The #22 Georgia Bulldogs will be back in action on New Year’s Day, as the 8-4 Dawgs are set to play the 8-4 Nebraska Cornhuskers at noon in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida (televised on ESPN2). This matchup will be the second straight bowl season to feature a game between these two schools; last season Georgia defeated Nebraska 45-31 in the Capital One Bowl.
Nebraska lost two of its last three games to close out the season, and if the Bulldogs want to make it three out of four, they must stop the Cornhuskers’ rushing attack. Playing without senior quarterback Taylor Martinez, who missed the last five games of the regular season due to a foot injury, Bo Pelini’s squad has struggled to establish its passing attack, averaging just 200 yards through the air. The duo of Ron Kellogg III and Tommy Armstrong were lackluster in Martinez’s place, combining for 1,722 yards with 13 TD’s and 10 INT’s, leaving the running game responsible for keeping the Cornhuskers’ offense on the field.
Leading the way for Nebraska on the ground is junior Ameer Abdullah, who sits at seventh in the nation with 1,568 yards along with 8 touchdowns and an average of 130.7 yards per contest. Abdullah has the ability to shake defenders at a whim and break away on the outside, which means the goal for Georgia’s defenders is quite simple: wrap Abdullah. If Abdullah, along with sophomore Imani Cross, starts out slow, the Bulldogs will have a great opportunity to take the lead early on in this contest.
Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo’s task on Wednesday afternoon is simple: find ways to get Todd Gurley the ball. The sophomore running back has been a dangerous player for Georgia when he has been healthy this season, rushing for 903 yards with ten touchdowns and reeling in 344 receiving yards with 5 touchdowns. Nebraska’s defense has been in the middle of the pack against the run (59th) and even better against the pass (22nd), so Georgia’s chances will be much better if Gurley carries the rock and makes a few catches out of the backfield. Backup quarterback Hutson Mason has been impressive since he stepped in for the injured Aaron Murray on November 23rd, but the Bulldogs have to assist the junior from Marietta, Georgia; add in the fact that leading receiver Chris Conley is questionable, and it is clear that the Gurley’s game will make or break Georgia on the first day of 2014.
Game Preview: The Bulldogs get going early on in this matchup, jumping out to a 17-0 lead thanks to touchdowns by Gurley and Mason, who takes off for a 7-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter. However, Nebraska closes the gap in the third quarter, when the Cornhuskers close the gap 17-14 with TDs via Kellogg and Abdullah, who finds a hole and takes off for a 34-yard touchdown. Despite closing the gap, Georgia puts the game away in the fourth quarter with a field goal from Marshall Morgan and a touchdown from senior Michael Bennett. Abdullah scores another touchdown to give the Cornhuskers hope, but it is not enough to beat the Bulldogs. Final Score Georgia Bulldogs 31, Nebraska Cornhuskers 21