It would be easy to characterize UGA’s bowl matchup with Penn State (TaxSlayer Bowl) as a throwaway game.
No Mark Richt to lead the club.
No exotic locale for traveling purposes (hello, Jacksonville … again).
No prime-time kickoff on the TV side (12 noon EST on Jan. 2).
No sexy matchup with a Big Ten power (Penn State’s biggest seasonal victory … Illinois).
No immediate, career-altering consequences for interim head coach Bryan McClendon, should the Bulldogs collect a bowl triumph.
Plus, whichever Bulldogs quarterback emerges as the go-to source during bowl action — either Greyson Lambert or Brice Ramsey — they’ll do so knowing their days as UGA’s long-term starter could be numbered.
And that’s because of Jacob Eason, the 5-star quarterbacking stud from Washington state, who recently went public in his support of new UGA head coach Kirby Smart, after momentarily waffling on his decision to sign with the Bulldogs — after the program severed ties with Richt.
(After his “mutual parting” with UGA, Richt quickly took over the reins at Miami of Florida — his alma mater.)
Put it all together, and it may be difficult for UGA to justify its standing as seven-point favorites against Penn State — given the Nittany Lions’ stability at head coach (James Franklin), quarterback (Christian Hackenberg, a potential first-round pick in next spring’s NFL draft) and along the defensive side of the ball (top-30 rankings with total defense and scoring defense).
Historical precedent doesn’t entirely support McClendon’s shot at coaching glory, either.
Courtesy of BangTheBook.com: From 2003-13, spanning 11 seasons, interim head coaches had an overall bowl record of 22-24. Furthermore, the same interim coaches had a 20-25-1 record against the point spread.
Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media), has previously written for SI.com, The National Football Post, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports