2021 Peach Bowl Preview: Can Cincinnati Complete Undefeated Season?

2020 has been an odd year, to say the least. Because of Covid-19, we went a few months without sports and for a while, no one knew if college football would happen this season. Thankfully, the college football season has happened, although not without the struggles of a shortened season for some teams due to COVID, or schedule issues but for the most part it’s been a successful season. Some teams like the 8th ranked Cincinnati Bearcats and 9th ranked Georgia Bulldogs have had good seasons and now face off in the 2020 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

Headed into the season, Georgia was thought to be a contender for the SEC Championship and potentially, a spot in the College Football Playoff. However, even though they finished the regular season with a solid record and ranking, it didn’t meet the high standards they had set as a program. They’ve had turmoil at quarterback this entire season, starting three different quarterbacks in D’Wan Mathis, Stetson Bennett IV, and JT Daniels at different points. This doesn’t even include transfer quarterback Jamie Newman, who was the presumed starter before the season began but opted out due to COVID concerns.

Offensively, Georgia is ranked 45th in total offense in the country but since Daniels became the starting quarterback, the Bulldogs have gone 3-0 and have performed much better on the offensive side of the ball. They will be tough for the Cincinnati defense to stop given how they are seemingly starting to hit their stride. Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell touched on the performance of Daniels and what he’s added to the offense and even stated that they probably haven’t “unleashed” everything yet.

“I know he can spin it,” said Fickell. “He’s got some great weapons. I still don’t think he’s unleashed all he can do. When you run the ball, you got as good an offensive line as they have, you don’t have to kind of sit your quarterback back there and do all those different things.” Fickell also added, “when you watch games, you see a rhythm, more consistency, knowing what he can do, as they continue to grow.”

Defensively, Georgia has slipped a bit compared to seasons past as they are ranked 14th in the country but they are still a very physical, solid defense that will give any offense issues.

Cincinnati has had a fantastic season. They’re undefeated so far on the season, won the American Athletic Conference Championship and we’re even talked about among pundits as potentially getting into the College Football Playoff. Though that didn’t happen, a potential Peach Bowl victory isn’t a bad way to end your season.

Defensively, Cincinnati finished this season ranked 8th in total defense. That is an extremely impressive ranking, no matter who their opponents were. For the most part, the Bearcats have blown out teams but in one-score games against the University of Central Florida Knights and the University of Tulsa Golden Hurricanes, the Cincinnati defense was able to hold firm and get stops when needed. They’ll have to keep that same energy and play that well against an ascending Georgia offense.

Offensively, Cincinnati is ranked 20th in total offense in the country but are led by their dynamic dual-threat quarterback, Desmond Ridder. He’s rushed for over 600 yards and 12 touchdowns this season to go along with passing for 2,090 yards and 17 touchdowns. He’s a threat in every aspect on offense and will be a huge test for the Georgia defense. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart spoke about Ridder, his athletic ability, and an underrated part of his game.

“He’s really smart,” said Smart. “He puts them in the right play a lot. I think they put a lot on him check-wise. You can see he does a great job of getting them in the right play. You very rarely see them in a play that is bad for them, meaning when somebody is doing this, they’re doing this. They have an answer for whatever you do. He’s done a great job of putting them in the right place. He’s a really good athlete. I think it’s deceiving how fast he is. He has really long legs. When he takes off running, you see him outrunning people all over the place. When you start outrunning linebackers and DBs in college football, says a lot about your speed. There are times where plays have broken down, he’s turned them into big-time gains and plays.”

With how well the Bearcats have been playing all season and how well Georgia has played, specifically offensively since Daniels has become the starter, this will surely be a competitive entertaining game. Georgia is looking to continue to show that they are in the top tier of college football programs while Cincinnati is looking to prove to people that they can play well against a Power Five opponent.

The Peach Bowl will take place on January 1st at 12PM EST at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN.

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