Capital One Bowl: Does Nebraska Have a Chance with Georgia's John Jenkins Out?
On Wednesday, Georgia announced that nose tackle John Jenkins would not be joining the team in Orlando for the Capital One Bowl against Nebraska on January 1.
Whenever a decision like this is handed down before a bowl game, it's almost always either academics or team rules violations, and per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, we're going through door No. 1 on this one:
John Jenkins, a senior who started all 13 games at noseguard for the Bulldogs, was unable to meet academic requirements to maintain his eligibility for the bowl game. Georgia coach Mark Richt shared that news with reporters after the team convened at the Renaissance Orlando Hotel Wednesday evening.
The 6-foot-3, 358-pound Jenkins was named second-team All-SEC this season by both the coaches and media. A junior college transfer, Jenkins played both noseguard and end for the Bulldogs, amassing 50 tackles and two tackles for loss.
As B/R's Barrett Sallee points out, this isn't ruinous news for Georgia, since NT Kwame Geathers is every bit as massive as Jenkins (Geathers is 6'6" and 355 pounds) and was an integral part of the rotation at nose tackle all year to begin with.
This is still welcome news for Nebraska, though, and a development that could substantially affect the game in Nebraska's favor.
Yes, Geathers is a giant in his own right, and yes, center is still a bit of a concern for the Huskers with Justin Jackson doubtful for the bowl game (per USA Today). But whoever steps in at center—Mark Pelini and Cole Pensick both saw time during the Big Ten Championship Game—is likely to have an easier time than if Jenkins were eligible.
You'll recall that Jenkins and Geathers are part of a rotation at nose and that ability to cycle in a fresh set of legs attached to a guy over 350 pounds whenever necessary was integral to Georgia's push up front.
Without one of those two guys available, the other is going to have to take up as many snaps as possible by himself.
Now look, you can be the fittest, best-conditioned 355-pound man in history. You're still not putting in 80 plays at the nose in one afternoon without dropping off substantially by the second half. Especially not with Nebraska likely to double-team that point of attack on a regular basis.
How many yards will Nebraska rush for in the Capital One Bowl?
So Georgia's going to have to keep a rotation going for Geathers' sake. And the thing is, Georgia only has two eligible nose tackles on its roster now with Jenkins out: Geathers and sophomore Mike Thornton.
Thornton hasn't seen any meaningful playing time all year, nor has he recorded a tackle. He's also only 302 pounds, and if that use of the word "only" seems ironic, that does still make him 53 pounds lighter than Geathers. Whoever's at center for Nebraska will appreciate that.
Georgia does at least welcome back starting defensive end Abry Jones, who tips the scales at 308 pounds and could theoretically move inside if need be. But playing the 1-technique isn't his thing, and Nebraska can exploit that inexperience if given the opportunity.
Moreover, Georgia's rush defense isn't even that good to begin with.
The Dawgs give up a startling 178 yards per game on the ground (mainly because you can run right at All-American DE Jarvis Jones), and with Nebraska bringing its Big Ten-leading rushing attack to Orlando, it's highly likely the Cornhuskers top 200 yards on the day.
We're not calling this game for Nebraska just yet—losing Jenkins doesn't make RB tandem Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall any easier to stop, after all—but at the very least this is a more even matchup than how things looked a couple of weeks ago.
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