The Matchup: #7 Georgia (11-2) vs. #16 Nebraska (10-3)
When: Tuesday, January 1st
Where: Orlando, FL
Game Time: 1:00 PM ET
Nebraska’s ranked wins: #18 Michigan
What you need to know about Nebraska: Nebraska enters Orlando losers of their conference championship game, much like Georgia. Nebraska is known as a very run-heavy offense that plays solid defense under head coach Bo Pelini.
Nebraska’s offense all revolves around quarterback Taylor Martinez. He surely has the grossest release in college football, but it’s effective. When defenses lose contain on him, he can take it the distance on any given play, and he’s known as more of a running quarterback. He’s thrown for 2,667 yards and 21 touchdowns, while rushing for 973 yards and 10 touchdowns. Running back Ameer Abdullah has rushed for 1,089 yards and eight touchdowns, and Rex Burkhead has rushed for 535 yards and four touchdowns. Both combine with Martinez to give this club three legit threats out of the backfield. Receivers Kenny Bell and Quincy Enunwa are Martinez’s primary targets in the passing game. Bell caught 46 passes for 803 yards and eight touchdowns, while Enunwa caught 40 for 459 yards and one touchdown. The offense looks to run the football down their opponents’ throats, and it will be key for Georgia’s front seven to contain Martinez and limit the running game.
Nebraska’s offense has allowed 30 sacks, good for 96th in the country. The offensive line must pass protect and put a hat on UGA’s Jarvis Jones. Jones has 12.5 sacks this season, and he’ll bring the heat off the edge.
Outside of Ohio State’s 63-point fiasco, Nebraska’s defense played decently up until the Big Ten Championship game against Wisconsin. However, the Badgers rolled up 539 total yards rushing and 640 total yards of offense. Nebraska’s run defense ranks 96th in the country, and they’ll need to play their best game against Georgia’s balanced offense. Nebraska did finish 1st in the country in pass defense, allowing just 148 yards per game. But if they are unable to stop the run against Georgia, they stand no chance winning the game.
The one player Georgia must keep an eye on is defensive end Eric Martin. Martin has 16 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks, and he’s been the Huskers’ biggest weapon on defense in ‘12.
What you need to know about Georgia: The Bulldogs are coming off a heartbreaking loss against Alabama in the SEC Championship game. And while many will argue the clock management, or lack thereof, lost the game for Mark Richt, the fact that Alabama ran 350 yards is the real reason the Dawgs aren’t going to Miami to play Notre Dame. They couldn’t slow down the Bama rushing attack, and that must be cleaned up before taking on the very run-heavy Husker offense.
Georgia’s offense is extremely balanced. Led by three-time 3,000-yard passer Aaron Murray, the offense is as explosive as any team in the country. Murray, of course, threw for 3,466 yards and 31 touchdowns while completing 65 percent of his passes. The two-headed freshmen monster at running back in Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall has only made the passing offense better. Gurley led all SEC running backs with 1,260 yards and 16 touchdowns…as a freshman.
We know about Jarvis Jones, John Jenkins, Alec Ogletree and the talented secondary, but what we don’t know is how well the Georgia front seven will show up against the Husker’s running game. Georgia finished 80th in the country in rush defense, allowing over 177 yards per game. Georgia can’t afford to lose contain against Martinez and let him make explosive plays in the running game. I’m more worried about the front seven, the same front seven I thought had a chance to be the best in college football before the season started.
By the numbers:
|Scoring Offense||37.2 ppg||35.1 ppg|
|Total Offense||458.3 ypg||462.2 ypg|
|Rush Offense||184.15 ypg||254.46 ypg|
|Pass Offense||274.2 ypg||207.7 ypg|
|Scoring Defense||18.8 ppg||25.9 ppg|
|Total Defense||351.2 ypg||343.1 ypg|
|Rush Defense||177.7 ypg||194.85 ypg|
|Pass Defense||173.5 ypg||148.2 ypg|
Who has the edge? In a game between two stout rushing offenses, Nebraska hasn’t seen a bruising back like Todd Gurley yet. I think Gurley is the best freshman in the country, certainly at his position. Once the running game gets going, play action against a good Nebraska secondary looks much more inviting. The key for Georgia will be to get Gurley and Marshall off to a hot start on the ground, furthermore opening things up for Murray down the field.
However, if Georgia’s front seven doesn’t show up to play and allows the Huskers to run at will like Bama, it could turn into a shootout. But I like Georgia’s defense to force a couple turnovers and give the ball over to the offense with a short field. The Huskers have fumbled the ball an FBS-leading 21 times. That doesn’t bode well for a defense that gets awful greedy for takeaways.
Photo Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports