TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl Preview

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Dec. 27, 2013

Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014 • Noon ET • Jacksonville, Fla. • EverBank Field (77,511)
ESPN2 • Announcers: Mike Patrick, Ed Cunningham, Jeannine Edwards
Series: Tied, 1-1 • Last Meeting: Jan. 1, 2013: Georgia 45, Nebraska 31 (Outback Bowl)

Nebraska will face Georgia in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl at 12 p.m. ET on Jan. 1 in Jacksonville, Fla. The Huskers will make their 50th bowl appearance and seventh straight. Nebraska is just the third school to make 50 bowl trips, joining Alabama (60) and Texas (52).  Georgia ranks right behind those schools in a fourth-place tie with 49 bowl trips.  The Huskers, who enter the game 8-4 overall, including a 5-3 record in Big Ten play, will take part in the Gator Bowl for the second time in school history after defeating Clemson in the 2009 contest.  They will look to end a three-game bowl losing streak, while also attempt to win at least nine games for a sixth consecutive season.

Georgia boasts identical records of 8-4 overall and 5-3 in conference play coming into the Gator Bowl.  Three of Georgia’s four losses this season have been by five or fewer points.  Overall, the Bulldogs have played eight games this season decided by 11 or fewer points, posting a 5-3 mark in those contests.  Georgia, which owns a 27-18-3 bowl record, is making its 13th straight bowl appearance under Coach Mark Richt and 17th consecutive overall.  The Bulldogs have made three previous trips to the Gator Bowl, posting a 2-0-1 record overall.

The two teams will meet for the second straight year in a bowl game, but just the third time overall.  Georgia defeated Nebraska 45-31 in last year’s Capital One Bowl.  The only previous meeting was a 45-6 Nebraska win in the 1969 Sun Bowl, a victory that started Nebraska’s run of 33 consecutive nine-win seasons from 1969 to 2001.  The Huskers are 12-7 all-time against the SEC in bowl games.

Nebraska finished the regular season ranked third in the Big Ten in rushing (221.7), fifth in scoring (32.6), sixth in total offense (421.2), and 11th in passing (199.5).  The Huskers have been paced all season long by Ameer Abdullah, who rushed for a conference-high 1,568 yards and boasted 10 100-yard rushing games this season to earn first-team All-Big Ten accolades.  His 130.7 rushing yards per game ranked second in the league.  Abdullah has had a little help as well in producing the nation’s 19th-best rushing offense.  Imani Cross (445 yards) and Terrell Newby (298) have combined with Abdullah to produce 2,311 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns on the year.  The group is averaging 5.9 yards per carry.  Wideouts Quincy Enunwa (47 rec, 624 yds, 10 TDs) and Kenny Bell (51 rec, 566 yds, 4 TDs) anchor the aerial attack while Tommy Armstrong and Ron Kellogg both direct the Huskers’ offense from under center following the season-ending injury to Taylor Martinez.  Armstrong finished 62-of-117 for 803 yards and seven touchdowns, while Kellogg completed 80 of his 132 attempts for 919 yards and six scores.

Georgia’s defense has been limiting its opponents’ rushing attacks to roughly 70 yards under what Nebraska has accumulated on the ground each time out.  The Bulldogs rated fifth in the SEC against the rush (148.5), eighth in total yards (381.2), 10th in defending the pass (232.8), and 11th in points allowed (29.4).  The latter stat ranks 81st nationally, and the Bulldogs have allowed 30 or more points eight times this season, including an average of 38.3 points in their four losses.  They have forced 14 turnovers on the year, including eight fumbles and six interceptions, while ranking 25th nationally with more than 2.5 sacks per game.  Linebackers Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera have both posted 100-tackle seasons this fall.  Wilson leads the team and ranks ninth nationally with 128 tackles, while Herrera has added 107 tackles on the year.  The duo ranks 1-2 among SEC tacklers.  Georgia ranks second in the SEC with 32 sacks on the season. Defensive ends Ray Drew and Garrison Smith have each recorded 6.0 sacks on the season, while linebacker Leonard Floyd leads the team with 6.5 QB stops.  Wilson and fellow linebacker Jordan Jenkins are tied for the team lead with 11 TFLs, while six Bulldogs have picked off a pass, six have forced a fumble, and three have recovered a loose ball.


 

 

QUICKIE
STATS

Scoring
Offense

Scoring Defense

Total Offense

Total Defense

Rushing Offense

Rushing Defense

Passing Offense

Passing Defense

Turnover Margin

Nebraska

32.6

25.3

421.2

367.0

221.7

161.2

199.5

205.8

-12

Georgia

38.2

29.4

489.8

381.2

176.1

148.5

313.8

232.8

-6

The Bulldogs own the second-best passing attack (313.8) in the SEC this season, while ranking fifth in scoring offense (38.2), fourth in total yards (489.8) and 11th in rushing (176.1).  Georgia’s offense suffered a huge blow, however, as the SEC’s all-timer leading passer Aaron Murray sustained a season-ending ACL injury with just two weeks left in the regular season.  Stepping into the spotlight is junior Hutson Mason, who in his first career start in the finale against Georgia Tech finished 22-for-36 for 299 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.  He led the Bulldogs back from a second-quarter 20-0 deficit to pick up a 41-34 double-overtime victory.  For the year, Mason has appeared in four games and is 46-for-71 for 648 yards, four touchdowns and two picks.  Todd Gurley, who rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown against Nebraska in last year’s bowl game, is aiming to become only the third tailback in school history to have back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. He currently has 903 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns in only nine games this year.  Gurley is also a threat in the passing game as he has added 30 receptions for 344 yards and five scores this year, and is averaging 7.2 yards every time he touches the ball.  Georgia has had a different leading receiver in seven of its 12 games this year, led by Chris Conley and his team-high totals of 42 catches and 605 receiving yards.  In last year’s bowl game, Conley hauled in just two passes, both for touchdowns, for a total of 136 receiving yards.

The Huskers enter the postseason with the Big Ten’s fourth-best passing defense (205.8), and are fifth in total yards allowed (367.0), sixth in scoring (25.3), and eighth against the rush (161.2).  The strength in defending the pass should bode well against the inexperienced Mason, but Nebraska will have to contest against the Georgia ground game once again.  Sophomore defensive end Randy Gregory and senior defensive backs Ciante Evans and Stanley Jean-Baptiste anchor the defense.  Gregory and Evans were first-team All-Big Ten picks, while Jean-Baptiste earned second-team accolades.  Gregory owned a conference-high 9.5 sacks on the year and ranked second with 15.5 TFLs.  Evans and Jean-Baptiste garnered four interceptions apiece over the regular season.  Linebacker David Santos and defensive back Corey Cooper each lead the team with 81 tackles on the year, which averages to 6.8 stops per game.

On special teams, Georgia is led by two-year starters Marshall Morgan at kicker and Collin Barber at punter.  Morgan is the SEC’s co-leader with Gurley in scoring average at 10.0 points per game, which is tied for 10th nationally.  He is 18-for-20 on field-goal attempts this year and kicked a 56-yarder earlier in the year to tie for the nation’s longest in 2013. Barber ranks sixth in the SEC in punting at 44.1 on 29 punts.  Nebraska kicker Pat Smith made 11 of his 12 attempts on the year and ranked third in the Big Ten with a field-goal percentage of 91.7.  His kicking colleague, punter Sam Foltz, rated fifth in the conference with an average of 41.9 yards per punt.  Bell, who in addition to hauling in passes also returns kicks for the Huskers, paced the Big Ten in the regular season with an average of 28.3 yards per return, which included one 99-yarder that was taken back for a touchdown.

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