Published December 27, 2012 - 12:15pm
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The Game: #7 Georgia vs. #16 Nebraska
What’s at stake: A 12-win season
A 12-win season is no joke, folks. The SEC East winners will try to end their fantastic season on a high note, very different than last year’s Outback Bowl loss to Michigan State. The good news is that Nebraska is ranked 16th, as top ten teams have plagued Georgia over Aaron Murray’s career. With so many seniors and draft eligible players leaving on the defensive side of the ball, this is such a big game for Mark Richt and those players’ legacies to go out on top. A 12-2 finish, with loses only to South Carolina and Alabama, would be a big year – not to mention crushing a Big Ten team on New Year’s Day is just as awesome.
Why UGA will win: Dominant running game
Nebraska may be 22nd in total defense and 1st in passing defense in the country, but the run defense is 96th, allowing over 194 yards per game on the ground. Georgia’s offense has been explosive passing the ball with Murray, but the emergence of freshmen running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall have made Murray that much more dangerous. Gurley is the complete package at the position, as he has rushed for 1,260 yards and 16 touchdowns, while Keith Marshall reminds me more of an ACC back than anything. Marshall can hit the homerun and take it to the house outside, but Gurley is the between-the-tackles runner who thrives against physical defenses. And Georgia will take it to Nebraska’s run defense all day, which allowed over 500 yards rushing to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game.
Why UGA will lose: Run defense
The one aspect of the Georgia defense that scares me about Nebraska is their run defense. John Jenkins is out for grade issues, and DE Abry Jones is returning from a broken ankle and hasn’t played in several weeks. In addition, Georgia has given up over 300 yards per game rushing the last three games. And Nebraska is ranked 8th in the country running the ball, averaging over 254 yards per game. Nebraska isn’t Alabama or Georgia Tech, but they do have a running quarterback and an explosive ground game. Georgia will need their front seven to play its best game of the season.
3 players UGA must stop: QB Taylor Martinez, RB Ameer Abdullah and DE Eric Martin
Taylor Martinez is the lifeblood of the Husker’s offense. He’s combined for 3,640 yards and 31 touchdowns, and Nebraska’s offense goes as he goes. Running back Ameer Abdullah eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark with 1,089 yards and eight touchdowns, and the combination of he and Martinez forms a nice one-two punch with the zone-read option. Nebraska’s biggest defensive weapon has been DE Eric Martin. Martin has 16 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. The Georgia offensive line will need to put a hat on Martin on passing plays. He’s a great looking player.
3 players for UGA who must play well: RB Todd Gurley, QB Aaron Murray and DT Kwame Geathers
Georgia’s biggest weapon on offense has been Todd Gurley. He’s the best back in the SEC in ‘12, and he may be the best freshman player in the country not named Johnny Manziel. When the running game of Gurley is clicking, it makes the play action with Murray so potent. Murray has thrown for 3,466 yards and 31 touchdowns, making him the only player in SEC history to throw for three 3,000-yard seasons three years in a row. With nose guard John Jenkins out, backup Kwame Geathers will get a chance to shine. Geathers has been on the fence of whether or not to turn pro early, and he’ll do fine against Nebraska’s heavy run offense.
MVP prediction: OLB Jarvis Jones
Needing only two sacks to break David Pollack’s Georgia record, I fully expect Jarvis Jones to wreak havoc on Taylor Martinez. Jones is the perfect rush linebacker in the 3-4 defense, and he’ll be in April’s NFL Draft. Watch out for Jones, who will be gunning for Pollack’s record; he’ll win the MVP.
Photo Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports