The nation's top two rushing offenses will collide on December 27th in Shreveport, Louisiana when Georgia Tech meets Air Force in the 35th annual Independence Bowl, the nation’s 11th-oldest bowl game.
Georgia Tech's ground game ranks No. 1 out of 120 FBS programs, churning out 327 yards per game. Head coach Paul Johnson Paul Johnson's 2009 Yellow Jackets' ground troops finished 2nd in 2009 and 4th in 2008. Johnson previously coached at Navy where his rushing offense was ranked No. 1 every season from 2005-2007, and was 3rd in 2004.
Air Force averaged 317.92 rushing yards per game during the regular season. Head Coach Troy Calhoun's 2009 team finished 3rd in that statistical category while the 2008 team ranked 6th.
Georgia Tech QB Josh Nesbitt is unlikely to play after breaking his forearm against Virginia Tech, but the Jackets averaged nearly 20 yards more in the three games without Nesbitt than they averaged with him.
The Georgia Tech defense surrenders an average of 25 fewer rushing yards per game than the Falcons.
This will be the fourth meeting between these schools with the Yellow Jackets winning all three previous matchups, but the teams have not met since 1979. Air Force is making its third appearance in the Independence Bowl while Georgia Tech will be making its debut in the Independence Bowl. The Falcons won back-to-back appearances in 1983 and 1984.
Calhoun has posted a four-season record of 33-18, 21-11 in the Mountain West. Included in this season's 8-4 mark are wins over Navy and Army that earned Air Force the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for the first time since 2002 and ended Navy's 7-year stranglehold on the prize. Those victories take on extra meaning this year as all three U.S. service academies earned bowl invitations in the same season for the first time in history.
The Falcons are just 1-2 in bowl games under Calhoun, with last year's team snapping a 3-bowl losing streak. Air Force has on overall bowl record of 9-10-1.
Johnson is 26-13 overall, 18-10 in the ACC, in three seasons at Georgia Tech. But a 6-6 campaign this season is the worst record he has posted as a head coach since his first Navy team went 2-10 in 2002. Just last season, Georgia Tech finished 11-3 after winning the ACC Championship and falling to Iowa in the Orange Bowl.
The Jackets are riding a 5-bowl losing streak and a Johnson-coached team hasn't won a bowl game since 2005. Georgia Tech is making its 14th-straight bowl appearance to tie for the fourth-longest active streak in the FBS. The Jackets are 22-16 all-time in bowl games.
"Our football team should be excited about this opportunity to play against a very talented, well-coached team like the Air Force Academy," said Johnson. "It will certainly be a challenge for our football team, but it’s also a chance to end the season on a positive note as we head into 2011. I know that our senior class would like to conclude their careers with a win in a bowl game."
Three of Air Force's four losses this year were by a total of only 10 points, and three came against teams that are among the top 19 in the BCS Standings - No. 3 TCU, No. 7 Oklahoma and No. 19 Utah. The other loss was to a San Diego State team that finished 8-4 and earned a Poinsettia Bowl bid against Navy.
Oddsmakers installed Air Force as 2.5-point favorite while the Congrove Computer Rankings (CCR Top 120) favor Georgia Tech by a more 0.19. The computer's preseason forecast expected Georgia Tech to finish 10-2 while it pegged Navy's final record of 9-3. It is 8-4 straight up on Georgia Tech games this season, 4-7 against the spread. It is 7-5 straight up on Navy games and 7-4 against the spread.
The game will be broadcast live on December 27th on ESPN2, beginning at 5 p.m. ET.