2014 Belk Bowl Preview: Georgia Bulldogs vs. Louisville Cardinals


The No. 13 Georgia Bulldogs will meet the No. 21 Louisville Cardinals in the 2014 Belk Bowl, in a clash that will include some old friends.

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Date: Dec. 30, 2014
Time: 6:30 pm
Venue: Bank of America Stadium – Charlotte, N.C.
Records: Georgia (9-3, 6-2 SEC), Louisville (9-3, 5-3 ACC)
Series Record: First ever meeting
Internet Stream: WatchESPN

This may not have been the bowl game that Georgia fans were hoping for, but rest assured it will be a good one. The Belk Bowl has been in existence since 2002 (originally named the Queen City/Continental Tire Bowl), and has quickly risen to a bowl that includes ranked teams from the SEC and ACC, with a nice payout for both teams.

This will be a new experience for the Bulldogs in more than one way. The team has never played in Charlotte, and this will be the first time the two teams have met in football.

The big storyline, of course, is Louisville defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who served in the same capacity for Georgia from 2010-2013. Two former Georgia players — Shaq Wiggins and Josh Harvey-Clemons — are also with the Cardinals now, although neither are eligible to play in this game.

And let’s not forget that any Georgia fans who also happen to be Atlanta Falcons fans are probably still grinding their teeth about the way Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino crept out on the Falcons in the middle of the 2007 season.

Keys to the Game

There will be no big surprises on either side of the ball because of the familiarity of the coaches. Todd Grantham is more than familiar with UGA offensive coordinator Mike Bobo’s play-calling tendencies, and Mark Richt can probably easily predict what Grantham has planned on defense.

For Georgia, the biggest key will be using the pass to open up the run, the opposite of their usual tactics. Louisville ranks third in the nation against the run, giving up only 94 yards per game on the ground. However, the Cards haven’t really faced a running game the level that Georgia will offer, with their biggest test on the ground coming against Florida State, to whom they gave up 157 rushing yards.

Georgia QB Hutson Mason will need to be on his game early, and hit those bubble screens and crossing routes to the flankers. Grantham’s defenses are generally very susceptible to a wheel route, so tight end Jeb Blazevhich may get called on for a big game early on.

Louisville has a very balanced attack offensively, so Jeremy Pruitt’s defense will probably be forced into some zone coverages, which has caused Georgia some problems this season. The Georgia linebackers will need to spy on the Cardinal quarterbacks, as Bobby Petrino’s spread offense will create some gaps, allowing for QB scrambles and draw plays to hit for big gainers.

Matchups to Watch

The Georgia secondary vs. the Louisville receivers – The Cardinals have four receivers with over 30 catches each this season, all of them with over 350 yards and at least three touchdowns each. Petrino loves to spread the ball, so the Georgia defensive backs will all have to be at their best. Top Louisville receiver DeVante Parker is averaging 21 yards per reception, and will be the deep threat the Bulldogs will have to beware.

Nick Chubb vs. the Louisville defensive line – Chubb will be where the Cardinals focus their attention, and that’s probably fine with him. Louisville only allows an average of 2.94 yards per carry, while Chubb averages 6.89. Something is going to have to give.

Nov 29, 2014; Louisville, KY, USA; Louisville Cardinals wide receiver DeVante Parker (9) catches a pass over Kentucky Wildcats cornerback

Fred Tiller

(3) during the second half at Papa John

Game Prediction:

Louisville has had a nice season in the first season back for Bobby Petrino. However, their schedule compared in no way to Georgia’s, and much of their ballyhooed defensive stats came against token resistance.

The big question is that will Georgia be able to get up for this game, after such high expectations for the season. Normally a bowl like this can be a let down for teams who seemed destined for more, but the matchup against a fresh opponent, and against a former coach will give the team some extra motivation.

It may be close early, and the Cardinals may even go into halftime with a lead, but Georgia’s big offensive line and the pounding by Chubb, Brendan Douglas and Sony Michel will take its toll, and Georgia will get going in the second half and pull away. Take the Bulldogs by two scores, and a small bit of redemption to take back to Athens.