Gator Bowl 2014: Players to Watch in Georgia vs. Nebraska

Alex EspinozaCorrespondent IIIDecember 31, 2013

ATHENS, GA - NOVEMBER 23:  Tailback Todd Gurley #3 of the Georgia Bulldogs runs during the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Sanford Stadium on November 23, 2013 in Athens, Georgia.  (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

Two proud programs with great traditions will clash in Jacksonville, Fla. on Wednesday when the No. 22 Georgia Bulldogs (8-4) face the Nebraska Cornhuskers (8-4) in the Gator Bowl.

Both teams are without their starting quarterbacks. Nebraska's Taylor Martinez (foot) and Georgia's Aaron Murray (knee) are each out with injuries. Both teams also have great success in bowl games historically, as Georgia has 27 wins all-time and Nebraska has 24.

This time around, Georgia enters the New Year's Day battle as a 10-point favorite, according to The Bulldogs have the edge after going 5-3 in the competitive SEC with some close losses, while Nebraska limps into the game after a 38-17 defeat to Iowa in the regular-season finale.

Here's a look at key players for both teams on offense and defense heading into the Gator Bowl, in a rematch of last year's Capital One Bowl.


RB Todd Gurley, Georgia

Listed at 6'1" and 232 pounds, Todd Gurley is one of the nation's most physically gifted backs.

Slowed by an early quadriceps injury and then an ankle issue that caused him to miss three-plus games, Gurley has still piled up 903 rushing yards and 15 total touchdowns. He proved his worth in the regular-season finale, carrying the ball 20 times for 122 yards and three scores while adding another touchdown in the passing game, leading Georgia to a 41-34 win over Georgia Tech in overtime.

Not to mention this ridiculous stretch he made for the pylon.


As a true sophomore, Gurley is still a year away from being eligible for the NFL draft. But that hasn't stopped opposing coaches like North Texas' Dan McCarney from claiming Gurley is a "first-rounder," per John Carson of the Daily Southerner.

Nebraska ranks a respectable 28th in the nation against the run this year, allowing an average of 138.3 yards per game, and will have its hands full with Gurley's physical style. The Huskers already know that firsthand; Gurley carried the ball 23 times for 125 yards and a touchdown in Georgia's 45-31 win against Nebraska in the Capitol One Bowl.


RB Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska

What Todd Gurley is to the Georgia offense, Ameer Abdullah is to Nebraska's.

The junior led all Big Ten tailbacks with 1,568 rushing yards to go with his 10 total touchdowns. Abduallah is sneaky strong, but what makes him so tough to tackle is his breakaway speed and shifty moves.

Listed at 5'9" and 190 pounds, the running back packs a different type of punch than his counterpart, Gurley. But that's just fine with Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, according to Mark Long of the Associated Press.

There's no doubt they're both great backs. They're different. They have different styles, obviously built differently. ... But great players come in a lot of different shapes and sizes and a lot of different skill sets.

It's not like he needs much space to make something happen, but Abdullah should be able to find room to run against the Bulldogs, who give up an average of 148.5 rushing yards per game.


LB Ramik Wilson, Georgia

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 16: Nick Marshall #14 of the Auburn Tigers is pursued by Ramik Wilson #51 of the Georgia Bulldogs at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 16, 2013 in Auburn Alabama. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

The main man trying to track down Abdullah on Wednesday will be Georgia linebacker Ramik Wilson.

Wilson made some news earlier this week. The junior inside 'backer announced he would be returning to Athens in 2014, via Seth Emerson of the Macon Telegraph.

Wilson earned a starter's role this season and capitalized, playing himself onto the All-SEC team with a stellar season-long effort. With the moves that Abdullah has and Nebraska's quarterback situation in flux, Wilson's sideline-to-sideline speed should be on full display Wednesday


DE Randy Gregory, Nebraska

LINCOLN, NE - NOVEMBER 16: Defensive end Randy Gregory #44 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers reacts after a tackle during their game at against the Michigan State Spartans Memorial Stadium on November 16, 2013 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty
Eric Francis/Getty Images

The junior college transfer has made a huge impact in his first year with the Huskers, leading the Big Ten with 9.5 sacks in 2013.

According to Jeff Elliott of the Florida Times-Union, Randy Gregory has added 25 pounds to his frame since setting foot on Nebraska's campus in July, bringing him to his current listed size of 6'6" and 255 pounds.

Gregory made a splash and earned the respect of the Big Ten in the process, as he was voted first team all-conference by the league's coaches. According to Pelini, the athletic defensive end is just getting started, via Elliott.

He’s only scratched the surface of what he’s going to be. He’s gotten better as the season has gone on. He’s playing at a really high level as some of his accomplishments are evident. I think being able to go through an offseason program, the ceiling is high for that young man. He’s a good football player, and he’s only going to get better with more time and really getting a chance to get into the weight room and develop during the offseason.

Gregory is eligible to declare for the NFL draft, but he told Elliott that he is looking forward to coming back to Nebraska next year to add even more muscle to his frame. He's just a sophomore now and there's plenty of room to grow heading into 2014.

But first, look for him to be a disruptive force against Georgia's offense in the Gator Bowl.