The Cap One Bowl: Hey, Miracles Happen

Eric Francis

Okay, I admit it. I have been avoiding writing this preview for about two weeks now. Call it self-loathing all you want, but honestly, does anyone think Nebraska has a chance in this game? Outside of the guys in the Husker locker rooms and maybe a few fringe lunatic fans on both sides of the aisle, I do not believe there is a lot of hope for the good guys. Still, you just never know, right?

The question that most Nebraska fans, and really all fans of College Football who follow the larger landscape outside of his or her specific fandom, is this, "Can Nebraska actually play Georgia tough?" This goes far beyond Nebraska actually having a chance at a win and dives deeper into what actually drives this team. After the bludgeoning that the Badgers laid on the Cornhuskers in the Big Ten Championship Game, I think many fans wrote this team off as nothing but a mirage this season that happened to win 10 games by a combination of sheer luck and conspiracies. Sadly, the more I thought about it, it's hard to refute that point when you give up so many... damnit, Wisconsin just scored another rushing touchdown...

Seriously though, It has been incredibly difficult to get myself excited for this bowl game, and by the sounds of the ticket sales (or legitimate lack thereof) it seems like I am not alone in this thinking. Can you blame anyone for not wanting to go to this game? Nebraska has not played well in two consecutive bowls, and this matchup screams blowout. Georgia was probably a few plays away from a chance at the BCS Title. The Bulldogs are ranked 6th and there are legitimate reasons for that ranking. They have a salty defense and a run game that should pound the Huskers until they break. Like I said before, there really does not seem to be a lot of hope.

Of course, I have a lot of blind optimism left in me because a) I'm a glutton for punishment apparently and b) because Nebraska still has some stuff going for them. Digging into this matchup a little deeper give me at least a glimmer of hope for something good to happen.

The first thing you should notice if you look at the stats is that Georgia has a great defense, but that defense is not particularly wonderful against the run. They have given up 4.1 ypc this season and that number jumps to 4.61 when you look at just ranked teams. Gimmicky offenses have just destroyed them on the ground as well, but the results don't necessarily mean wins for opponents. The key to Nebraska keeping this game close starts in the trenches and getting the Husker run game going is imperative. Tim Beck called a mediocre game against Wisconsin. I mean, part of that was because the team was shellshocked, but there will be no room for error in this one. Still, it has been proven that Georgia can be run on and without starting NT John Jenkins, Nebraska will have a little bit more room to move in the middle.

Secondly, I would like to point out that Georgia has faced some pretty terrible offenses this year and while Nebraska has a way of shying away from big games, they will be one of the best (probably outside of Tennessee that is) offenses Georgia has seen. In fact, statistically, the Georgia opponents have been ranked 86th, 98th, 101st, 69th, 19th (in which Tennessee scored 44), 89th, 115th, 104th, 46th, 118th, 32nd, and 40th. This excludes the FCS team Georgia played because they aren't ranked. All together, that seems like a pretty lame slate of opponents and Nebraska has one thing going for it -- the offense. Does this mean Nebraska wins the game? Not at all, but lets at least stop pretending that Georgia's great defense has been against great teams. This team can be scored on and it will be imperative for Nebraska to do so.

Of course you can throw stats at me about Georgia's offense as well and it's absolutely fair, but those things have been hashed out across the interweb since this matchup was announced. All I'm saying is that Nebraska has more than a little bit of a chance in this one and I'm starting to get a little more optimistic. The Wisconsin game was ugly, but I fully believe that once that game got away, the team gave up and the final score was worst than it could have been had Pelini shelled up and started to play not to get blown out. One of the trademarks of Bo is that he's going to force his guys to do what they are supposed to do instead of surrender and that has resulted in some ugly losses. While fans hate getting destroyed on national television, they should be quick to remember that Billy C did the opposite and it was infuriating. Playing not to lose is worst than playing to win and letting games get away.

All this is to say that this game could be a good one. Nebraska still won 10 games this season and they are playing for more than just pride. This game means a lot and the Capital One Bowl has proven to be a really good matchup in the past. I am assuming this will also be high scoring and whatever terrible announcers are present will make jokes about SEC and Big Ten football having offense. So why should you watch this game? Well, first off because you know you'll be watching football on the 1st anyways and second off because you never know... the B1G might snag a SEC pelt in this one. Here's hoping Nebraska doesn't embarrass itself.

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