Louisville, Georgia set to face off in Belk Bowl
College Contributor Network
The No. 20 University of Louisville and the No. 13 University of Georgia will meet for the first time ever in the 2014 Belk Bowl, it was announced Sunday afternoon. The matchup will bring some of Georgia's native sons to play against the Bulldogs, and will see Louisville's defensive coordinator face the team he was with for four years before coming to Louisville.
Louisville has recruited heavily in Georgia over the past few years, and some of the Cardinals most notable names hail from the Peach State, including injured quarterback Will Gardner, and defensive cornerstones, Lorenzo Mauldin and Sheldon Rankins. Rankins has 48 tackles on the season, as well as seven sacks and two interceptions. Mauldin, the Atlanta native, has been the leader of this Louisville team both on and off the field, and has 45 tackles and 6.5 sacks on the year.
"I am proud of our team's hard work and commitment this season, and playing in the Belk Bowl against a nationally ranked SEC team is very exciting for our program," head coach Bobby Petrino said in a statement released by the school. "Charlotte is a great destination for our fans and very accessible. Georgia is a high-quality opponent with a great tradition, and the bowls first-ever top 20 matchup will definitely be exciting."
Perhaps one of the biggest story lines of this matchup will be Louisville defensive coordinator Todd Grantham come back and face the Bulldogs. Grantham was with Georgia for four years before coming to Louisville to help lead the defense on Bobby Petrino's new staff.
Grantham's defense has become a nationwide sensation, leading the NCAA in many defensive statistics throughout the season. The Cardinal defense is currently sixth in the country in total defense, and third in the country in rushing defense. Louisville has only allowed nine rushing touchdowns this season, and averages 93.7 rushing yards allowed per game.
Further, Louisville's defense has lit up every opponent this season, including 2013 Heisman Trophy winner and national champion Jameis Winston, who was picked off three times when the Seminoles came to Louisville on Oct. 30.
Another key member of the Cardinal defense is safety Gerod Holliman. Holliman led the nation in interceptions with 14 on the season, and tied an NCAA record for interceptions in a single season, the previous mark was set by Al Worley in 1968.
On the other side of the ball, some Georgia fans still have ill feelings towards Grantham due to his departure after the 2013 season. He ruffled some feathers at his introductory press conference, when he stated that his defense was the backbone of Georgia's success in 2011 and 2012. And after Grantham left, a couple of Georgia defensive players went with him. Safety Josh Harvey-Clemons and and cornerback Shaq Wiggins both didn't play this season, but followed their defensive coordinator to Louisville, and will see playing time in the future.
Georgia's new defensive coordinator, Jeremy Pruitt has his defense 20th in the country in total defense, and 25th in scoring defense.
This is Louisville's second trip to the Belk Bowl, the last one came in 2011 with a loss to NC State. It is Louisville's 19th bowl appearance in school history. It's also the third time Louisville has faced an SEC team in postseason play. The Cards defeated Alabama in the 1991 Fiesta Bowl, and most recently defeated Florida in the 2013 Sugar Bowl.
This will be Georgia's 50th bowl in program history, which is the sixth most in the country. The Bulldogs have a 27-19-3 record in postseason bowls, while Louisville has a 9-8-1 overall bowl record. This is Louisville's fifth-consecutive bowl appearance, and 14th in the past 17 seasons.
Louisville finished its first regular season in the ACC with a 9-3 record, good for third in the Atlantic Division. Georgia also finished with a 9-3 record, placing itself second in the SEC East. Both teams defeated the Kentucky Wildcats this season, and Georgia defeated Clemson at home in its season opener, while the Tigers defeated Louisville in Death Valley.
The bowl selection process didn't go how Louisville or Georgia expected when Sunday started. The teams had thought they'd go to the Sun, Music City or Citrus Bowls. But when the bowls were announced, the teams accepted bids to play each other in the first meeting of these two teams. There were previous matchups in 2011 and 2012, which were cancelled due to scheduling issues.
Both teams enter the game looking for their 10th win of the season, to add motivation on top of everything else. The 2014 Belk Bowl will be one of 10 bowl games to feature two ranked opponents. The game, which is already being nicknamed the "Grantham Bowl" will take place at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC on Dec. 30 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are still available.
Annie Moore is a junior at the University of Louisville majoring in Communications with a Sport Administration minor. She believes Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame. Follow her on Twitter: @AnyMoreSports