Georgia Tech vs. Kentucky, 12/31/16 - Prediction & Preview
Written by: Nikhil Kalro
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (8-4, 6-4 ATS) at Kentucky Wildcats (7-5, 7-5 ATS)
Taxslayer Bowl: Saturday, December 31 at 11.00 AM ET, EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Florida
The Line: Georgia Tech -3.5
The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, who finished fifth in the ACC’s Coastal division with an 8-4 record, will face the Kentucky Wildcats in the Taxslayer Bowl. The Yellow Jackets will be without Marcus Marshall for the game. The Wildcats ended the regular season with seven wins.
Running offense key for Georgia Tech
A mid-season slump saw the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets lose three games and fall to 3-3 for the season. They bounced back from that with resilience, especially with their rushing game. On the ground, the Yellow Jackets averaged 257.4 yards, leading the ACC and 10th in the country. In their last three games of the season, all wins, the Yellow Jackets gained an average of 285.7 yards rushing. “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 said.
QB Justin Thomas led the offense with 1454 yards and eight touchdowns. RB Marcus Marshall, who won’t take part in this game after making public his transfer to James Madison, rushed for 624 yards on 96 carries.
The Yellow Jackets seemed to find their way when it mattered the most, scoring big wins in their last three games, which included an upset win against Virginia Tech and an implausible comeback from a 13-point deficit against Georgia.
Wildcats second in SEC East with 7-5 record
The Kentucky Wildcats finished the season 7-5, second in the SEC East. Stephen Johnson led them with 1862 passing yards and 12 touchdowns, while Stanley Williams rushed for 1135 yards on 160 carries. He was ably assisted by Benny Snell who rushed for 1079 yards.
Even though the Wildcats stumbled towards the end, a win against in-state rival Louisville would have given the team plenty of confidence going into the TaxSlayer Bowl. The Wildcats will break single-season school records if they gain 230 yards and score two more touchdowns.
The Wildcats finished the regular season with 241 rushing yards per game, third in the SEC and 16th overall. Jordan Jones, who was named in the All-SEC second team, registered 100 tackles.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets are:
- 4-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record.
- 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games in December.
- 4-1-1 ATS in their last 6 neutral site games.
- 4-1 ATS in their last 5 against SEC opponents
Kentucky Wildcats are:
- 3-11 ATS in their last 14 games after accumulating more than 280 yards passing in their previous game.
- 1-4 ATS in their last 5 non-conference games.
- 0-4 ATS in their last 4 neutral site games.
Even without Marshall, the Yellow Jackets have so many offensive options with their running game that his absence may not be felt as much as it should. The Wildcats aren’t as good on the running game or with their passing defense. A great game for the Yellow Jackets offense should secure them an ATS win.
The Pick: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets -3.5
Nikhil has been working with ESPN since the age of 18 and covers cricket for their website ESPNcricinfo. When not writing or editing news, game reports, commentary and analysis stories, he is following American sports. A love for stats and patterns, research and results and plain simple learning with a few years of handicapping experience makes him almost 0.500 reliable. A degree in business administration and a keen eye for volatile industries like the stock market help too.
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