When it comes to who wins the 2014 Gator Bowl, it must be Nebraska.
For Huskers head coach Bo Pelini, it's a necessity. After a season filled with plenty of off-the-field drama, a bowl game win is exactly what Pelini needs.
Beating the Georgia Bulldogs in Jacksonville, Fla. would help repair the relationship between Pelini and many Husker fans. It might not smooth everything over, but it certainly would make a positive impact.
It would also take his team into the offseason on a good note.
Pelini has led Nebraska to a bowl game in each season he's been head coach for the Huskers. However, he has only won in 2008 and 2009.
Since then, Pelini has lost to Washington in the Holiday Bowl in 2010, South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl in 2012 and Georgia in the Capital One Bowl in 2013.
After three long years without a win, Husker fans feel it is time.
The pressure is now on Pelini more than ever. He has to be feeling it too.
In fact, losing does not bode well for the head coach.
If history plays any role, the 2011 Gator Bowl should be a lesson.
Nebraska didn't play in the Gator Bowl that year. Instead, Michigan faced off with Mississippi State. For those that may not remember, the Wolverines were slaughtered 52-14. Former Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez was fired a few days later.
Rodriguez's case was slightly different than Pelini's, of course.
Michigan had endured a turbulent three years under the leadership of Rodriquez. The terrible loss in the Gator Bowl was the straw that broke the camel's back for the Wolverines.
In Pelini's case, many fans are looking for another reason for the coach to be fired. Losing to Georgia in the Gator Bowl would be a good one.
That's where Pelini's situation mirrors Rodriguez's just a bit. That is also why Pelini must beat Georgia on Jan. 1st.
The good news for Pelini is that he has won at the Gator Bowl before.
In his first year as head coach for Nebraska, Pelini led the Huskers to a 26-21 victory over Clemson. Plus, Nebraska faced Georgia last year. While that can make for a less-than-exciting bowl matchup for some fans, it makes things a little easier for Pelini.
After all, he should have an idea of what to expect now.
He even called the rematch with Georgia a "good thing" when speaking with ESPN.com's Mitch Sherman.
It definitely can be a good thing. It all depends on Pelini.
Whether or not Pelini defeats Georgia, it seems likely he will be head coach in 2014. However, a win can make the 2014 season much easier for him.
A loss would instead make fans' grumbles louder. It would also make heading into the offseason a little rougher.
All coaches want to win their respective bowl games. That's an obvious statement. The stakes are just a little higher for some than others. For Pelini, the stakes are very high.
The Gator Bowl is not a game he can lose.
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