Penn State and Georgia meet in the TaxSlayer Bowl on Saturday, in what shapes up as a test of defensive wills. Neither team is much good on offense, with the Bulldogs scoring 26.5 points per game this season (No. 84 nationally) and the Nittany Lions scoring 23.9 (No. 101). But both teams are in the top 30 in scoring defense (Georgia is all the way up at No. 9, at 16.9 points per game), and each has won plenty of games based on defense alone.
The two programs have a good bit in common. Both are in a state of transition. Georgia is set to play its first game in 14 seasons under a head coach not named Mark Richt, and Penn State just hired a new offensive coordinator. Neither new Georgia head coach Kirby Smart nor new PSU coordinator Joe Moorhead will coach in this game, so everything's happening against a backdrop of change on the near horizon. Both teams are also working on top-15 recruiting classes for 2016.
How to watch, stream and listen
TV: Jan. 2, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN. Allen Bestwick, Dan Hawkins and Tiffany Greene are on the call.
Radio: Penn State, Georgia, ESPN Radio
Online streaming: WatchESPN
Spread: Georgia is the 6.5-point favorite.
Make friends: Stop by Black Shoe Diaries (for Penn Staters) and Dawg Sports (for Georgia fans).
Three big things to know
1. The closing act for Christian Hackenberg? Maybe, maybe not. The junior Penn State quarterback has had a challenging career, and he hasn't made much statistical progress in the two seasons since James Franklin took over for Bill O'Brien as the Lions' head coach. Hackenberg is still a five-star talent, and he's seeking NFL Draft input. But he does have another year of eligibility, and he might view a season in Penn State's forthcoming spread offense as a good way to improve his stock. Or maybe he just really likes being in college.
2. The closing act at Georgia for Bryan McClendon, definitely. McClendon is Georgia's interim head coach in Richt's absence, but he'll join Will Muschamp's South Carolina staff as a co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach after the TaxSlayer Bowl. McClendon played his college ball in Athens and has been on staff there since he was a graduate assistant in 2007. A win as head coach would be quite the way for McClendon to go out.
3. Penn State probably shouldn't be a full touchdown underdog. Bill Connelly's S&P+ metric gives Penn State a 53 percent chance to win, despite the Lions losing their last three games and Georgia winning its last four. Georgia has a bit of a home field advantage with the game being played in Jacksonville, but these two teams don't appear on paper to be any kind of mismatch. Penn State has a real shot.
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