JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Run, run, run — that might be an apt description for how the TaxSlayer Bowl between Kentucky and Georgia Tech will play out on Saturday.
The Wildcats and Yellow Jackets claim two of the top rushing offenses in the country. Here’s how to watch the game.
Kentucky vs. Georgia Tech, TaxSlayer Bowl game time, details
Time: 11 a.m. ET
Date: Saturday, Dec. 31
Location: EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Fla.
Weather: Mostly sunny, high of 69
The line: Georgia Tech by 3.5
What channel is Kentucky-Georgia Tech in the TaxSlayer Bowl on?
ESPN is televising the game.
How can I watch Kentucky-Georgia Tech online in the TaxSlayer Bowl?
You can stream the game at WatchESPN.
How can I listen to Kentucky-Georgia Tech on the radio in the TaxSlayer Bowl?
You can listen through on Sirius/XM channel 201/83.
Who is calling the TaxSlayer Bowl for ESPN?
Mark Jones is handling play-by-play. Rod Gilmore is the analyst, and Quint Kessenich is the sideline reporter.
TaxSlayer Bowl: Keys to the game for Kentucky
Eliminate the long ball
Yes, it’s still Georgia Tech we’re talking about. Much is made, and rightfully so, of the headache-inducing triple-option attack, but it’s the long ball that could hurt the Wildcats if they don’t stay focused.
Georgia Tech doesn’t pass often, and the Jackets don’t figure to on Saturday, but the constant pounding on the ground is the perfect setup for the occasional deep shot. And when Georgia Tech decides to take them, they usually work.
Senior quarterback Justin Thomas attempted only 134 passes all season, but he averaged almost 11 yards per attempt. Georgia Tech’s receiving corps averages more than 20 yards per catch.
Sophomore running back Clinton Lynch was lethal as a pass catcher, averaging a tick more than 30 yards per catch on 16 receptions — six of which went for scores. The wide receiver duo of Brad Stewart and Ricky Jeune had 17 and 22 catches, respectively, but Stewart averaged 22 yards per reception and Jeune 17.
Control the clock
Kentucky and Georgia Tech are nearly identical in time of possession per game, and that stat will be crucial on Saturday.
Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson joked on a teleconference a couple of weeks ago that Georgia Tech would agree not to throw the ball if Kentucky did the same. His point is that both teams reached this point with reliable run games. But if either team struggles early on the offensive side, its defense could be on the field for long stretches.
Kentucky’s defense improved as the season went on, but depth remains a question. The best way to combat that is to force three-and-outs on defense and have Stephen Johnson, Boom Williams and Benny Snell put together lengthy drives on offense. Snell’s workhorse role and tendency to grind out drives could come in handy for the Wildcats.
Whoever has the ball longest will tell a lot about how the TaxSlayer Bowl turns out.
More of the same from Stephen Johnson
The junior quarterback has directed Kentucky’s offense since the second drive in Week 3 against New Mexico State. Johnson led the Wildcats to a 7-3 mark. It wasn’t always pretty for Johnson, but he seemed to come up the biggest in clutch situations.
Johnson saved his best game for last in a three-touchdown, 338-yard passing effort against Louisville. The Southern California native showed off his ever-pretty deep ball and was putting the ball on target consistently. Johnson’s passing numbers were never stellar before the Louisville game, and his turnover tendencies remain a concern, but Stoops has tons of confidence in his signal caller.
Kentucky should be in good shape if Johnson can limit himself to no more than one turnover and provide enough passing balance to Snell and Williams’ two-headed rushing attack.