The Gator Bowl this season is a chance for one of two teams to prove what they're worth.
Nebraska (8-4) finished second in the Big 12 North and well above expectations. This will be the last game for a core group of seniors for the Huskers, including quarterback Joe Ganz and wide receivers Nate Swift and Todd Peterson.
Head coach Bo Pelini hopes to win his first bowl appearance in his first season at Nebraska.
Clemson (7-5) recovered from a tough start to win four of their last five games under interim (and now official) head coach Dabo Swinney.
The Tigers, under previous head coach Tommy Bowden, have struggled in recent years, but Swinney revitalized the program.
Clemson finished as one of an unprecedented 10 bowl-eligible teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The teams meet in Jacksonville, Fla., at 1 Eastern on New Year's Day.
Nebraska will win if...
Joe Ganz brings his A-game. The man is a talented quarterback when he wants to be. If he makes the throws to Swift and Peterson like he should, Nebraska will have no problem moving the ball.
Also, the coaches have to make smart play-calling decisions. True sophomore Roy Helu Jr. has been explosive toward the end of the season, beating out senior Marlon Lucky for the starting spot. The coaches have to know when to use him and when to throw the ball.
That goes for defense too. The last few games, the defense was very predictable. If Nebraska held a team to a third-and-long situation, the Huskers would bring everyone on a blitz to leave the secondary in single-coverage with holes everywhere for first downs. Smart play-calling on defense will mix up the looks Clemson's offense gets and will give Nebraska a better chance to succeed.
Nebraska will lose if...
The Huskers become one-dimensional. Predictable play-calling will broadcast to everyone (especially Clemson) what Nebraska plans to do.
If the run game fails or if Nebraska doesn't pass when they should, Clemson's defense should have no problem stopping the Huskers.
If Clemson gets Joe Ganz rattled, he'll make poor decisions like he does and throw the game away (Husker fans, remember the Texas Tech game?).
Fan support. Nebraska's fans travel better than any other fans in the country. Even though Clemson is significantly closer to Florida than Nebraska, Husker fans will be at the game in massive support for the Huskers. If there's anything that's close to the Sea of Red in Memorial Stadium, it's the Sea of Red on the road.
Nebraska comes to play because Pelini sparks them to bring it all. The seniors leave it all on the field, for the good of the program and to impress NFL scouts.
The defense plays well like it has consistently this season and the offense moves the ball. Though Clemson is favored in this game, Nebraska pulls off a Gator Bowl victory.
NEBRASKA 31, CLEMSON 27.
For a Tiger's take on the game, please read Trey Murphy's side of the story. Trey is a very talented writer and a dedicated Clemson fan with lots of ideas why he believes Clemson will beat Nebraska in the Gator Bowl Thursday.
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