A Georgia team that has suffered through extremely slow starts in its past couple of games now must get ready for yet another Florida bowl game against the same team they played on New Year’s Day last year.
They’ll be going up against a Nebraska team that also might not be thrilled with its bowl assignment, but which would like to avenge last year’s loss and end a three-bowl losing streak.
Will that make the Cornhuskers the more motivated team in Jacksonville?
True, the Bulldogs are now all talking the talk like the coaches want about respecting Nebraska and being excited about playing in any bowl game, but you’ve got to wonder how many of them are really thinking like receiver Michael Bennett initially did when he learned of UGA’s bowl opponent and tweeted: “Nebraska again? You kidding me?”
Bennett subsequently pulled that tweet down and now is on the bus, noting that he didn’t play in last year’s bowl game and so it will be “interesting” to play the Cornhuskers and he’s “excited about it.” Even if somewhat belatedly.
Bennett wasn’t the only Dog who would have preferred a different opponent. Georgia’s Chris Burnette admitted at this week’s media day that “I was kind of like the other guys who wanted to play Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, or another team we don’t normally get a shot to play against, but at the same time I wasn’t disappointed. I’m just glad we get to play another football game. This is my last go around so I’m not going to sit here and complain about who we’re playing because this is my last shot.”
Even Mark Richt, who is once again touting his boyhood Nebraska fandom in advance of this game, has allowed that he really hoped Georgia would face his alma mater, Miami — a combination that Atlanta’s Chick-fil-A Bowl considered and then passed up for Johnny Autograph.
The old saw in college football is that the team that wants it the most usually wins, and Burnette provided the postseason version of that this week when he said, “The team that wants to be there the most is usually the team that’s going to win.”
Or maybe in this case that should be the team that doesn’t want to be there the least.
The Nebraska fan base definitely seems not very juiced about the postseason this year, with news reports noting that Gator Bowl ticket sales are lagging among them and a travel package to Jacksonville was canceled due to lack of interest.
As for Nebraska’s players, they had hoped to be playing Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Arizona, but whiny Bill Snyder reportedly put the kibosh on that because of a past confrontation with Nebraska’s Bo Pelini, so a Michigan team with with a worse record was moved ahead of the Cornhuskers.
Still, if Huskers are also less than thrilled about a rematch with Georgia, they’re doing a better job of hiding it so far. Mostly, they’ve talked about needing a bowl win and remembering last year’s loss to Georgia. The game was tied 31-31 in the fourth quarter before Nebraska fumbled and Georgia pulled away for a 45-31 win. “They just made more plays than we did offensively and defensively,” Nebraska senior defensive end Jason Ankrah told the Lincoln Journal Star. “We didn’t feel they were tougher than us or outschemed us. They just made more plays than we did.”
And while revenge is usually an overrated motivational tool in college football, it does at least give Nebraska a starting point in getting up for the game.
“They’ll definitely remember what happened last year,” observed UGA receiver Chris Conley, a star of Georgia’s win last year.
While we won’t know until New Year’s Day what sort of mindset the Dogs will have, they’re at least saying the right things now about the rematch with Nebraska.
“I think we will get up for it just because it’s another opportunity to represent the Georgia Bulldogs,” Burnette said. “It’s always fun to play the game regardless of who we’re playing. We play the same teams in the SEC every year so I think it’s just like doing that. I think Nebraska is a good team and there’s a lot of good competition there, so we’ll definitely have to be ready for it.”
“We just want to win,” linebacker Amarlo Herrera said. “We had a good comeback win in the last game of the season and we’re riding high. We just want to keep the momentum up going into next year. We just want to win and build up momentum.”
And, noted cornerback Damian Swann, even though it’s the same bowl opponent as last year, “they played us tough. It’s going to be one of those games where we come in and we have to play our best. It’s just another opportunity to put another win in our column, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”
Sounds good. Let’s just hope Georgia doesn’t have to play the Cardiac Kids role again, waiting until the fourth quarter to get into the game. We’ve already had too much of that this season.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg