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?