There hasn’t been much excitement for UGA’s upcoming game against Penn State in the TaxSlayer Bowl, and there are a few reasons why. It’s another bowl game in Florida, a place UGA has practically called home during the bowl season over the past decade. It’s another game against a Big Ten opponent, although Penn State is an interesting matchup. And half of the program’s old coaching staff is out the door, while the new one hasn’t yet taken over.
Despite what many consider a ho-hum bowl, there are still many things UGA can accomplish. This game marks a transition of sorts, which makes it all the more interesting and, in some cases, important.
Here are three beneficial things UGA can do in the TaxSlayer Bowl:
Close the Mark Richt era/start the Kirby Smart era on a positive note
Although he is now the lead man at Miami, this is still Richt’s team. Richt led UGA to nine 10-win seasons, and with a 9-3 record entering the TaxSlayer bowl, another 10-win season is on the line. The win won’t be credited to Richt, but a final win will help close his 15-year run at Georgia in a good way. Moving forward from a coach as entrenched and respected as Richt was can be difficult, but a victory seems like a good way to both end that chapter and begin another.
Speaking of beginnings, a victory over Penn State will help the program moving forward. The Bulldogs found themselves in a similar situation entering last season’s bowl game: Injuries and off-field issues derailed a promising season, and a 9-3 team wound up in the Belk Bowl against Louisville. There wasn’t much excitement for the game itself, but the team’s performance went a long way towards creating enthusiasm for the future. A record performance from Nick Chubb and a strong defensive outing left fans feeling hopeful for this season.
With a new culture coming to the program, another impressive win could have the same effect.
Avoid any major injuries
This should go without saying, but injuries can sap any team’s momentum. Completing the bowl game with no injuries would be ideal, but even minor injuries are manageable. What Georgia needs to keep away from are the type that will require surgery in the offseason or linger into next year.
The obvious injury, which the Bulldogs have had an unfortunate amount of in recent years, does not need to be mentioned. Others like pulls or sprains and strains, though, can last for a while and damage a player’s confidence in his body.
This offseason is sure to be an important one for UGA. A healthy group of players would go a long way.
Send the senior class out with its 40th win
Georgia’s senior class is competing for its 40th win in the bowl game. It’s a rare thing for a single class to earn that many wins, let alone in the SEC. If the team doesn’t feel like it has much left to play for, be it coaches, record, pride, whatever, the senior class should be a motivating factor.
This class helped Georgia to a close loss in the SEC Championship game against Alabama in its first year and has a chance to win its third bowl game. Players like Sterlin Bailey, Quayvon Hicks, Jordan Jenkins and Malcolm Mitchell have had many memorable moments on the field and have the opportunity to earn one more.
There may not be many things UGA has to play for, but that is certainly an important one.