On Jan. 1, 2020, No. 5 Georgia clashes with No. 7 Baylor in the Sugar Bowl, where the winner will cap off a 12-win season. Georgia lost to Texas 28-21 in the Sugar Bowl last season.
The Red & Black takes a look at what to watch for in the New Year’s Day matchup between the Bears and the Bulldogs.
While Georgia’s offense sometimes takes a while to heat up, Baylor’s offense slowed down in the second half against Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game. Third-string quarterback Jacob Zeno was forced to enter the game but put on quite an impressive performance, throwing for 159 yards and a touchdown.
Similar to Georgia, the Bears have faced injuries on the offensive side of the ball. Starting quarterback Charlie Brewer left the Big 12 championship game with a concussion, and his status for the Sugar Bowl has not been announced. Zeno could be the answer after he proved to be much more reliable than second-stringer Gerry Bohanon.
Motivation will be a key factor in this matchup on offense with both teams potentially thinking about what could have been. Any hopes of a College Football Playoff berth were crushed for Georgia and Baylor in their conference championship games.
Baylor is built like Georgia. The Bears’ 11-win season came thanks to a stellar defense that covered up a mediocre offense. Baylor led the Big 12 in scoring defense and red zone defense. For a conference that regularly touts offensive juggernauts, Baylor was not in that conversation.
Head coach Matt Rhule has grown the program by implementing his comfortable system in Waco, Texas, and it relies on defense. Linebacker Terrel Bernard led the team in tackles — 26 stops better than the next closest Bear.
Georgia will have to contain defensive tackle James Lynch, who had 12 1/2 sacks in Baylor’s first 13 games. Lynch surpassed Shawn Oakman for most career sacks in school history during Baylor’s win over Texas on Nov. 23.
Georgia’s offense will have to be patient against the Bears. Baylor led the Big 12 in pass efficiency defense, so the matchup will rely heavily on Georgia’s ability to establish a dominant run game.
Baylor safety Grayland Arnold is fifth in the nation with six interceptions. He will likely match up against Georgia’s top receiver: George Pickens.