TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl: Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Georgia Bulldogs
Wednesday, Noon ET, ESPN2
It becomes almost a cliche, this thing we say at bowl time: You have to wonder if Team X really wants to be here. It's used, sometimes with some evidence supporting it, to explain why a team believed to be far better than its opponent might lose a bowl game, particular if the favorite plays flat or uninspired football. And while it might be overused, there's no doubt that a bunch of 20-year-olds can be influenced by whether they think a bowl game is more or less than they deserve.
But what about when both fan bases, and potentially the teams, feel the same way? Georgia and Nebraska played each other last year in the Capital One Bowl, you see, and while it was in some respects a barn-burner of a football game, no one necessarily wants to play the same bowl opponent twice in a row. Especially in the same state.
So it's a little hard to know what to make of this game. We can spout facts and statistics all day long -- and we'll tick off a few in just a minute -- but they might mean nothing in the end. Intangibles do matter. They might not matter as much as sportscasters believe they do, and there might be no way to measure them, but they matter. That makes this game an interesting test case for how much weight they can carry.
Georgia, with all the injuries it's suffered this year, is a puzzle to begin with. The most important piece of that puzzle might be Hutson Mason, who will be starting at quarterback for the second game after Aaron Murray's season-ending injury against Kentucky. Mason had a solid outing against Georgia Tech, where he led the Dawgs on a comeback after they got down 20-0, the obvious counterpoint to that being that Mason was the quarterback when Georgia got down 20-0 to their in-state rivals. He'll have at least a decent number of Georgia's weapons at his disposal -- hopefully including Chris Conley -- though getting the Dawgs back to the days when they were churning out 489.8 yards a game might be asking a bit much.
The Cornhuskers are without their original starting quarterback as well, though the team has done okay without Taylor Martinez. They come into this game averaging 221.7 yards a game rushing, and with a defense that's better against the pass than the run. Expect the running backs to get a lot of carries, which doesn't necessarily work in either team's favor. Then, again, who knows what to expect from this game? The team that shows up will probably win, but what if neither one does?
Georgia 24, Nebraska 20