideline in the 1950s, attaining a measure of redemption only by beating the Aggies in 1980 in Herschel Walker’s first game between the hedges. The win over the Aggies by the national championship-bound Bulldogs also saw the return of the silver britches after a sixteen-year absence. Hopefully, the fact that the Red and Black used their last game against Texas A&M to restore an historic uniform tradition will prevent the Athenians from fiddling with their game day attire in the Independence Bowl.
Tomorrow’s outing in the Pelican State will be the fourth December 28 bowl game in the Bulldogs’ history. Georgia previously took the field on that date against the Maryland Terrapins in the 1973 Peach Bowl, the Arizona Wildcats in the 1985 Sun Bowl, and the Boston College Eagles in the 2001 Music City Bowl. The ‘Dawgs are 1-1-1 on that date, with the lone loss having come during the first year of Mark Richt’s tenure in Athens.
The Aggies may be worse defensively than the ‘Dawgs, if such a thing is possible. Texas A&M ranks last in the Big 12 in scoring defense (32.7 points per game allowed), pass defense (262.8 yards per game allowed), total defense (431.3 yards per game allowed), and opponents’ first downs (269 allowed). Although the Maroon and White rank a relatively respectable tenth in their league against the run (168.6 rushing yards per game allowed), they have surrendered a conference-worst 26 touchdowns on the ground. The 46 total TDs and the 6.0 yards per play conceded by the Aggies are the most in the Big 12, as well. Believe it or not, this is the defense that could allow Joe Cox to cement his place in the Bulldog record book. Wow, it felt weird to type that.
Seven of the Aggies’ last nine opponents have scored at least 30 points against them, with four of those teams scoring at least 47 points on Texas A&M. Five of the Bulldogs’ last seven opponents have scored at least 24 points on them, with three of those teams scoring at least 34 points on Georgia. Half of the dozen members of the Big 12 rank in the top 40 nationally in scoring offense. Half of the dozen members of the SEC rank in the top 40 nationally in scoring offense.
Before you begin feeling too upbeat about the information contained in the preceding pair of paragraphs, please bear in mind that Georgia ranks in the bottom half of the Southeastern Conference in scoring offense, total offense, rushing offense, passing offense, and turnover margin. Texas A&M is susceptible to good offenses; the Red and Black are mediocre at moving the ball and bad at hanging onto it. Oddly enough, though, the Bulldogs average 6.0 yards per play . . . exactly the average given up by the Aggie defense.
Tomorrow will mark the Bulldogs’ 23rd game against a current Big 12 team. Georgia has gone 14-8 against teams presently belonging to the conference formed by the merger of the Big Eight with the cream of the SWC, and the ‘Dawgs have won ten of their last eleven showdowns with the league whose representative will take the field against the Red and Black in Shreveport on Monday afternoon.
There is, however, a reason why Vince Dooley made sure to keep his teams close to home when arranging the Classic City Canines’ schedules: Georgia is 10-1 against current Big 12 teams in Athens but a combined 4-7 against that conference in away games and at neutral sites.
In case you hadn’t noticed, the Independence Bowl is not played in Sanford Stadium. When you expect the worst, your only options are to be proven correct or pleasantly surprised.
Both teams are really bad at playing defense, but one of these two bad defenses will be coached by a full paid professional staff and the other will be coached by a head coach with an offensive background, an assistant coach without a contract, and a couple of graduate assistants. One team is really good at playing offense, but the other team consistently turns the ball over three times a game. One team is highly enthusiastic about being in Shreveport after finishing under .500 thrice in the last six years, but the other team doesn’t seem particularly motivated. It would seem that the Aggies are holding all the cards.
My Prediction: Texas A&M 49, Georgia 27.