Cincinnati-Georgia: 3 matchups to watch in the Peach Bowl
It's been a tough bowl season for the AAC so far, but one game can change it all. A 1-3 start for the conference can all be wiped away if the Cincinnati Bearcats find a way to upset the Georgia Bulldogs. It's not easy task, as Kirby Smart's team is playing much better as of late, especially on the offensive side of the ball. There are so many matchups to watch in this game, and it was tough to narrow it down to three. These are the most impactful matchups of the Peach Bowl.
Ahmad Gardner vs. George Pickens
Cincinnati's defense is one of the best in all of college football, and they'll get another stiff test in the Georgia offense. Gardner is one of the best cornerbacks in all of college football, and is starting to get some serious NFL attention. He's faced some tough tests so far this season, but nothing he couldn't handle. Friday's matchup puts him against Pickens, a guy who started to heat up as of late. Pickens has been relatively quiet after many expected him to be a star. With J.T. Daniels at quarterback, it seems like he's a new receiver. In his last three games, Pickens caught 16 passes for 238 yards and three touchdowns compared to just 13 catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns in his first four games. He's a new man, but will need to play even better against a potential first round pick. If Georgia can't move the ball through the air, they're in trouble.
Desmond Ridder vs. J.T. Daniels
The last matchup of quarterbacks for the AAC didn't go so well for Dillon Gabriel and the UCF Knights, but AAC Player of the Year Desmond Ridder is hoping to avoid that same fate. Ridder's emergence midseason as a legitimate passing threat has made Cincinnati a more complete team, but this game is their toughest test to date. Not only do they have to worry about the opposing offense scoring too quickly, but they'll face a swarming defense that has a ton of speed. Ridder's legs will obviously be helpful here (609 yards, 12 touchdowns on the season), but he'll need to find a way to move the ball downfield. Tight end Josh Whyle could play a big role.
On the other side is former USC transfer J.T. Daniels. The former five star transferred to Georgia this offseason, where many thought he'd sit behind Wake Forest transfer Jamie Newman. Neither ended up started this year, with Stetson Bennett and D'Wan Mathis taking the reps. Once Daniels stepped in, the offense appeared to have new life. This is the best secondary Daniels will have seen in action this year, so he needs to take care of the football. Cincinnati's hungry for an NY6 win, and giving them more chances to score points will help them achieve that.
Azeez Ojulari vs. James Hudson
Probably the biggest matchup most won't talk about heading into this game. Whether Ojulari is facing Hudson or other Cincinnati tackle Darius Harper, it's a matchup worth watching. Ojulari has scary speed around the edge, which is the biggest reason he leads the team in both tackles for loss (9.5) and sacks (6.5). A future NFL pass rusher, Ojulari can mess up a passing attack by himself. Hudson won't be easily intimidated, however. A former Michigan transfer, Hudson showed us why he was a four star recruit out of high school. He plays the game with a chip on his shoulder and isn't afraid to jaw with the other team. Cincinnati needs that attitude early when Georgia's going to try and intimidate them.