The Capital One Bowl is only hours away and the matchup that has some Nebraska fans excited but most just plain terrified is almost here.
For weeks, there have been speculation, predictions and previews of what may transpire in Orlando.
But let’s set aside the crystal ball finally, forget about the hypothetical scenarios and focus on the 10 facts every fan should know before Nebraska and Georgia square off in the Capital One Bowl.
With the exception of the Huskers’ dismal performance at Iowa the day after Thanksgiving, the Big Red offense has been remarkably consistent throughout the regular season.
Despite never exploding for a momentous 50-point game against a BCS conference opponent, Taylor Martinez and the rest of the Nebraska offense has found success against every defense, scoring at least 21 points in every contest except Iowa.
Georgia’s defense is statistically no better than the top defenses of the Big Ten conferences that Nebraska found decent success against.
The Georgia Bulldogs will be without nose tackle John Jenkins for the Capital One Bowl due to academic issues. The second team All-SEC selection has been instrumental in the Dawg defense all season, but he will be watching the New Year’s Day game from home.
And this is awful news for the Bulldogs. Georgia just came off a performance against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game in which they conceded 350 rushing yards. Without their leader up front, the Bulldogs could be in trouble facing off against a Husker team that is highly reliant on and proficient in the run game.
After sustaining a late-season injury, Nebraska defensive tackle Baker Steinkuhler was forced to miss the Big Ten Championship Game and watch as Wisconsin gashed the Blackshirts for long run after long run. While many of these came initially on the defense’s periphery, the later the game wore on, the more the runs came between the tackles.
And the Husker defense will be without Steinkuhler again in Orlando. Certainly, the conference title game was not the first time the Blackshirts were exploited by an opposing offense. But it was definitely the most severe lashing.
Was it just coincidence that this domination of the Nebraska front seven occurred right after Steinkuhler’s departure from the lineup? Probably not.
Mark Richt and Bo Pelini will square off in a situation in which they were both once known to be prolific. At the beginning of both coaches’ stints at their present schools, they were known for their postseason success.
Richt won seven of his first nine bowl appearances at Georgia. But since, he has dropped two straight. Similarly, Pelini began his work at Nebraska by winning his first three bowl games, including his victory as interim head coach following the departure of Frank Solich. Yet he also has lost his last two.
Two coaches will enter. One will exorcise his postseason demons. One will have some serious questions to answer about his team's preparation over the last couple years.
The Bulldog defense is certainly one that demands respect. They have ranked high nationally for much of the year, thanks in large part to the efforts of their stars like standout linebacker Jarvis Jones.
Yet if there is one hole in this defense it is in the run game. Alabama exploited this weakness in the SEC title game and did so often, running all over the Dawgs for 350 yards.
Although Nebraska may not have the same caliber of offensive line as the Crimson Tide, the Husker rushing attack is certainly one to be reckoned with. Expect the stable of Big Red talent in the backfield to challenge this mistake-prone Georgia rushing defense.
Both of these teams are of course very disappointed to find themselves in the Capital One Bowl. Nebraska had eyes for a trip to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl. And Georgia was a mere five yards from scoring a go-ahead touchdown and punching their ticket to the BCS National Championship Game.
Of the two, Georgia must be the more disappointed one. The Bulldogs were so close to achieving something that only two Georgia teams have done before them. But they fell short, five yards short. No matter what happens in this bowl game, this season will always be remembered as the year Georgia fell five yards short of the title game.
How Georgia will “get up” for this game will definitely be an issue for which Mark Richt will have to find an answer.
Aaron Murray’s relationship with the Georgia Bulldog fans has been a love-hate one. Against the bottom-feeders of the SEC and poor non-conference opponents, Murray has been great for the Bulldogs. He has avoided mistakes, made the plays he could and led his team to many victories.
In the big games, however, Murray has been much maligned by mistakes and shortcomings. Over the course of his career at Georgia, Aaron Murray has led his team to a 3-10 mark against ranked opponents. Maybe the Bulldogs would have been better off if Nebraska would have dropped another couple spots in the rankings.
There is no statistical category that is more indicative of a team’s overall success than turnover margin. Good teams hold on to the ball and take away from their opponents. It really is that simple.
The disparity between Georgia and Nebraska in this crucial stat is staggering though.
Georgia unsurprisingly does very well in the turnover battle, carrying into the Capital One Bowl a plus-10 margin that ranks 20th in the nation. Nebraska, on the other hand, has not performed in a way indicative of its record. The Huskers have a minus-eleven margin that ranks 105th in the nation.
Eerily similar to Aaron Murray are the 2012 Blackshirts who thrive in low-pressure matchups against weaker opponents.
The Husker defense has experienced great success against the lesser offenses of the Big Ten. But in their games against UCLA, Ohio State and Wisconsin, the Blackshirts simply looked overmatched and incapable.
They now will face off against another very able offense in the Georgia Bulldogs, and the Bulldogs’ strong rushing attack may spell trouble for the Blackshirts.
The most important item to note heading into the Capital One Bowl is Nebraska’s motivation. Despite being obviously disappointed by their landing spot in the bowl picture, the Huskers should not be short on bulletin board material in Orlando.
They are not playing for a Rose Bowl victory, but their pride should be enough to mentally prepare them for the Georgia Bulldogs.
Simply put, the Huskers were humiliated the last time they stepped on the field, being dealt a historically lopsided loss to Wisconsin. Truthfully, nothing will erase the memory of that horrific performance. But a big win over Georgia would sure be a start.