Capital One Bowl Preview
Dec. 30, 2012
Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013 • 1 p.m. ET • Orlando, Fla. • Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium (65,438)
Nebraska (10-3) is set to appear in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla., where the Huskers will face Georgia (11-2) at 1 p.m. ET on Jan. 1. The game will be televised on ABC. Nebraska is one of three Big Ten teams boasting 20 or more postseason victories, owning 24 triumphs in bowl contests. The Huskers have met Georgia once previously in their history, a 45-6 victory in the Sun Bowl following the 1969 season. In that Sun Bowl, current Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne was in his first season as the Huskers’ offensive coordinator. He would later go on to coach Nebraska from 1973-97. Osborne will retire from his current post following the 2013 Capital One Bowl.
The Huskers head to Orlando for the second time in as many seasons after posting their third 10-win season in four years. Nebraska is one of only four teams in the nation to win nine games each of the last five seasons, joining Alabama, Oregon and Boise State. The Huskers bowl appearance is their 49th all-time bowl trip and Big Red will look to rebound from a 30-13 defeat to South Carolina in last year’s Capital One Bowl. The Huskers hold a 94-47-4 all-time record against the SEC.
Georgia will be playing in a bowl game for a record 16th consecutive season. The Bulldogs – and Huskers – are among the top five bowl teams of all-time. They will make their 48th appearance in postseason play with an all-time bowl record of 26-18-3. Georgia makes its sixth appearance in the Capital One Bowl, its last coming in a 2009 victory over Michigan State. The Bulldogs, who own a 4-1-1 record in the Capital One Bowl, are 8-4 all-time against the Big Ten.
Nebraska concluded its regular season ranked first in the Big Ten in rushing (254.5) and total offense (462.2), second in scoring (35.1), and fifth in passing (207.7). The rushing total is also eighth nationally, thanks in large part to the trio threat of backs Rex Burkhead and Ameer Abdullah, and quarterback Taylor Martinez, the school’s all-time leader in total offense with more than 9,000 yards. Martinez rated third in the conference with a 142.3 passer rating, fourth with 205.2 passing yards per game, and 10th in rushing with 74.8 yards on the ground each time out. He ran for 973 yards and 10 TDs while throwing for 2,667 yards and 21 scores against 10 INTs. Abdullah was seventh in the Big Ten with 83.8 rushing yards per game, while Burkhead netted an average of 76.4 yards over the seven games he played in due to injuries. The Huskers’ running game could plague a Georgia defense that gave up 350 yards on 6.9 per carry against Alabama this year. Nebraska has certainly been effective through the air as well. The top target for Martinez is wideout Kenny Bell, who recorded 803 yards and eight touchdowns on 46 catches this season. He ranked fourth in the conference with 61.8 receiving yards per game.
The Georgia defense finished its regular-season campaign ranked second in the SEC in passing (173.5), sixth in total yards allowed (351.2) and scoring (18.8), and 12th in rushing (177.8). Those totals could bode well for the run-hungry Huskers, but the Bulldogs also boast one of the nation’s top players in junior outside linebacker Jarvis Jones. The SEC Defensive Player of the Year, and one projected by many as the No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick, is the active NCAA leader in tackles for loss (2.1) and third in sacks per game (1.1). This season, he has 77 stops, including 12.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss, one interception, seven forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries, despite not playing in two regular season games. Junior inside linebacker Alec Ogletree has tallied a team-leading 98 tackles in only nine games played this year, and has 10 games with at least 10 tackles to his credit. All-American safety Bacarri Rambo tied a school record with his 16th career interception against Georgia Tech and has posted 42 tackles, three forced fumbles, three interceptions and one fumble recovery in the last six games.
The Bulldogs’ offense ranked third in the SEC in total yards (458.3) and scoring (37.2), and fourth in rushing (184.2) and passing (274.2). Georgia has scored a school-record 484 points this year, which ranked ninth in the history of the SEC. The ‘Dogs have found success with a fairly balanced attack, rushing for 2,394 yards and passing for 3,564. Junior quarterback Aaron Murray leads the nation in yards per attempt (7.8) while ranking second in passer rating (172.4), throwing for 31 TDs against only eight interceptions. He is the first player in SEC history to throw for 3,000-plus yards in three straight years, having tossed for 3,466 markers this season. Murray is the SEC’s leading active player in total offensive yards (9,871), completions (678), TD responsibility (100), TD passes (90) and passing yards (9,664). True freshman Todd Gurley is second in the SEC with 96.9 rushing yards per game, but tallied a conference-high 1,260 yards on the ground in his first season. The Bulldogs lost two starting receivers to ACL injuries in sophomore Michael Bennett (October) and senior Marlon Brown (November). At the time of their injuries, Bennett (24 rec., 345 yds., 4 TDs) and Brown (27 rec., 469 yds, 4 TDs) were the leading receivers for the Bulldogs. Murray has spread the ball around this season as four different receivers have had 100-yard games this season and 10 Bulldogs combined for 31 touchdown receptions from him. Murray’s primary targets are senior Tavarres King and sophomore Malcolm Mitchell. King has a team-best 846 yards on 39 catches (21.7 avg.) and is No. 2 among active players in the SEC in receiving yards (2,498) and TDs (20) and third in receptions (133). He is also the active career leader in the NCAA FBS for yards per catch (18.8).
Nebraska enters the bowl game ranked first in the nation in pass defense (148.2), and fourth in the Big Ten in total yards allowed (343.1), ninth in scoring (26.2), and 11th in rushing (194.8). Those averages are a bit skewed after the Huskers were shocked for a school-record 539 rushing yards and 70 points in a loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Football Championship Game. Nebraska will look to contain Murray as the unit limited its opponents to a 46.4 percent completion rate and just 5.3 yards per catch. The Huskers also picked off 11 passes, with senior safety Daimion Stafford leading the way with four INTS, two of which he returned for touchdowns. Senior defensive end Eric Martin has 8.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss on the year and paces a unit that has 29 sacks and 36 QB hurries. Senior linebacker Will Compton leads the team in tackles with 101, which equates to an average of 7.8 per game that ranks 12th in the Big Ten.
In special teams, Nebraska kicker Brett Maher is a two-time first-team All-Big Ten selection and has twice won the conference’s Bakken-Andersen Kicker of the Year award. Maher has connected on 19-of-25 field goals this season, including three field goals of at least 50 yards. He has also made three-or-more field goals in three games this season. Abdullah is also a key figure in the Huskers’ return game, as the sophomore leads the Big Ten in punt return with 13.1 yards gained every opportunity. Georgia has had to rely on several youngsters in its special teams scheme, including freshman punter Collin Barber, freshman kicker Marshall Morgan, freshman rusher/returner Todd Gurley, and primary returner, sophomore Malcolm Mitchell.