A year ago, the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Georgia Bulldogs each came up short in their conference championship games to set up a collision in Orlando at the Capital One Bowl. This time, each team lost three conference games to finish out of the Big Ten and SEC title tilt pictures, and the result is a postseason rematch in another Florida locale.
Georgia is a decided favorite for the battle, settling in as 9 point chalk at most shops monitored by SBR's live college football odds. Bettors intent on playing the total are currently deciding 'over/under' on 60.5, up a half from the opener.
This is the third time Nebraska and Georgia have squared off, each clash in a bowl game. The Bulldogs have won the previous two contests, whipping the Cornhuskers 45-6 in the 1969 Sun Bowl before handling them last New Year's Day in Orlando by a 45-31 count. Georgia was laden with a similar spread in the Capital One Bowl (-9.5) 365 days ago when Aaron Murray threw a Bulldogs bowl record five touchdown passes. The total was also close to the same (61.5), and had skipped above the mark before the teams got to the fourth quarter.
Injuries To Top QBs Give This Meeting A Different Look
The Cornhuskers won't have to worry about Murray shredding them again this year after the senior quarterback suffered a season-ending knee injury in a romp past Kentucky on Nov. 23. The SEC career record holder in TD passes, yards passing and total offense, Murray underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee, and his next stop should be the NFL where's he is currently projected as a middle-round pick in next April's draft.
Hutson Mason replaced Murray in the season finale against Georgia Tech and helped rally the Bulldogs to a 41-34 victory in double overtime.
Murray isn't the only injury concern for Georgia (8-4 SU, 3-8-1 ATS) and head coach Mark Richt who just completed his 13th season in Athens. A pair of safeties, Corey Moore and Tray Matthews, are listed as questionable for the Gator Bowl. Moore is nursing his own knee injury while talented freshman Matthews could miss with a bad hamstring.
Bo Pelini and Nebraska (8-4 straight up, 6-6 against the spread) could be without two quarterbacks for the matchup, including 1st-stringer Taylor Martinez who hasn't played since late-October because of a hip injury. Tommy Armstrong Jr., a redshirt freshman out of Cibolo, Texas, is questionable due to an ankle injury, leaving senior Ron Kellogg III as the likely starter under center for the 'Huskers in the Gator Bowl.
Kellogg actually finished the season with more pass attempts and yards than either Martinez or Armstrong, but was nowhere near the dual threat that the other two provided.
Change At QB Means Slight Change In Offensive Attacks
It would have been interesting to see Murray test what was a pretty good Nebraska pass defense that ranked 21st in the nation allowing a little more than 200 yards per game. Now it will be interesting to see if Richt allows Mason the same freedom to direct what was first and foremost an aerial assault behind Murray, or if he goes a little more conservative.
The Bulldogs do have a solid rushing attack, led by sophomore Todd Gurley who gained more than 900 yards in nine games. Freshman JJ Greene, who filled in for Gurley when he missed three games midseason, is also a threat to break off a big run.
Meanwhile, the Georgia defense can focus mostly on Nebraska tailback Ameer Abdullah and not worry much about Kellogg beating them with his legs. Abdullah averaged over 130 yards rushing per game, seventh in the country, and ran for more than 100 yards in 10 of the Cornhuskers' 12 games.
I don't have a lot of confidence in whoever quarterbacks each side in this game, and will be counting on the defenses to do their job to keep this final below the total for my free college football pick.
My pick: Nebraska-Georgia Under 60.5
Reg. Season: 31-15 (+14.5)