TaxSlayer Bowl Update - Kentucky Taking Action; Total Heading North

Jay Pryce

Wednesday, December 28, 2016 4:47 PM UTC

Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016 4:47 PM UTC

Georgia Tech and Kentucky kick off New Year's Eve bowl game activities with a Saturday morning (11 a.m. ET) start in the TaxSlayer Bowl. Get updated line movements, news, and a free pick for the ACC-SEC showdown here. 

Both Georgia Tech and Kentucky are in Jacksonville, Florida practicing for their New Year's Eve showdown at EverBank Field on Saturday morning. For each program, the main emphasis is on stopping the run. The Yellow Jackets led the ACC in rushing, while Kentucky rated third in the SEC. Both teams averaged 5.5 yards per carry.

Georgia Tech is riding a three-game win streak for the first meeting between the two schools since 1960, but it is the SEC representative seeing most of the action on the odds board. The Wildcats opened 5-point underdogs three weeks ago, the spread rising to +3.5 within 24 hours. Books have yet to dangle a field goal with push back causing the number to dance between 3.5 and 4 points leading up to the contest. The total, meanwhile, is slowly rising. The over-under opened at 60 points and has crept north to 62 just days before kickoff.

Georgia Tech's triple-option attack is a major concern for the Wildcats. The Yellow Jackets rank 20th in the FBS with 6.6 yards per play, and pick up 70 percent of their first downs via the rush. Staying disciplined and filling gaps is the focus for a Kentucky defense that yielded 131 points through the first three games this season."I feel like that was one thing that hindered us at the beginning of the season,” remarked Wildcat defensive end Adrian Middleton in preparation of the game. “Everybody wanted to make the play, but now everybody is just trying to do their own job.”

Kentucky offers a more balanced attack on offense. Yellow Jackets head coach Paul Johnson is particularly concerned with the Wildcats big-play ability through the air. Kentucky accrued 25 yards or more on passing plays 27 times this season, which proved the difference-maker in the their 41-38 upset over Louisville to close out the regular season.

A victory will give head coach Johnson his fourth 9-win season with the Yellow Jackets. This is their eighth bowl appearance under the veteran coach's leadership, where they have not fared well. Georgia Tech is 2-5 SU and ATS overall, losing each of its three postseason tilts when favored in the betting market.

The Wildcats haven't played in the postseason since a 27-10 loss to Pitt in the 2011 BBVA Compass Bowl. Points have been tough to come by in the postseason. Kentucky averages 18.7 points per game in its last 10 postseason appearances. The school is 4-6 SU and 5-5 ATS in this stretch.

SBR handicapper Matthew Jordan has a play on the side in this one:

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.

Get free picks the entire bowl season at SBR's college football's pick page

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

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