Georgia Tech vs Kentucky
When: 11:00 AM ET, Saturday, December 31, 2016
Where: EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Florida
TAXSLAYER BOWL STORYLINES
1. Two of the top rushing offenses in the country collide when Georgia Tech and Kentucky meet in the TaxSlayer Bowl on Dec. 31 in Jacksonville. The Yellow Jackets, whose string of 18 consecutive bowl appearances was snapped last season, led the ACC and sit 10th nationally at 257.4 yards per game on the ground. The Wildcats, who are making their first bowl appearance since 2010, rank third in the SEC and 16th in the nation in rushing yards per game (241.3).
2. Georgia Tech started its season 3-3 before getting on track, winning five of its final six games while averaging 285.7 rushing yards per game during that stretch. “We got fortunate and got hot a little bit, and started playing a little bit better and really finished up the season on a positive note,” Yellow Jackets head coach Paul Johnson told reporters. While the rushing offense is critical to Georgia Tech’s chances, quarterback Justin Thomas (1,454 yards passing, 562 yards rushing) is a two-way threat who engineered late game-winning drives through the air against Boston College and Georgia.
3. Kentucky features a two-pronged rushing attack led by a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Stanley Williams (1,135 yards) and SEC All-Freshman team honoree Benny Snell (1,079 yards) with Snell setting freshman school marks for rushing yards, 100-yard games and touchdowns. “I think it’s impressive to have a true freshman do that,” Wildcats head coach Mark Stoops told reporters. “He’s been steady.” The Wildcats are 230 yards and two touchdowns away from setting school single-season records in both categories.
TV: 11 a.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Georgia Tech -3.5
ABOUT GEORGIA TECH (8-4, 4-4 ACC): Johnson credits the offensive line with solidifying the team after an up-and-down opening half of the season, but the Yellow Jackets will be without leader rusher Marcus Marshall (624 yards) after the sophomore announced his transfer to James Madison. Freshman Dedrick Mills has rushed for 602 yards and 11 touchdowns in only eight games, while Thomas accounted for 459 yards of total offense in an October victory over Duke and passed for 164 yards against Georgia. The Yellow Jackets surrendered only 21.3 points per game in winning their last three contests, including an upset victory at Virginia Tech and a rally from 13 points down in the fourth quarter to knock off Georgia.
ABOUT KENTUCKY (7-5 4-4 SEC): Williams finished the regular season fifth in the SEC in rushing and Snell placed eighth, providing the power for a Wildcats’ offense that saw quarterback Stephen Johnson battle inconsistency and injury. Kentucky punctuated its breakout season with an upset of in-state rival Louisville, winning five of its last seven games. Sophomore linebacker Jordan Jones, who earned second-team All-SEC honors, recorded 100 tackles (14 for loss) in anchoring a defense that ranked in the bottom third nationally in allowing 31.2 points per game.