Nebraska is making preparations to face South Carolina on January 2 at the Capital One Bowl in Orlando. With the long layoffs, travel and distractions that come with a bowl game, sometimes it is difficult to know exactly what to expect and what to look for in a bowl game. But here are five things that Nebraska fans should be looking for as the bowl game unfolds.
Perhaps the biggest single question to be answered with regard to whether Nebraska will beat South Carolina is if Mike Caputo will be suspended due to his DUI citation earlier this month.
Caputo, a senior, started at center every game for Nebraska in 2011. If Caputo doesn’t play, Nebraska will be forced to start little-used Cole Pensick at center against a stiff South Carolina defensive line. Given that Nebraska will likely want to establish a running game to attack the Gamecocks, losing the leader of the offensive line could be a critical blow for NU.
Rex Burkhead carried the ball 261 times in 2011 and broke the team record against Iowa with 38 carries. However, it became evident toward the end of the season that the amount of carries and the amount of punishment Burkhead absorbed during the year had begin to take its toll.
With over a month to recover, it will be interesting to see what a refreshed Burkhead looks like against a strong South Carolina defense.
Through the course of 2011, Nebraska fans watched as the Tim Beck Offensive Experience was unveiled. As the season unfolded, Beck began to develop an identity for his squad, with Rex Burkhead the focus of the offense and Taylor Martinez growing into more of a manager and less of a playmaker.
With the bowl game, Nebraska will get the month of December to practice and for Beck to further develop and install his offensive philosophies with a young group of offensive players. Nebraska fans should get a good look at what that extra time and attention will yield on the field.
The Capital One Bowl will be the swan song for Lavonte David and Alfonzo Dennard as they cap their Nebraska careers and prepare for the NFL draft. But toward the end of the season, Will Compton and Andrew Green began to emerge as effective defensive playmakers. While the spotlight certainly will be on David and Dennard, Nebraska fans might also get a glimpse into the future and see what the Blackshirts’ playmakers of 2012 might look like.
To the consternation of parts of the country without a Waffle House, the all-SEC championship game might not set hearts racing. But there is no question that the SEC is recognized as the best conference in the nation, and Nebraska has a great opportunity on a national stage to see how NU’s talent stacks up against the best.
How good is the SEC? Well, South Carolina ranks second in the nation in pass defense and fourth nationally in total defense. In the SEC? Second in pass defense and fourth in total defense.
So, from a national perspective standpoint, Nebraska putting on a good performance against a top-level SEC defense would go a long way toward establishing Nebraska’s credentials as a legitimate contender on the national stage.
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