TaxSlayer Bowl: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets vs. Kentucky Wildcats

TaxSlayer Bowl: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets vs. Kentucky Wildcats

Date: Dec. 31, 11 a.m. ET on ESPN

Location: EverBank Field | Jacksonville, Florida

Georgia Tech

Best moment: Any time the Yellow Jackets post consecutive wins in Athens, Georgia, that calls for a celebration. They did just that by following up their 2014 overtime win at Georgia with a last-second, come-from-behind win this time around to cap the regular season with an 8-4 mark and, just as importantly, take a three-game win streak into the postseason.

Lowest moment: The Nov. 5 loss at North Carolina was the only game in which Georgia Tech was never all that competitive, as the Yellow Jackets fell 48-20 in a tilt that saw them get completely dominated in the second half. It also doubled as the last great UNC performance of 2016, as the Heels dropped their next two ACC games.

Key player: The offense goes as Justin Thomas goes, and the redshirt senior has left behind a nice legacy in Atlanta. While his production wasn’t what it was during that charmed 2014 Orange Bowl run from a pure numbers standpoint, Thomas still threw for 1,454 yards and eight touchdowns against just two interceptions, while rushing for 562 yards and five touchdowns.

Motivation level: High. Georgia Tech has talked late in the season about finishing with nine wins, and that would certainly provide a huge boost of momentum if the program can end 2016 on a four-game winning streak, erasing the stench of a 3-9 campaign from 2015. -- Matt Fortuna


Best moment: Take your pick between the pair of last-minute field goals by Austin MacGinnis: a 51-yard boot to beat Mississippi State 40-38 or the 47-yarder to topple Louisville 41-38. The Louisville kick probably takes the cake because of the stakes involved, not just beating a rival, but also one that was ranked 11th nationally at the time.

Lowest moment: It’s hard to imagine a major-conference team having a worse period than the time between the second quarter of the opener against Southern Miss until the fourth quarter of Week 2 against Florida. USM closed the opener on a 34-0 scoring run to win 44-35 and Florida scored the first 45 points of the following week’s game. In that stretch of the better part of six quarters, opponents outscored Kentucky 79-0.

Key player: The backfield combination of Stanley “Boom” Williams and freshman Benny Snell Jr. made it easy to transform Kentucky’s offense into the run-first force it became once Stephen Johnson took over at quarterback. Williams is one of the SEC’s most dynamic offensive players, rushing for a team-high 1,135 yards and averaging 7.1 yards per carry. Meanwhile, Snell is the power runner, totaling 1,057 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Motivation level: High. The Wildcats finished the season as one of the SEC’s hottest teams, winning five of their last seven games to claim their first bowl bid since the 2010 campaign. The Louisville win was a massive momentum builder for Mark Stoops, who increasingly seemed like a lame-duck coach in September. -- David Ching