The official bowl schedule for 2013-2014 has been released, and much to the chagrin of the #22 Georgia Bulldogs, they will be playing a familiar opponent this bowl season, as they will be heading to Jacksonville, Florida to play the Nebraska Cornhuskers for the second straight season, this time in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl.
This will mark the second straight bowl season that the Bulldogs will face the Cornhuskers, although this season’s meeting, which will be played on January 1, 2014 at noon on ESPN2, is under much different circumstances than last time around. Last year’s bowl game featured an 11-2 Georgia team coming off a heart-breaking loss in the SEC Championship game facing a 10-3 Nebraska squad fresh off of a thirty-nine point loss in the Big Ten Championship game in a matchup the Bulldogs eventually won 45-31. Fast-forward to this season, and the storyline concerns an 8-4 Georgia that has limped through the majority of the year facing an 8-4 Nebraska team that has head coach Bo Pelini on the edge of being fired.
So far the feedback on this game has been entirely negative, but it is understandable for both sides: bowl games are for the most part worthless and mainly just create fresh and intriguing matchups for the fans and the players. Getting the same bowl opponent two years straight is surely not very common (I am unaware of a similar situation since I began watching football eleven years ago), and add in the fact that the two are having seasons they would both like to forget and the result is a less-than-stellar bowl game.
While Georgia fans may be quick to say that we will have a repeat of last year’s matchup, it would be wise to not jump out to such rash conclusions. It is important to keep in mind that senior quarterback Aaron Murray will not play in this game (torn ACL), an unfortunate loss considering his 429 yards and 5 touchdown day against the Cornhuskers on New Year’s Day. It is also crucial to think about the Bulldogs’ struggles against Nebraska’s offense in that Capital One Bowl; without completely diving into an evaluation of this matchup (we will save that until the game is a little closer), Georgia’s defense, boasting the likes of Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree, gave up thirty-one points and allowed Nebraska to keep up the pace until about midway through the fourth quarter.
Will Georgia stand tall and shuck the Cornhuskers for the second straight season, or will they play flat following the disappointment of the season and let Pelini’s players have the last laugh? It remains to be seen, but we will all find out for sure once 2014 rolls in.