Our Bowl Previews begin with a big game taking place on New Year’s Day. Its a Big 10 vs SEC match-up as the Georgia Bulldogs will take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
1 p.m. EST, New Year’s Day
When The Bulldogs Have The Ball: Junior QB Aaron Murray threw for 3,466 yards and 31 TDs to 10 different receivers this season. Losing WRs Michael Bennett and Marlon Brown to injury didn’t slow the passing game in a significant way. Perhaps even more impressive than Murray and the passing game were the numbers put up on the ground by two true freshmen, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. The two combined for 2,083 yards and 24 TDs over the course of the season. Gurley was particularly impressive in the SEC Championship game, with 23 carries for 122 yards and 2 TDs against the Alabama defense.
So how does Nebraska slow the Dawgs? Well, they could take some lessons from the Florida defense; Georgia did manage a 17-9 win over the Gators in October, but Dan Quinn’s defense harassed Murray into three first-half picks and the team took a ridiculous number of penalties. The Huskers have an excellent pass defense, allowing under 50% of opponents’ passes to be completed, but keep in mind they didn’t face any quarterbacks of Murray’s style and ability this season. Probably the best QB the Huskers faced was Braxton Miller, who’s much more of a scrambler than Murray is. Nebraska’s pass rush isn’t the greatest, so expect some short passes and run plays, especially early on. Later the Dawgs can try to get the secondary to bite on some play fakes, then go for the deep ball. Then again, the Huskers have struggled to stop the run this year- Georgia may be able to let Gurley and Marshall carry much of the load on offense.
When The Cornhuskers Have The Ball: Running back Rex Burkhead is always a threat when healthy, which he wasn’t for much of the season. (Burkhead did return for the last two games of the year). His replacement, Ameer Abdullah, led the team with 219 carries for 1,089 yards rushing. Between the two of them and QB Taylor Martinez, the Georgia run defense is going to have to be stout to stop the Nebraska ground game. Martinez is consistently good as a runner; in the passing department, he is inconsistent with good games and bad games. Over the course of the season he threw for 21 TDs and 10 INTs. Some of the blame can be spread around though; as Martinez hasn’t always had top-notch protection from the Nebraska offensive line.
Task number one for the Georgia defense will be to keep Martinez in the pocket as much as possible. This is a tall order. (If you still haven’t seen Martinez’ 76-yard rushing touchdown against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game, go find it on youtube). Their primary task as far as the receiving corps goes will be to cover talented sophomore Kenny Bell. The Dawgs defense has 11 interceptions and 25 sacks on the season and I expect them to get at least a couple more of each in Orlando. Keep on eye on junior LB Jarvis Jones, who has an interception, seven forced fumbles, and 22.5 tackles for loss on the season.
Prediction: Nebraska has to still be smarting from the beat down they suffered in their Big 10 Conference title game, and they’ll come out ready to play and play hard. I just don’t think they quite match up talent-wise with Georgia, particularly when the Huskers are on defense. Georgia 38, Nebraska 20.
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