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2008 Sugar Bowl - Hawaii vs. Georgia
Hawaii WR Ryan Grice-Mullen
Hawaii WR Ryan Grice-Mullen
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Dec 27, 2007


2008 Allstate Sugar Bowl Preview - Hawaii vs. Georgia

Georgia (10-2) vs. Hawaii (12-0)

January 1st, 8:30 p.m. ET, Fox

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WhatIfSports.com Sugar Bowl Prediction & Box Score 

2008 Sugar Bowl History, Each Team's Best Bowl Moments, & More

To get this out of the way from the start, Hawaii isn't 2006 Boise State, Georgia is the better team, and this won't be pretty if the Bulldogs actually try.

National Rankings
Hawaii Georgia
Total Offense
3rd  529.25 ypg 69th 379.08 ypg
Total Defense
34th  348.92 ypg 19th  37.44 ypg
Scoring Offense
1st  46.17 ppg 37th  31.92 ppg
Scoring Defense
40th  24.17 ppg 27th  21 ppg
Run Offense
113th  79.08 ypg 36th  178.75 ypg
Run Defense
38th  131.67 ypg 28th  119.50 ypg
Pass Offense
2nd  450.17 ypg 85th  200.33 ypg
Pass Defense
43rd  217.25 ypg 24th  205.17 ypg
Turnover Margin
63rd  -0.08 32nd  0.33
Hawaii
No Colorado W 63-6
at La Tech W 45-44 OT
at UNLV W 49-14
Char South. W 66-10
at Idaho W 48-20
Utah State W 52-37
at SJSU W 42-35 OT
N Mexico St W 50-13
Fresno St W 37-30
at Nevada W 28-26
Boise State W 39-27
Washington W 35-28
Georgia
Okla St W 35-14
So Carolina L 16-14
W Carolina W 45-16
at Bama W 26-23 OT
Ole Miss
W 45-17
at Tenn L 35-14
at Vandy W 20-17
vs. Florida W 42-30
Troy W 44-34
Auburn
W 48-20
Kentucky
W 24-13
at Ga Tech W 31-17
Position Ratings
relative to each other
H 5 highest
1 lowest
G
5 Quarterbacks 4
1.5 RBs 5
5 Receivers 3
3 O Line 4
3 D Line 4
3.5 Linebackers 4
3,5 Secondary 4
4 Spec Teams 4.5
4 Coaching 4

For all the hullabaloo over the little guy's big moment when the Broncos stunned Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, it took one of the most amazingly executed gameplans in the history of football, complete with fearless play call after fearless play call, to pull it off. Everything had to work out perfectly to pull it off. Georgia has had to hear about Boise State ever since the BCS matchups were announced, and should be ready to at least take Hawaii seriously.

No, Hawaii isn't last year's Boise State, but that Bronco team isn't this year's Hawaii. The Warriors have an aggressive defense that's great at getting into the backfield and boasts a secondary more than good enough to hang around with the middling Georgia receiving corps. The return game is among the best in America, the coaching is solid, and oh yeah, the offense led the nation in scoring and likes to throw it around a wee bit.

Georgia hasn't come close to seeing a passing game like this, even though it did do a decent job of keeping Andre Woodson and Kentucky's air attack in check. On the flip side, Hawaii hasn't seen anyone who can play a lick of defense.

The WAC hasn't exactly done the Warriors any favors in the respect department to start the bowl season with Nevada getting shut out by New Mexico in the New Mexico Bowl and Boise State losing to East Carolina in Hawaii. Yes, Hawaii is the nation's only unbeaten team, but it played the nation's second easiest schedule (only Houston had it easier) with its signature win coming over Boise State. There's a lot for Colt Brennan and the boys to prove.

Hawaii only beat Nevada by two, needed everything in the bag to get by Louisiana Tech in overtime, and got a tremendous comeback to get by San Jose State in overtime on a sloppy field. Even at home the Warriors struggled to get by Washington and Fresno State, and got wins over teams like Northern Colorado, Charleston Southern, Idaho and Utah State. Georgia beat Florida by 12.

Considered the nation's hottest team by the end of the year, Georgia won its final six games including the win over the Gators, a 25-point stomping of Auburn, and wins over Troy, Kentucky and Georgia Tech to finish the year with wins over seven bowl teams. Blown past by LSU, and ignored when it came time to pick the BCS Championship matchup, Georgia has the motivation it needs to come into New Orleans a wee bit ticked off. Head coach Mark Richt has done a masterful job of pulling off a few ploys to get his team jacked up, but he might have to do much other than put on a tape of Georgia's last trip to the Sugar Bowl.

The 2005 SEC champs, Georgia didn't get off the bus in Atlanta (Hurricane Katrina moved the Sugar Bowl for a year) and got run past by Steve Slaton and West Virginia. Forget about the great comeback and the fake punt needed for the Mountaineers to avoid an epic choke, the Dawgs still lost 38-35. That, combined with half the college football world hoping to see a Boise State-like magical upset, should get the Dawgs frothing at the mouth.

Georgia might be a year early. This was considered a bit of a rebuilding year before coming out roaring in 2008, and this game could kick off a groundswell of positive press and respect like LSU got after blasting Notre Dame in last year's Sugar Bowl.

Hawaii is on the other side as this could be an end of an era. Brennan will be off to the NFL, head coach June Jones has been considered for several openings from SMU (which he turned down) to some lukewarm NFL interest, and this might be his last game in a lei.

There won't be any punches pulled, there will be a few amazing moments of offensive firepower, and there will be a bit of a push against one of the nation's best teams. Hawaii is the novelty act of the BCS season, and it should put on a great show. Georgia will be ready.

Players to watch: Hawaii's has no running game, so all hopes are obviously on the right arm of Colt Brennan. Banged up at times throughout the year, he didn't put up the same ungodly numbers he cranked out as a junior, but he still threw 38 touchdown passes and just 14 interceptions with 4,174 yards and key play after key play when the team needed him the most. He completed 82 of 103 passes for 937 yards and ten touchdowns against Boise State and Washington to complete the perfect season, and overcame some shaky moments in near-misses against San Jose State and Louisiana Tech to pull off wins. Mobile enough to annoy the Georgia pass rushers, he should be able to buy himself some time when needed, and he'll be a threat to take off at any time. This is his big moment in the spotlight, and this is his chance to legitimize all the numbers (14,024 career passing yards, 131 touchdowns, 15 rushing touchdowns) and prove that he deserves to be considered among the greatest college quarterbacks of all-time.

While Hawaii will obviously be throwing from the word go, Georgia will try to pound the ball with its tremendous backfield tandem of Knowshon Moreno and Thomas Brown. Moreno isn't Herschel Walker, but he entered rarified air when he had a Walkeresqe second half of the season with five straight 100-yard games to finish with 1,273 yards and 12 touchdowns. The extra workload down the backstretch was a must with injury issues in the backfield, but Brown came back from missing over a month to look back to form in the final three games. He finished with 706 yards and ten touchdowns adding more power to the mix along with decent breakaway speed. While he doesn't have Moreno's quickness, he can do it all and will be certain to test the inside of the Hawaii line. 

Looking to bottle things up in the middle is 6-0, 302-pound bowling ball Michael Lafale, who's been the anchor of the Hawaii line since moving over from the offensive side a few years ago. While not an interior pass rusher, he's the one who needs to be shoved around to make the Georgia running game go. If he's handled by just one lineman, there will be big problems for the Warrior linebackers. If he can consistently take on two blockers, Hawaii's defense will have its moments.

Of course, Hawaii is all about the offense, and coming through with great years to make Brennan look great at times were Davone Bess and Ryan Grice-Mullen, two NFL prospects who each pulled off All-America caliber seasons. Grice-Mullen is a home run hitter who became more involved as the season went on with four double-digit catch games in the final six to finish with 100 grabs for 1,335 yards and 12 touchdowns. Bess, a junior, is the more talented of the two with flypaper hands and fearless acrobatic ability when it comes to making plays. He led the team with 101 catches with 27 over a two-game stretch against Nevada and Boise State, and he also sees time returning punts.

Looking to put the clamps down on the Warrior targets will be sophomore corners Prince Miller and Asher Allen, who both held up well, but could be in for a nightmare of a day if they're not rock-solid tacklers in the open field. Miller isn't all that big, but he's quick enough to hold his own on the short, quick patterns. Allen is flat-out fast, but he has to be physical. It'll be his job to provide a bit of a safety-like pop when needed, and keep Brennan from being able to push the ball deep on a consistent basis. Brennan doesn't throw interceptions on a regular basis, with most of his picks coming in two games this year, and the Georgia corners don't have to come up with any. They just need to break up a few passes on third down and keep short plays from turning into backbreakers.

Hawaii will win if... the passing game works. The Warriors can't feel their way into the game; they need to score early, score often, and get Georgia throwing the ball. Matthew Stafford might be the best pro quarterback prospect in the game, but throwing it 30 times in comeback mode isn't his style. Tennessee's Erik Ainge was ultra-efficient throwing the ball on the Bulldog defense, Troy's Omar Haugabook threw for 373, Florida's Tim Tebow threw well, and Kentucky's Andre Woodson had his moments, but Brennan and this passing game is at another level. As long as Brennan is calm, doesn't try to win the game with every throw, and doesn't force things that aren't there, he'll come up with 400 passing yards and he'll move the offense up and down the field. It's not about the quick strike; it's about a ball-control offense that keeps the chains moving, connects on third downs, and keeps the Warrior defense on the sidelines. Hawaii is dead if it loses the time of possession battle.

Georgia will win if... it doesn't start screwing up. Fumbles were a problem late in the season, and Stafford is usually good for a pick a game. Hawaii's offense doesn't need any help with short fields and momentum swings. Georgia has to keep it conservative, not freak out when Brennan and company march once in a while like its throwing against air, and just keep pounding the ball even if there isn't much early success. By the second half, the Bulldog offensive line should dominate and Moreno and Brown runs that might be held to a few yards early will start to break wide open. Defensively, getting pressure on Brennan is a must, even if it means selling out to get to him. While Brennan's tough as nails, he'll hang in until the last nanosecond to take a big shot in a game like this. If the timing of the offense is thrown off just a little bit, the machine breaks down.

What will happen: It'll grow into more of a shootout than Georgia might like, and it'll turn into a different sort of game than both teams might be comfortable with. Hawaii will sell out with its safeties, to stop the run, and it'll work as the defensive front pressures Stafford early on and forces a few misfires. However, there will be one or three key moments when the pass rush doesn't work allowing Stafford to torch the average Warrior corners for deep balls that'll force the safeties to hang back more. That'll combine with the Georgia offensive line taking over just in time for the Dawgs to control the second half, on the ground, force Brennan to press, and come away with the win.

Line: Georgia -9.5 ... CFN Prediction: Georgia 34 ... Hawaii 23

2008 Sugar Bowl History, Each Team's Best Bowl Moments, & More