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2016 Liberty Bowl

SPECIAL THANKS BOWL HISTORY HONORS TCU GEORGIA OFFENSIVE SCOUTING REPORTS In his first year as coach of the Georgia Bulldogs, Kirby Smart saw his offense thrive at times and sputter elsewhere, which is expected when new playbooks and wrinkles are added. But at Georgia, where Herschel Walker and Matt Stafford rewrote the record books, 7-5 seasons are often hard to swallow. Luckily, the Bulldogs appeared to have hit a stride in November, winning three of their four games and losing a nail-biter to in-state rival Georgia Tech, 28-27. Georgia put up 27 points or more in three of those games, led by a resurgent Nick Chubb at running back, combined with the emergence of backfield mate Sony Michel. Over Georgia’s last four games, Chubb and Michel alternated in posting games rushing for 100 or more yards, highlighted by Michel’s season high 170 yards against Georgia Tech. Chubb has shown big play ability, too, rushing for 222 yards and two touchdowns in a season-opening win against North Carolina. Expect the Bulldogs to utilize both early and often as TCU has struggled against the run for much of the season. At 6-5, 235 pounds, freshman quarterback Jacob Eason has all the tools to be a powerful passer for many years to come. After throwing interceptions in five of his first six games, Eason settled down in the pocket, including having three games where he completed more than 64 percent of his passes. Eason is not very mobile, so pass protection will be a key for the Bulldogs’ offensive line. Though the Bulldogs did not have a breakout wide receiver this season, Isaiah McKenzie, Terry Godwin and tight end Isaac Nauta all proved to be solid targets. McKenzie pulled in a team high seven touchdowns and earned all-conference honors for his all-purpose abilities. Led by McKenzie, the Bulldogs could feast against a TCU defense that has been susceptible to giving up big plays this year. Like most Big XII defenses, TCU can often get into shootouts, which could be music to Georgia’s ears. When Eason is not under pressure and Chubb and Michel are able to find their holes and open up the offense, he has been lethal. Ending the season with a bowl game victory could be a huge boost for Smart, Eason and the rest of the Bulldogs entering 2017. 12 | 58th AutoZone Liberty Bowl BOWL EVENTS WELCOME Georgia Bulldogs ISAIAH McKENZIE TCU Horned Frogs KENNY HILL There are many things Texas is known for. Ten-gallon hats. Barbecue. And offense in bunches. At TCU games, you can expect to see all three, but none more prolific than the latter. TCU showed several times this season that they can still light up the scoreboard when clicking. The Horned Frogs began the season scoring 217 points in their first five games and lit up rival Baylor for 62 points in early November. Kenny Hill, in his first season at TCU since transferring from Texas A&M, threw for more than 3,000 yards. He did have inconsistencies periodically though, throwing 13 interceptions with his 15 touchdowns. Since a breakout game against Oklahoma on October 1, when Hill tallied 449 yards passing and five touchdowns, he’s only thrown over 200 yards twice in seven games, causing TCU to look at Foster Sawyer at quarterback, as well. A key for a TCU victory may be confidence. If the Hill who led his team to big wins over Baylor and almost upset Oklahoma shows up, TCU could be in for a very productive afternoon against a rebuilding Georgia defense. Easing the burden could be junior running back Kyle Hicks, who will look to surpass the 1,000-yard mark for the season against Georgia. In the Baylor game, Hicks was dominant, racking up 192 yards with five touchdowns. He slowed down over the next three games, but perhaps the rest will do Hicks good in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. Hill also became more inclined to use his legs later in the season and picked up nine touchdowns rushing. Junior Taj Williams emerged as a downfield threat, as Oklahoma found out when he caught a 74-yard pass against them. Hicks led the team in receptions and remains a solid screen option on passing plays, while the Horned Frogs wouldn’t mind seeing John Diarse bust out like he did earlier in the season against Iowa State and SMU, totaling 13 receptions and 236 yards in back-to-back games. Like TCU’s offense, Georgia’s defense has had its ups and downs. It could prove prescient to rely on Hicks early, both on the ground and with short passes, to relax Hill and get the Bulldogs on their heels. Even this season showed, if TCU is able to find rhythm with the ball, they remain a hard unit to stop on offense, a true Texas staple. BY SETH BERKMAN


2016 Liberty Bowl
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