The Capital One Bowl, matching Nebraska vs. Georgia, will be an interesting throwback for the Children of the Corn. In the Osborne era, one of Nebraska’s great advantages was running an option-based attack that teams from around the country weren’t used to seeing.
In some ways, Nebraska will have that advantage against Georgia once again. Here’s why Nebraska’s particular flavor of option football will give Georgia problems.
More than most leagues, the SEC is predicated on “old man football” where teams square up and just try to out-muscle and out-defense their opponents. While there are a few teams on Georgia’s schedule that run a spread-based option attack, and Georgia does face the triple option of Paul Johnson’s Georgia Tech every year, Nebraska’s particular version of the option is somewhat unique.
Not many teams combine a spread-based option attack with a power running game like Nebraska does. The novelty of this attack should help Nebraska move the ball against Georgia’s powerful defense.
The basic premise of any option attack is to outnumber an opposing defense and force one defender to play two potential ball-carriers. If the defender makes the wrong decision, or gets beat, the other ball-carrier should have open space to run.
If the option was Nebraska’s only offensive threat, it might be easier to shut down. But Nebraska’s passing game, led by dangerous receivers like Kenny Bell and Jamal Turner, will force Georgia to respect the pass. That should, in turn, provide opportunities for the option to succeed.
While Taylor Martinez has improved dramatically as a passer in his junior season, his claim to fame is his running ability. Against both UCLA and Wisconsin, Martinez dazzled fans with long touchdown runs. Georgia has yet to face an opposing quarterback that combines Martinez’s ability to throw the ball and to go the distance on the ground.
Yes, Taylor Martinez is a threat to go the distance whenever he touches the ball.
But Nebraska also has two first-rate running backs in Rex Burkhead and Ameer Abdullah on the far end of its option attack. If Georgia over-commits to stopping Martinez, either Burkhead or Abdullah can take the ball and gouge the Bulldogs’ defense.
When you think of a team that was four yards away from an SEC title and a spot in the national championship game, you think of a tough and strong team who can shut down an opponent’s rushing attack.
Which is why you might be surprised to learn that Georgia’s rush defense is ranked 79th in the nation, surrendering an average of 177.77 yards per game. That puts the Bulldogs’ rush defense right between New Mexico and Navy in terms of its ability to stop the run. And that means Nebraska, which has the eighth-best rushing offense in the nation, should expect some success moving the ball on the ground against Georgia.
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