General roundup here.
I’ve decided that with regard to the Cap One Bowl, motivation is kinda like the weather – all the pundits talk about it, but nobody does anything about it. Take ESPN‘s SEC bloggers, for instance.
CAPITAL ONE BOWL (Jan. 1)
GEORGIA vs. NEBRASKA
Chris Low: Missing one of its top players on defense, noseguard John Jenkins, Georgia will be even more vulnerable against the run, and it remains to be seen where this team is emotionally after that crushing loss in the SEC championship game. … Nebraska 28, Georgia 24
Edward Aschoff: This might be one of the SEC’s top bowls, but the Bulldogs certainly aren’t enthused about being in Orlando instead of Miami. But Nebraska is pretty bummed, too, after being blown out by Wisconsin and missing out on the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Vizio. … Georgia 27, Nebraska 23
It looks like the difference between Georgia winning or losing comes down to whether you think Nebraska can get it together emotionally.
David Ching notes that both teams are coming from fairly similar places.
A month ago, Georgia and Nebraska both had their sights set much higher than the Capital One Bowl.
But after each team suffered severely disappointing losses in their respective conference championship games, here they are in Orlando, Fla., trying to salvage the finale for seasons that could have ended under much brighter spotlights.
“To be that close, it’s definitely a memorable season, a season I know I’ll be telling my kids [about] one day, and I know a lot of Georgia fans really enjoyed the season,” Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray said. “But it can definitely hurt us if we don’t win this game, drop out of the top 10 and then it just becomes just another season.”
The winner of Tuesday’s bowl game very well might be the team that takes that philosophy seriously.
No. 7 Georgia (11-2) came within five yards of upsetting Alabama before falling 32-28 in the SEC championship game — the contest that determined Notre Dame’s opponent in the BCS title game. And No. 16 Nebraska (10-3) expected to be playing in Tuesday’s Rose Bowl, but it fell flat in the Big Ten championship game, surrendering 539 rushing yards to five-loss Wisconsin in a 70-31 defeat.
Those letdowns create reasonable questions as to whether either team will be mentally prepared to play in a non-BCS game, but the Bulldogs and Cornhuskers both insist they will be ready.
You could argue that Nebraska comes in as a team that was favored in its conference championship game and was blown out, while Georgia was an underdog that surpassed expectations in its, but the way the SECCG wound up, who knows if that matters?
I do think Richt is correctly focused on what should matter…
“I will be challenging our leadership to finish better than we did a year ago and to solidify the job that they’ve done, because I think they’ve done an outstanding job to this point,” Richt said. “I think they need to put an exclamation point on it or at least finish strong in a manner worthy of the way they led the entire offseason from January until now. That will be a big part of it.
“I’ll be talking a lot to the younger guys — the guys who know they are going to be coming back — to honor those guys with the way they play. Bowl games tend to shape people’s opinion of your team and your program.”
… but what if that matters a lot more to him than it does to his players?
Today’s edition of you can’t make shit like this up comes from CFN, which manages in its Cap One preview to offer this answer a mere three sentences after asking the musical question “How little respect is Georgia getting?“:
Beating Nebraska to get to 11 wins for the first times since 2007 won’t get Richt or the Dawgs any more juice, but a loss would put the pressure on.
Not bothering to get the win count right is about as good a rhetorical device as you could deploy there. Makes you wonder why CFN even bothered to pick the Dawgs to come out on top tomorrow.
Two things about this Chris Brown preview of the Cap One Bowl leave me queasy. One is a reflex response any time I see use of the term “the wheel”. The other is this:
So, despite all the wrinkles, multiple schemes, read options and run-pass plays, the success of Martinez and the rest of the Husker offense against the Bulldogs will likely come down to one matchup: Can they control Georgia’s interior defensive linemen? For a game pitting ten-win teams from the Big 10 and SEC, that sounds about right to me.
The absence of Jenkins already makes me nervous, but I was hoping that would be balanced out to some extent by the return of Abry Jones. Unfortunately, it sounds like that return won’t amount to much.
Argh. That means Grantham’s got to cobble together a stout run defense relying to some extent on defensive linemen that… well, that he hasn’t relied on for the most part this season. Unless he thinks Geathers has the stamina to play nose for an entire game as part of a three-man front. Honestly, I’m not seeing that. And that’s got to be a cause for concern, because the Nebraska rushing attack is quite good.
So where’s Georgia’s best hope to counter? I look at a couple of areas. One is something I’ve posted about before – the big advantage Georgia has on the turnover front. Nebraska turns the ball over at a prodigious rate of two and a half times a game (good for 118th nationally), while Georgia’s defense forces two turnovers a game on average. If the Dawgs go +2 or better in turnover margin, that’s likely to blunt a couple of Nebraska scoring opportunities.
My other hope? That the best defense is a good offense. As Chris notes,
Much of that inconsistency centers around quarterback Taylor Martinez, a talented, speedy quarterback with a shotput throwing motion. In Nebraska’s ten wins, Martinez had 20 touchdowns to only four interceptions, and a nice 157.37 passer rating. In their three losses, however, he had only one touchdown pass to six interceptions and a sub-100 passer rating. During the year, most of Martinez’s best passing plays were scheme plays, ones that were successful because of some wrinkle Beck had introduced, such as the post/wheel combination out of the Diamond formation…
Off of these run actions, Martinez can be deadly simply because of the threat that he can run. But when pressured, and asked to make more traditional dropback throws, Martinez’s efficiency drops significantly. If Georgia can get an early lead, it could get ugly for Nebraska.
Georgia is ranked 26th in total offense, which is certainly good, but not phenomenal. However, it’s worth noting a couple of things. First, the only major conference offense Nebraska faced with a better yards per game number than Georgia’s was UCLA’s, and Nebraska gave up over 650 yards that day. Second, while the yards per game number may not be outstanding, Georgia’s offensive yards per play average sure is.
The bottom line is that if Georgia’s defense can’t make Nebraska’s offense more one-dimensional, maybe Georgia’s offense can. And that may be next year’s mantra, too.
But nobody, including security, takes bowl games seriously. So this is what you got in the Alamo Bowl:
Nice Heisman pose at the end there.
Yes, the Russell Athletic Bowl was a stinker. So what?
… Meanwhile, all those people who groused on Twitter and to their televisions about the torture of watching the game should remember something important. In 11 days, there will be no more college football games for almost eight long months. You will pine for the days when you could watch Virginia Tech and Rutgers trade interceptions in a half-empty stadium. With apologies to whoever wrote the otherwise forgettable 1994 movie Threesome, college football is like pizza. Even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.
Guess what all those complaining viewers had in common? They were watching. They watched because the Russell Athletic Bowl was college football and because it was on. Without the benefit of the overnight ratings, I’m willing to bet about two million people watched a horrible game between two average teams that started at 5:30 p.m. ET on a weekday because it was college football and because it was on. Why would I guess that number? Because 1.9 million watched the Beef O’ Brady’s Bowl live and, according to John Ourand of Sports Business Journal, another 610,000 watched a replay of Central Florida’s win against Ball State that began Saturday at 3:30 a.m. ET.
This is why there are so many bowl games. ESPN needs the inventory, because we’ll watch it and ESPN will make money…
Ain’t that the truth. All I know is that come April or May, I’d be thrilled to watch a mediocre bowl game broadcast. Too bad they can’t figure out a way to play a few of them in secret and save the tapes for the spring and summer when we really need them.