Capital One Bowl preview - After coming five yards short of BCS title game, the 2012 Bulldogs need to make a final statement
by Travis Ragsdale
photo by Rob Saye
While playing in the Capital One Bowl is not the outcome that most Georgia fans were hoping for, it’s still arguably the biggest out of the non-BCS bowls. Dawg fans will be pretty familiar with Orlando as they’ve had to travel down two times recently; once in 2003 and once in 2008. This year, they’ll line up against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. This is the second year in a row that Nebraska has played in the Capitol One Bowl but they’re coming off a an embarrassing loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game. It is an extremely interesting game from the outside looking in and will be a great challenge for the Dawgs.
Both of these teams are coming off devastating losses in their conference championship games but both of those losses were experienced in different ways. You know the story for the Dawgs; five yards away from playing for a National Championship. It might have been the best game that any Georgia team has played in years. Heartbreak was the result and has left Dawg fans with a sour taste in their mouth. Nebraska’s devastating loss was entirely different. Rather than being so close, they were so far away. In a brutal, 70-31 game, Wisconsin waxed Nebraska for all they were worth. Many Cornhuskers’ fans called it the most embarrassing loss in the history of Nebraska football. Ouch. A win in that game would have resulted in them heading down to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl. Both teams were one game from going to a BCS bowl and now they’re matched-up in Orlando. The question now becomes which team is able to bounce back, regroup and get ready to play in this game. Being so close, Georgia has a tougher task ahead than Nebraska. It’s going to be hard for the Dawg’s coaching staff to motivate the team to prepare well for an ultimately meaningless bowl game. The Nebraska staff can easily motivate their young men by asking them if that’s the way they wanted to end their season. For Georgia, the SEC Championship game essentially was the end to their season. It will be on the shoulders of the seniors and leaders of this team to motivate the other players.
Unique running game
It was so great to see Johnny Manziel win the Heisman this weekend. He deserved it; what an incredibly dynamic player. Georgia needs to be aware that Nebraska has a quarterback that is very similar to Manziel in Taylor Martinez. In twelve games this year, Martinez leads the Cornhuskers in all the major RUSHING categories. That’s right, the dreaded running quarterback. Martinez has gained just over 1,200 yards on the ground this year for ten scores. He has a long run of 92 yards. You can understand why there needs to be some concern about what this guy can do with his feet. Now, the difference between Manziel and Martinez is that Martinez is nowhere near the prolific passer that Johnny Football has shown to be. 21 touchdown passes on the year for Martinez but that also comes with 10 picks. He’ll turn the ball over in some situations. But this isn’t a one trick pony up at Nebraska; they’ve got two other talented backs that can cause a defense fits as well. First it’s Ameer Abdullah who has been the feature back throughout most of year racking up 1,100 yards rushing. There’s also another guy whose name is pretty recognizable and that’s Rex Burkhead. Burkhead was up for Heisman consideration in 2011 after posting some really obnoxious numbers while rushing the football. An injury sidelined him for about half of the year for Nebraska but he’s now. A trio of Abdullah, Martinez and Burkhead is something to be feared by Georgia. Especially, since all of the last three opponents Georgia has played have rushed for over 300 yards against them.
Nebraska’s defense: Uh Oh
Apparently, after it was announced that Georgia and Nebraska would be matched up against each other, the sentiment amongst the Nebraska faithful was “Uh Oh.” Nebraska has had a lot of struggles with their defense this year and they haven’t seen an offense as fast or explosive as the Dawg’s yet this year. Two good examples of how bad the Cornhuskers defense has been this year are of course the Wisconsin game in the Big Ten Championship. But they also gave up 63 points to Ohio State earlier in the year. As Nebraska fans look at Georgia’s offense, they see nothing but trouble. An offensive line they has only gotten better, a QB who is the only guy to throw for 3,000 yards in the SEC for three straight years EVER, two phenom freshmen running backs and more wide receivers than they know what to do with. Expect Coach Bobo to throw everything but the kitchen sink at this porous defense to throw some points up on the scoreboard early. If they don’t make mistakes, Georgia could easily hang half a hundred on Nebraska. It’s now easy to understand why their fans had that feeling of “Uh Oh” when this game was announced.
It’s so hard to talk about intangibles in what amounts to a meaningless bowl game. The two teams don’t play each other enough to have any kind of emotional or mental advantage over one another. Neither team really has any momentum either after losses in their conference championship games. Even if they did have momentum, it would have died after a month layover between games. Both teams are also going to have to fight off disappointment after those last losses. It’s going to come down to which team has better leaders to help the younger guys through the grind of bowl practice and prep. Hopefully the cobwebs will be shaken off by the time kickoff rolls around and we’ll get a quality game.