College Football Betting: Kentucky Will Outrun Georgia Tech In Taxslayer Bowl

kentucky football

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, December 14, 2016 5:09 PM UTC

Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016 5:09 PM UTC

Looking for a betting warm-up on New Year's Eve ahead of the two College Football Playoff semifinal games later that day? I give you an 11 a.m. ET kickoff from Jacksonville featuring Georgia Tech and Kentucky in the Taxslayer Bowl.

Yellow Jackets Don't Throw Much

Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson entered this season squarely on the hot seat after his Yellow Jackets slid to a 3-9 record last year with the program missing a bowl game for the first time since 1996. But with this year's Jackets at 8-4, Johnson should be safe.

That's not to say this is a great team. The only quality wins were Nov. 12 at No. 14 Virginia Tech, the eventual ACC Coastal Division champion, and at Georgia 28-27 to end the regular season. That game probably cinched Johnson's return in 2017 as Tech rallied from a 27-14 hole midway through the fourth quarter against its biggest rival. Qua Searcy won it on a 6-yard TD run with 30 seconds left. Otherwise, all the good teams that the Jackets played -- Clemson, Miami, Pittsburgh and North Carolina -- it lost to.

Of course Georgia Tech is the only Power 5 school that still runs the triple-option and as usual is among the nation's top rushing teams (257.4 ypg, 10th in country) and worst passing (131.2 ypg, 123rd). This will be the collegiate finale for QB Justin Thomas, who has passed for 1,454 yards and eight touchdowns this year and rushed for 562 yards and five scores. Thomas generally only attempts around 10 passes per game. His season high was 19 attempts. Meanwhile, the team's leading rusher, Marcus Marshall, is transferring and won't play in the bowl game. He carried 96 times for 624 yards and four TDs this year.

Georgia Tech has 16 plays of 50 or more yards against FBS opponents, tied for the most in the country. But Tech ranks 126th in the nation in third-down defense. That means the defense can't get off the field and thus the Yellow Jackets averaged their fewest offensive plays since 1965.

This is Tech's eighth appearance in the Taxslayer Bowl, which used to be called the Gator Bowl. The Jackets are 3-4 in the previous seven. GT is 6-4-1 ATS on college football odds.


Wildcats Saved Stoops' Job

While Johnson's seat was a bit warm at Georgia Tech entering the season, that of Kentucky coach Mark Stoops was boiling hot. But thanks to leading Kentucky to a 7-5 regular-season record and first bowl game since 2010, Stoops will return in 2017.

The Wildcats were actually in the running to win the SEC East Division until back-to-back losses to open November against Georgia and at Tennessee. However, UK closed with a blowout home win over Austin Peay and a 41-38 upset at No. 11 Louisville. Austin MacGinnis' 47-yard field goal with 12 seconds remaining was the winner against the Cardinals. The Wildcats outgained Louisville 581-561 and forced four turnovers by Heisman winner Lamar Jackson. That was the only quality win by UK all season unless you count South Carolina as quality, and I don't.

While Kentucky doesn't run the option, it is also a run-heavy team as it ranks 16th nationally at 241.3 rushing yards per game. The Cats have an excellent 1-2 tailback punch of Boom Williams (1,135  yards, seven TDs) and Benny Snell Jr. (1,057 yards, 13 TDs).

The Cats have played Georgia Tech 19 times, but not since 1960. UK is 7-5 ATS on college football picks this season.

This game should come down to which team runs better and stops it better. Georgia Tech ranks 64th against the run in allowing 174.2 yards per game. Kentucky is 108th in allowing 225.0. The Jackets are 2-0 vs. the SEC this year. But that loss of Marshall should hurt Tech.

NCAAF Free Pick: Kentucky +3.5Best Line Offered: 5Dimes

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