Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl, New Year’s Day, Noon, ESPN2
Nebraska (8-4, 5-3) — The Huskers are making their third straight bowl trip to Florida, but Nebraska’s brass is growing restless with head coach Bo Pelini. His hot seat moved to scorching levels after comments following a season-ending loss to Iowa compounded previous off-the-record remarks about fans. The fiery leader’s 57-24 at Nebraska since becoming its head coach in 2008, but the Huskers have split six bowl games and have yet to win a conference title. Since 2011, Nebraska’s 3-7 against ranked teams and Georgia’s No. 22 coming into the Gator Bowl.
Related: SEC Bowl Schedule
THE SKINNY: This one’s a rematch of last season’s Capital One Bowl, an affair Georgia won, 45-31, with a huge 427-yard, five-touchdown effort from Aaron Murray. The Bulldogs record holder will be watching his final college game from the sideline in Jacksonville, giving way to junior Hutson Mason who brought his team back from a 20-point deficit in Georgia’s rivalry regular-season finale with Georgia Tech. Nebraska’s starting quarterback, Taylor Martinez, is also out with a foot injury. Ron Kellogg III will be under center in his place.
KEY PLAYER: Nebraska junior running back Ameer Abdullah is the Huskers’ best offensive player and has rushed for 1,568 yards and eight touchdowns this season. He’s picked up at least 100 yards on the ground in each of Nebraska’s eight wins and increased his yards per carry average from 5.0 to 6.2 after focusing on core strength in the offseason. In last year’s matchup with Georgia, Abdullah tallied 48 yards on seven attempts as the No. 2 behind featured back Rex Burkhead.
WHAT TO WATCH: Expect a steady helping of Todd Gurley for the Bulldogs playing alongside Mason, who’s only making his second career start at quarterback against the Huskers. Playing in his best shape since an ankle injury against LSU prematurely derailed a noteworthy season, Gurley should exceed the 24 touches he received in the Bulldogs’ Nov. 30 win over Georgia Tech. Nebraska’s allowed eight 100-yard rushers this season and Gurley’s more talented than most of the ballcarriers the Huskers have seen in the Big Ten.
FINAL SAY: Getting to the nine-win mark for the Bulldogs would be the final stamp of approval for the job Mark Richt and his staff has done considering the slew of injuries that have hampered the program this fall. By most accounts, Georgia was the preseason favorite to capture the SEC East with a senior quarterback, hard-nosed rusher and weapons on the outside, but due to unforeseen circumstances and a rapid emergence from Mizzou, it didn’t happen. A victory would ensure Georgia of a Top 25 final ranking and would be the Bulldogs’ fifth win over their final six games.
Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports