The 2016 Taxslayer Bowl pits Georgia Tech versus Kentucky, two teams on the brink of the Top 25 in college football.
It's Tech's return to postseason play after missing out a year ago. Paul Johnson's squad won the Orange Bowl two years ago, defeating Mississippi State 49-34.
Kentucky is making its 15th Bowl appearance and first since the Compass Bowl in 2010, a 27-10 loss to Pittsburgh.
December 31, 2016: 11 AM ET
The Yellow Jackets run the option offense under head coach Paul Johnson and finished the season No. 10 in the country in rushing yards per game at 257.
The Wildcats, however, counter that with 241 rushing yards per contest. The one potential problem for Kentucky? 5.1 yards per carry and 225 yards per game. That's what the UK defense gives up on the ground.
Justin Thomas, QB — Georgia Tech
Clinton Lynch, RB — Georgia Tech
Lance Austin, CB — Georgia Tech
Thomas is the straw that stirs Geirgia Tech's triple-option offense and is unquestionably the most important player on either side of the ball on either sideline in this game.
If Thomas (1,454 yards passing, 8 TD, 2 INT | 562 yards rushing 5 TD) makes the right reads, the Yellow Jackets will be difficult to stop.
Lynch, listed as a running back, tallied 392 yards in the ground but he's also the big-play receiver in an offense that completed just 77 passes all season. Lynch caught just 16 balls but for 490 yards (30.6 average) and six scores, including an 83-yarder.
Austin is the best of the Yellow Jackets' defensive backs, collecting three interceptions and often being charged with the assignment of the opposing team's best receiver. In a game where Tech has a decided advantage in the rush defense vs. rush offense category, the Wildcats may need to throw it more than usual. Austin becomes key in this scenario.
Stanley Williams/Benny Snell, Jr., RB — Kentucky
Jordan Jones, LB — Kentucky
Mike Edwards, S — Kentucky
Williams and Snell, Jr. have combined for nearly 2,300 yards rushing this season and scored 20 touchdowns. Even when down two scores, Kentucky will lean on these two backs to keep the chains moving.
Jones and Edwards, the Wildcats' top two tacklers this season, figure to be busy reading the triple-option offense and taking the right routes to the ball carrier. Edwards also leads the team in interceptions with three.
Georgia Tech's advantage on the defense side of the ball likely is the difference in this game, but the Wildcats do have a better chance of playing from behind, thanks to a slightly better passing game with QB Stephen Johnson (1,862 yards, 12 TD, 6 INT).
But Johnson is far from efficient and it's difficult to believe the Wildcats will be able to slow the Yellow Jackets enough to stay in it.
Georgia Tech: 45