Capital One Bowl preview: For Dogs, it’s ‘where are their heads at?’

Nebraska has a formidable rushing attack led by dual-threat quarterback Taylor Martinez. (Associated Press)

Nebraska has a formidable rushing attack led by dual-threat quarterback Taylor Martinez. (Associated Press)

Mark Richt’s Georgia Bulldogs face a dual challenge in their Capital One Bowl game with Nebraska.

With the Dogs’ defense having been inconsistent in stopping the run this season — and coming off a performance in which it gave up 350 yards rushing to Alabama in the SEC Championship game — the Cornhuskers’ ground attack (ranked No. 8 in the nation) is worrisome to UGA fans.

And then there’s the whole are-they-over-the-heartbreaking-loss-to-Bama scenario that has dominated much of the coverage of the Bulldogs in the run-up to the bowl game. Throw in the fact that Georgia had disappointing outings in its past couple of bowl appearances, and the question of the Dogs’ mental readiness may loom even larger than their troubles defending Big Red’s spread-based rushing offense.

“The thing you say is, ‘Where are their heads at?’ That’s always the issue with bowl games,” former Bulldog David Pollack, who’ll be part of the ESPN coverage team, told the Omaha World Herald. “That’s a team that was 4 yards away from something they’ve been dreaming about since they were probably 6 or 7 years old. The hardest part about bowl games is gauging that emotion and where teams are at mentally.”

There’s also the danger that some of the large contingent of Georgia defenders who’ll likely be playing next year in the NFL might not be willing to risk injury by giving their all.

The Cornhuskers' defense is led by dangerous Eric Martin. (Associated Press)

The Cornhuskers' defense is led by dangerous Eric Martin. (Associated Press)

Still, there’s a lot the Dogs are playing for besides ending a two-game bowl losing streak — notching at least 12 wins for only the third time in school history, likely finishing the season in the Top 5, and a chance to show the nation that they’re a team that really did deserve coming as close to playing in the national championship as they did.

There’s no denying the Cornhuskers’ rushing attack, led by sophomore running back Ameer Abdullah (1,089 yards, 8 touchdowns) and dual-threat quarterback Taylor Martinez (973 yards, 10 touchdowns), could do some damage if Georgia’s run defense more closely resembles their showing against Alabama than the way they shut down Florida (which got only 75 yards on the ground).

Beyond Nebraska’s potent running game, however, the match-up on paper appears to support the Dogs being a 10-point favorite.

Nebraska’s defense might lead the nation against the pass, giving up 148 yards per game, but they haven’t faced an aerial attack close to Georgia’s. And against the run, the Huskers rank 96th in the nation, allowing over 194 yards per game on the ground and having given up 1,254 rushing yards in their three losses. In their embarrassing 70-31 Big 10 Championship game loss to Wisconsin, the Nebraska defenders were gashed for 539 yards on the ground.

If Georgia is able to establish the run with Todd Gurley, it could be a long day for Nebraska. (Associated Press)

If Georgia is able to establish the run with Todd Gurley, it could be a long day for Nebraska. (Associated Press)

Georgia no doubt will try early to establish its Gurshall tandem, forcing Nebraska to commit more personnel to the run and thus opening up lots of one-on-one opportunities for Aaron Murray and his talented receiving corps.

Even if Nebraska is able to run at will and the two teams get into a shootout, the advantage appears to reside with Georgia’s quick-strike capability.

At the same time, the Dogs’ offensive line needs to handle Nebraska defensive end Eric Martin, who has 16 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks this season. Murray can’t do much if he’s flat on his back.

Speaking of sacks, the Dogs have an opportunity to show Nebraska that they are much more than the equivalent of an average Big 10 defense and that Jarvis Jones is more than “just another football player,” as Martinez and other Huskers infamously have said. Nebraska has allowed 30 sacks this season (96th in the country), while Georgia has forced 20 fumbles (third in the country), and Jones is within a sack and a half of tying Pollack’s single-season school record of 14 sacks, which should give him an extra bit of incentive in what’s likely to be his last game as a Bulldog.

Two more sacks and Jarvis Jones will take David Pollack's season record. (Associated Press)

Two more sacks and Jarvis Jones will take David Pollack's season record. (Associated Press)

If it just comes down to sheer talent, Georgia looks like it should be a heavy favorite. But frequently that’s no guarantee of victory, especially in bowl games.

Most likely, the outcome will depend, as Pollack said, on whether the Bulldogs are mentally ready to shake off the disappointment of not being in Miami come Tuesday afternoon.

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Loss of John Jenkins for bowl game presents rest of Dogs’ defense with a challenge

33 comments Add your comment

ssidawg

December 28th, 2012
10:10 pm

I’ve never been first! Go DAWGS!!!

Macclenny_dawg

December 28th, 2012
10:10 pm

Got 2 stop the run and keep Martinez in the pocket. Go Dawgs!!!

ARdawg

December 28th, 2012
10:25 pm

I like our chances of pounding the Huskers early and putting this game away early in the 3rd

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umyboyBlue17

December 29th, 2012
12:15 am

Is pollack picking the Huskers or not

IveyLeaguer

December 29th, 2012
12:42 am

It’s not a question of whether the Dogs will be able to shake off the disappointment of not being in Miami so they can be mentally ready. I don’t think that’s an issue. The question should be whether Georgia will be mentally ready, period.

Because the record of the past 7 years, and you can include the 2006 Sugar Bowl game vs. West Virginia as well, is very iffy in this regard. There have been few games we were really prepared for, in terms of being sharp.

Georgia was not ready for South Carolina and that is very obvious. We were ready for Florida, but would we have been if Shawn Williams hadn’t called his teammates a bunch of wussies in public? Called them out in the national media? We were lackluster or going through the motions the next 3 games, then we were ready for Alabama.

So, who knows. Non-BCS Bowl games are tough because they are consolation games, as this one is. Nice Bowl, but a consolation prize nevertheless. Has Georgia really changed? Are the changes Richt has made since the 2009 season for real?

If so, Georgia will take care of business with Nebraska, because Mark Richt will have seen to it. A win may not be proof positive, but it’ll be a very good sign that we’ll be able to handle what’s coming next September, and that our program is, at long last, on the right track again.
~~~

Grantham's The Man!

December 29th, 2012
6:32 am

Calling Ga’s Defense out? Mistake!

Time to show Nebraska what Grown Man Football is all about.

Preacher Dawg

December 29th, 2012
9:00 am

Got all confidence that this team will band together and pull out a Huge Win!! I will say though, the team leaders and seniors will have to step up..lead by examplwe in preparation and focus leading up to this game. I Gaaaarrrauntee the “Corn Fed Boyz” were embarressed and are looking to redeem themselves by taking out an SEC opponent….they will be ready.

MikeyB

December 29th, 2012
9:05 am

Glad the Huskers called out the Defense and Jarvis – we needed some motivation for this game. Thanks for the Christmas present. Enjoy your beatdown Huskers. Of course we have class and won’t run the score up to 70.

Jay in VA

December 29th, 2012
9:48 am

Well said by IveyLeaguer above. Perfect analysis! We need a big win, and must look good doing it! This game will set the tone for 2013.

Joey

December 29th, 2012
10:45 am

I hope the Dawgs play with that chip on their shoulders they’ve had since UF, coming out and jumping all over their opponents. If so, it won’t matter how many yards Nebraska runs for. I do expect them to come out and really try to bully our lines, like SC did.

If his Dawgs aren’t motivated, and don’t punch back, Richt will lose a lot of the good will he (rightly) deserves for having them so ready for the SECCG.

GoForTwo

December 29th, 2012
10:52 am

Enter your comments here

jack bull

December 29th, 2012
11:26 am

Dawgs come out in the black jerseys for the bowl game. They were told that if, and only if, they promise to give 100%, they could wear the black.

Another brilliant move by the genius Coach Richt.

Dawgs-48 Corndogs-17

GoForTwo

December 29th, 2012
11:27 am

Last year in the Outback bowl when Michigan State ran onto the field prior to the kickoff, followed by Geogia which walked out of the tunnel to the sidelines, that said a lot to me about what Georgia thought of playing in a lesser bowl. Wonder if it will be more of the same this year.

Strat Cat Dawg

December 29th, 2012
4:41 pm

I expect to see the Dawgs up for this one. They have the opportunity to make a statement about the team and failure to play up to their potential is not the one they want to make.

UGA_Psych

December 29th, 2012
8:49 pm

Does it say anything about where the team’s head is at when Jenkins quits going to class and doesn’t seem to care he’s missing the bowl game?

dawggirl

December 29th, 2012
11:54 pm

Do you know for a fact that he quit going to class? He might have just not gotten the grades he needed to qualify academically.

I sincerely hope all this black jersey talk is just wishful thinking.

UGA alumnus here

December 30th, 2012
8:02 am

UGA for for years, is a team that has trouble maintaining a grit and a focus in bowl games. These kids come and go and many move on to the NFL and when they smell that money, their attitudes change and they become ME driven. It is really just too bad that we have your student/athletes like that.

This bowl could easily place UGA solidly in the top 4 or 5 in the nation, which is good for the kids, the school and the SEC. I smell a very ugly game upcoming, in the Cap One Bowl.

UGA class of 71&73

Desert Fox

December 30th, 2012
11:24 am

Had the dawgs beaten AL Jenkins would still be around for a shot at the NC. had pulled his grades up and attended class. Would look good on his resume being in the NC heading into the NFL. However, after the loss in the SECCG, I guess he thought thats it for him, no need to chance injury in a bowl game and risk millions so he didn’t go to class or whatever it takes to become ineligible. Have to wonder if the NFL scouts are thinking the same thing about him and his decision to quit. Will that carry over in their decision making on his character. Not knocking the kid, but just have to ask yourself would his departure have happened had GA won the SECCG?

I-DOG

December 30th, 2012
8:27 pm

I don’t think the Dawgs will win this one. As a Georgia fan, I hope I am wrong, but here are my reasons:

I dont think the team wil be emotionally into this one enough to come out and take it to Nebraska. What does UGA have to gain by winning other than it is always great to win a football game?

The Dawgs haven’t played their best football in the last couple of bowl games and it this is probably the best bowl opponent we have faced in several years. They are capable of beating UGA if the Dawgs play a mediocre game.

Probably the 3rd of 4th best team we have faced this season and doing it without Jenkins makes it that much tougher. We haven’t beaten many ranked opponents the past three years and Nebraska is a quality ranked opponent.

Mobile QB’s have given us fits.

With so many guys heading into the NFL, many of the them first rounders…. I wonder if their concentration and intensity will be good for this game.

I hope I am wrong and the Dawgs play well and get a W and if that is the case, I think Richt and staff deserve a lot of credit.

Woo Hoo

December 30th, 2012
10:00 pm

Another promising season will end with back-to-back losses.

PsychicBeerdog

December 31st, 2012
4:08 pm

To be in the Goldilocks Zone is a must for CMR to win…only when opposing teams are “just right” will he win …..otherwise he will do what he always does..loose when playing top 25 teams….how long will it take for nice-guy fans to actually read the UGA record against better teams…???

Al

December 31st, 2012
8:29 pm

you guys are taking Taylor Martinez’s comments out of context. He wasn’t “calling out the Georgia Defense” . He said they were a typical big ten defense, and said they were very similar to Michigan State’s. That’s a compliment, MSU is 6th in the nation in Defense, UGA is 27th. He’s treading the line between disrespect and gushing like a schoolgirl in being overcomplimentary. He is one of the worst public speaker’s I’ve seen but it wasn’t disrespectful. Pull your heads out of your you-know-whats.

A person SMART enough to know.....

December 31st, 2012
8:52 pm

Will Uga IX “Russ” come the hell out of his Dawg House for the game?

LDawg

December 31st, 2012
11:06 pm

I-Dog – we had Jenkins for the Bama game, and he certainly didn’t help us there – wasn’t it something like 350 yds rushing?

Nimrod Dawg

January 1st, 2013
10:20 am

Nothing to worry about. With our all-NFL defense nobody’s going to move the ball on us. Book it.

A person SMART enough to know.....

January 1st, 2013
11:58 am

The Monger

January 1st, 2013
2:30 pm

Can we officially, call Aaron Murray…. Aaron “Pick 6″ Murray? I mean come on, seriously what is this like his 6th career pick 6 int, and what is 3rd in bowl games? He is the textbook opposite of “clutch”. The funny thing is fans actually think we could have beat Notre Dame with Murray. Not a Chance. He has failed in both SEC Championship Games, all 3 bowl games, against SC all 3 years, against Boise, against Florida all 3 years. I am including even wins like this year against FLA, because he still had 3 turnovers and only 150 yards. He is just not great or even mediocre in big games, he is terrible. Why does anyone want him back? Oh, because he racks up big yards against the Kentucky’s and Vanderbilt’s of the world….I forgot. Even if we beat Nebraska, it will be because of our defense forcing turnovers and our running game…Not Murray. Now watch some fan come on here and say, yeah but he passed for 300 yards and blah blah 2 touchdowns. Yet they fail to mention the 2 interceptions already (its not even halftime as I type this). And they think he can play like this in a National Championship game and win? Give me a break. Aaron Murray, the guy who WON ONE Big time game in 3 years at UGA (and that was thanks to 6 Gator turnovers). I’m done.

Reese Bobby

January 1st, 2013
2:54 pm

Roll Tide!

The halftime score of the Cap 1 Bowl proves that the Dawgs don’t belong in Miami.

If you ain’t first, you’re last!

Reese Bobby

January 1st, 2013
3:02 pm

Nice call, Nimrod!

The Tide really had trouble moving the ball on all that NFL talent.

If you ain’t first, you’re last!

Ken Stephens

January 1st, 2013
3:20 pm

I’ve never heard such biased coverage of a bowl game. Is this Northern bias against the South? SEC?