Despite being undefeated and having the highest ranking for a Group of 5 champion in the College Football Playoff era, Cincinnati was left out of the playoff and is set to face Georgia in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta. Luke Fickell's Bearcats have been an impressive team from start to finish this season but they will go head-to-head with Kirby Smart's Bulldogs in what could be quite the defensive battle. Both teams are built on their ability to play defense, but each has a certain offensive spark as well.
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: No. 9 Georgia (7-2) vs. No. 8 Cincinnati (9-0)
Kickoff: Friday, Jan. 1, 2021 at 12 p.m. ET
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta)
Spread: Georgia -7.0
When Georgia Has the Ball
Oh, what might have been for Georgia if JT Daniels was the quarterback all season. Daniels took over the quarterback position as the season went along, and the Georgia offense looks much more competent with him at the helm. Expect Georgia's offense to continue humming along as the Bulldogs get a chance to play a bowl game in their so-called backyard of Atlanta. When Daniels isn't passing the ball, he can count on handing things off to Zamir White for some hard-earned yards on the ground.
Cincinnati's defense has been statistically very good this season, and that should show at times against Georgia. The Bearcats bring a top-10 defense to the table, but it did so with a schedule lacking in many great offensive threats this season. Luke Fickell has a legitimate defense, but whether or not it will be strong enough to outlast Georgia's offense for 60 minutes remains to be seen. Cincinnati's defense won’t get embarrassed by Georgia, and it may thrive early on. Georgia may have to be patient before Cincinnati's defense shows some cracks, and it's possible that may not occur until after halftime.
When Cincinnati Has the Ball
Most of the credit for Cincinnati's success this season will tend to be placed on the play of the defense, but the Bearcats have been putting up points all season too. Desmond Ridder is a dual-threat quarterback capable of making plays with his arm and his legs when needed, although Cincinnati will hope Ridder continues to avoid making any mistakes. Ridder has gone three games without throwing an interception, and that will be essential for Cincinnati to have a chance to top Georgia in Atlanta.
Cincinnati will face its stiffest challenge yet. Georgia comes into the bowl season with the nation's No. 14 defense in yards allowed per game. This will be the best defense Cincinnati has faced this season, by far. Georgia's defense will make few mistakes, so capitalizing on any will be a big lift for the Bearcats. Georgia will be without star linebacker Azeez Ojulari, but Georgia has depth to rely on.
As good as a team as Cincinnati is, there are some strong reasons to be taking Georgia to win this matchup. JT Daniels has given new life to the entire Georgia offense and that has made the Bulldogs a much more complete team. The Bearcats will be on a mission to prove they belong in this game, and they do. Don't count on Georgia being the power conference team that takes the Group of 5 opponent lightly. The Group of 5 representatives is 3-3 all-time in the New Year's Six since the introduction of the College Football Playoff, so this could be a coin flip for some. But we'll ride with Georgia to hold off Cincinnati and get a late score to put this one on ice.
Prediction: Georgia 34, Cincinnati 26
Podcast: CFB Playoff: Did the Committee Get it Right? And Early Playoff Breakdown and Picks