Nebraska vs. #22 Georgia : Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl
Nebraska-Georgia PreviewWhile Georgia and Nebraska are set to meet in a bowl game for the second consecutive year, this season's showdown will be quite different than last.
Aaron Murray and Taylor Martinez will both likely be watching from the sidelines as the No. 23 Bulldogs face the Cornhuskers in the Gator Bowl on New Year's Day.
Murray matched career bests with 427 yards and five touchdowns as Georgia beat Nebraska 45-31 in last year's Capital One Bowl. The SEC's all-time passing leader with 13,166 yards, though, won't be available after tearing the ACL in his left knee Nov. 23 against Kentucky.
Set to fill in again is junior Hutson Mason, who threw for 299 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in a thrilling 41-34 double-overtime win at Georgia Tech on Nov. 30 in his first career start.
"I'm very grateful for the opportunity. Nebraska is a very good team. It's going to be a challenge," Mason said. "They're a team that's a lot like us. They've been hit by the injury bug, they're 8-4, we're 8-4. And if you look at their games, one thing I've noticed is that they were one drive, one play from being 9-3, being in a bigger bowl, or playing in a conference championship just like us."
The Huskers, meanwhile, are all but certain to be without Martinez in their 50th bowl appearance. The senior was limited to four games this season due to a rash of injuries, throwing for 667 yards and 10 touchdowns.
"He will be out for the game -- I should say not 100 percent, but it looks like he will be out for the game," coach Bo Pelini told the school's official website. "I think it is hard, this whole season has been hard on him and obviously it is not ideal, and not the way you want to see him go out. I feel for him, it has been a difficult deal, but he is not 100 percent yet."
It's looking like Tommy Armstrong Jr. will be good to go after missing the regular-season finale with an ankle injury. Ron Kellogg III struggled in his place, completing 19 of 37 passes for 199 yards with a touchdown and two picks in a 38-17 loss to Iowa on Nov. 29.
"Armstrong and Kellogg have both had their moments of playing extremely well, and one thing I see in them is a confidence that you got to have," Georgia coach Mark Richt said.
Whoever is under center will try to help the Huskers snap a three-game bowl losing streak. Doing so could prove difficult against the Bulldogs, who scored 183 points over their final four games.
"We have some familiarity with Georgia having played them last year in the bowl game, but these are two different football teams," said Pelini, whose team finished third in the Big Ten Legends Division.
The Huskers figure to lean heavily on junior running back Ameer Abdullah, who is seventh in the FBS with 130.7 rushing yards per game. The third-team All-American went over 100 yards in all but two games.
The Bulldogs will be looking for a big performance from Todd Gurley, who is averaging 6.3 yards per carry and 138.6 total yards per game. The sophomore standout scored 15 touchdowns in nine games, giving him a whopping 32 from scrimmage since the start of last season.
"I think he's one of the best backs in America," Richt said. "I don't think there's any doubt about that. I think most people that have seen him play would say that as well, and I'm going to leave it at."
Gurley carried the ball 23 times for 125 yards and a score in last year's bowl game. He has to like his chances of finding the end zone again versus a Huskers defense that's allowed 21 TDs on the ground, including eight over the past three games.
Nebraska has dropped three straight and six of seven against ranked opponents, including last season's showdown against Georgia.
"It was a great battle last year. We'll see what happens this year," Richt said. "We're preparing for a very tight battle."
The Bulldogs, set to make their 49th bowl appearance, are 2-0-1 in three previous trips to Jacksonville for the Gator Bowl.
"That last game, no matter how your season is, can either leave a sour taste in your mouth or build momentum going into the offseason," Mason said. "So I know just from my standpoint that I want to keep that momentum rolling."
Georgia will face the Huskers without strong safety Josh Harvey-Clemons and backup cornerback Sheldon Dawson, both of whom were suspended for undisclosed violations of team rules.
Harvey-Clemons, who was also suspended for the Bulldogs' opener against Clemson, has 66 tackles with an interception and a team-leading three fumble recoveries.
Nebraska will also be without a defensive contributor. The team announced Friday that defensive end Avery Moss returned to his home in Arizona to attend to a personal issue and won't play against Georgia.