Can Nebraska find a way to slow down Georgia's offense?
The 67th annual Capital One Bowl — which has gone by many names — is one of the oldest running non-BCS bowls in the country. Both Georgia, which is making its sixth appearance in the game, and Nebraska, which is making its third showing in the bowl, are familiar with the Orlando, Fla., based contest.
The Cornhuskers will be making their second consecutive trip to the Citrus Bowl after losing to South Carolina 30-13 on New Year’s Day last season. The Big Red is 24-24 in 48 total bowl games and is looking for its first bowl win since 2009 (Holiday Bowl). Head coach Bo Pelini is 3-2 in bowl games.
Mark Richt at Georgia is 7-4 all-time in bowl games with his Bulldogs and is also looking for his first postseason win since 2009. The Dawgs were outlasted in a memorable Outback Bowl loss to Michigan State last winter.
Both of these teams won their division and then lost in their respective conference championship game. Both teams have double-digit wins and both teams should be disappointed (possibly, for different reasons) for not landing in a BCS bowl. The Dawgs were five yards away from a trip to the National Championship game.
These two historic programs have met just once before in history. Tom Osborne was in his first season as the offensive coordinator when his Huskers pounded Georgia 45-6 in the 1969 Sun Bowl.
Capital One Bowl: Nebraska (10-3) vs. Georgia (11-2)
Date and Time: Tues., Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET
Location: Citrus Bowl (Orlando, Fla.)
When Nebraska has the ball
Taylor Martinez matured into one of the nation’s best quarterbacks this fall. He led the Big Ten in both passing efficiency (142.32) and total offense (280.0 ypg). He led high-profile comebacks with both his legs and arm in key situations all season long for the Big Red. Rex Burkhead is back healthy for the final game of his career and the speedy Ameer Abdullah give Pelini three outstanding options in the ground game.
All of Nebraska’s weapons will be needed if it expects to move the ball on the Dawgs' nasty defense. Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree lead a stacked linebacking corps that perfectly fits Todd Grantham’s 3-4 scheme. Shawn Williams and Bacarri Rambo are as hard-hitting and talented a safety duo as there is in the nation. Georgia's defensive line suffered a huge (literally) loss when nose tackle John Jenkins was ruled ineligible in late December. With Jenkins out, Georgia will need a big game from Kwame Geathers.
As usual with Nebraska, Martinez will have to make big play with his improvisation skills, as well as throw on time and in rhythm. This will be a huge test for the Big Ten’s top offense.
When Georgia has the ball
Just like the Big Red, Georgia has its own three-headed monster in the backfield. Aaron Murray is one of the top quarterbacks in the nation and is approaching career SEC passing records. He will turn to a pair of freshman tailbacks to loosen up the defense. Todd Gurley finished second in the SEC in rushing (96.9 ypg) and scored 16 times on the ground, while Keith Marshall posted 723 yards and eight touchdowns on his own this year. With the injuries at wide receiver Georgia has dealt with, fans can bet the running game will be the focal point of Richt’s offense. Especially, considering what Wisconsin did to the Blackshirts defense in the Big Ten championship game
Nebraska entered the regular season finale with the No. 15-rated total defense in the nation by allowing just 318.3 yards per game. It was giving up 22.9 points per game. But the defense was abused to the tune of 539 yards rushing and 70 points in the biggest game of the season. Safety Daimion Stafford, end Eric Martin and middle linebacker Will Compton give Pelini experience and talent on all three levels. But if this group doesn’t play its best, the Georgia running game will dominate the game.
Nebraska was poised for its first conference championship since 1999 before the complete letdown in Indianapolis. A loss to Georgia would give every Pelini team in Lincoln exactly four losses. Richt lost in the SEC championship for the second straight season, but this one stung much worse with the clock running out inside the Alabama 10-yard line. The Dawgs are the more talented team, so if it can re-motivate itself after exerting so much energy in the loss to the Crimson Tide, it will win. If not, Nebraska has the offensive firepower to pull the upset.
Prediction: Georgia 35, Nebraska 21
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