The first of eight bowl games involving Big 12 teams will start with the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl on Monday (ESPN2, 5 p.m. ET) between Georgia (7-5) and Texas A&M (6-6):
Who to watch: Jerrod Johnson. After having the finest statistical season in history by a Texas A&M quarterback, Johnson will be looking for a capper that could catapult him into early 2010 Heisman contention. When he’s most effective, the Aggies mix running plays as well as his passing to take advantage of Johnson’s arm and deep threats like Uzoma Nwachukwu and Jeff Fuller. He could be poised for a huge game against a suspect Georgia secondary that could be struggling without three assistants who were fired after the end of the season. In A&M's six wins and the loss to Texas, Johnson completed 72 percent of his passes. He'll have to be on for Texas A&M to succeed against the Bulldogs.
What to watch: Texas A&M’s ability to stop Georgia’s running game. The Aggies ranked last in the Big 12 in total defense and twice gave up 60 points this season. Although Joe Cox and D.J. Green will present a sizable challenge through the air, the Aggies can’t be playing behind the sticks against the Bulldogs’ rapidly improving running game. Washaun Ealey and Caleb King produced 349 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the Bulldogs’ season-ending upset against Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs averaged 217 yards rushing during the final six games, after averaging 97.1 in the first six, and will test the Aggies in the trenches from the opening snap.
Why watch: Sure, the battle between the Bulldogs and the Aggies appears to be one of the weakest of all of the bowl games. But the offensive styles of both teams should ensure a high-scoring game that still should be entertaining to watch. And the first of three bowl battles between the Big 12 and the Southeastern conferences always provides bragging rights between proud supporters of both leagues.
Prediction: Even with the uncertainty in Georgia’s defensive coaching staff, the Bulldogs should have enough firepower to win a wild game. The Aggies will have their moments but can’t be counted to consistently stop Georgia’s running game. Look for the Bulldogs to control the clock and claim a narrow 45-38 victory.