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2014 TaxSlayer.com Gator - Nebraska 24, Ga 19

2014 TaxSlayer.com Gator - Nebraska 24, Ga 19

2013-2014 Bowls - CFN's Preview & Prediction for the 2014 TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl

TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl
Georgia 24, Nebraska 19
Basically … Nebraska survived in a back-and-fourth fight as Quincy Enunwa caught a five-yard touchdown in the second and made a 99-yard scoring grab in the third, and Ameer Abdullah ran for a one-yard score on the way to a 24-12 lead. Georgia stalled time and time and time again in the sloppy conditions, settling for four Marshall Morgan field goals from 38, 28, 38 and 30 yards out before Todd Gurley finally got the team into the end zone on a 25-yard pass play early in the fourth to pull the Dawgs within five, but two drives stalled before one final chance in the closing minutes. Georgia got down to the Nebraska 16, but Arthur Lynch couldn't haul in a pass on 4th-and-3 with 30 seconds to play, and the Huskers survived.

- Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah ran 27 times for 122 yards and a score.
- Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong completed 6-of-14 passes for 163 yards and two scores and ran ten times for 26 yards.
- Georgia QB Hutson Mason completed 21-of-39 passes for 320 yards and a score with a pick
- Georgia RB Todd Gurley ran 21 times for 86 yards and caught a team high seven passes for 97 yards and a touchdown
- Nebraska S Corey Cooper made a game-high ten tackles.
- Nebraska DE Jason Ankrah made four tackles and two sacks, and Randy Gregory made four tackles and a sack.



CFN PREVIEW

Nebraska (8-4) vs. Georgia (8-4) Jan. 1, 12:00, ESPN2

Here's The Deal … The "vote of confidence" can be wiped away in a big hurry.

It's been a rocky year and a tough run for Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini, starting with a blowout loss in the 2012 Big Ten championship against Wisconsin, followed up by the loss to Georgia in the Capital One Bowl, and blown up by a loss to UCLA at home this year and the released tape of him going off on the fan base for leaving games early. His job supposedly isn't in jeopardy, but if the Huskers get wiped out by the Bulldogs and drop a fourth straight bowl game, the pressure could be dialed up to 11.

It's not like Nebraska has been bad this season, especially considering it lost start quarterback Taylor Martinez midway through the campaign, but it hasn't been a championship campaign for a program that's getting further and further away from the national title debate.

The Huskers needed a miracle to get by Northwestern, lost to Minnesota, dropped the regular season finale against Iowa at home, and got blown out by Michigan State. Basically, this is now just another college football program, and Nebraska isn't supposed to be just another college football program.

Normally, an 8-4 season at Georgia would bring on the hot seat talk, but this has been anything but a normal season. The team was good enough to win the SEC, or at least take the East, but it was almost never healthy and was a shadow of its Opening Day self by the time mid-October came around and losses to Missouri and Vanderbilt all but ended the season. Even so, it took a dumb-luck miracle to lose at Auburn, and the Dawgs managed to rally to win four of the last five games of the year. Considering how banged up and bruised the team has been, and with star quarterback Aaron Murray out with a torn ACL, 9-4 would mean this was a special year, even if it didn't end in Pasadena on January 6th.

Last year's win over Nebraska took the bowl pressure off of Richt and Georgia after losing to Michigan State in three overtimes in the 2012 Outback and to UCF in the 2010 Liberty. Before that, the Dawgs had won four straight post-season games, seven of eight and 11 of 13 going back to 1995.

The Gator might be in the minor leagues with the massive SEC vs. Big Ten, but the last several games have been interesting for a variety of reasons. It was Bobby Bowden's final game as Florida State beat West Virginia in the 2010 game, and it was the end of the RichRod era at Michigan when Mississippi State won a 52-14 squeaker in 2011. It was Northwestern breaking a long bowl losing streak against Miss State last year, and it was Florida battling past Ohio State in 2012.

Can this be worth paying attention to while it's going on as the same time as UNLV vs. North Texas in the Heart of Dallas or Iowa vs. LSU in the Outback? No matter what happens, if you're a Nebraska fan, the future of the program – at least the coaching staff – might be at stake. Unless, of course, you have confidence.

Players to Watch: In a strange way, considering this isn't for the national championship, and it's not even for the Sugar, in a making lemonade out of lemons sort of way, Georgia is catching a break not having Aaron Murray around and getting to see more from senior Huston Mason. A big, strong passer, he stepped in against Kentucky and completed 13-of-19 passes for 189 yards and a score, and hit 22-of-36 throws for 299 yards and two touchdowns with a pick against Georgia Tech. He redshirted last year to give him a chance at the starting gig for 2014, and now he's getting in some meaningful work along with the 15 practices of bowl prep. A big game and a win would ramp up the confidence and his status going into spring ball, but a total clunker and a loss might make the coaching staff think about other options.

Speaking of cranking up the offseason hype, this could the game that announces Todd Gurley as one of the main men to beat – along with Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota – in the 2014 Heisman race. Banged up in the middle of the season, his absence was one of the big keys in the losses to Missouri and Vanderbilt, but he came back to finish the season with 903 yards with ten scores with 122 yards and three touchdowns against Georgia Tech. With a month off to rest up, he might look even more like that back who'd probably be a top five overall pick if he was eligible this year.

It's a rough year to make a whole bunch of noise as a running back in the Big Ten, with Carlos Hyde and Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon and James White doing so many splashy things, but Nebraska junior Ameer Abdullah has been as valuable as any player in the conference, rushing for a steady 1,568 yards and eight scores with ten 100-yard games and a 98-yard performance in the loss to UCLA. Very quick, very tough and very versatile, he's a good receiver when needed and can handle the ball 20 times or more without a problem. Everyone knows he's getting the ball, but can Georgia stop him? Iowa slowed him down, and if the Bulldogs can they'll win.

Who says you can't pick up a free agent in college football? Nebraska got a huge boost from JUCO transfer defensive end Randy Gregory, a pure pass rusher and former Purdue Boilermaker who earned First Team All-Big Ten honors with 8.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss with three sacks against Michigan, five in the last four games and eight in the last seven. Relentless, he gets off the ball in a hurry and needs to bother Mason for a full four quarters.

Nebraska will win if … the pass rush does its job. Georgia's offensive front has done a great job overall of keeping the quarterbacks upright, but Nebraska's defensive front, led by Gregory, is great at getting into the backfield. This is an efficient and effective Georgia passing game, even with Mason, but the downfield pass plays won't be there if the Huskers can hit Mason. The focus of the Bulldog attack will be on Gurley and the ground game, and while Nebraska isn't a rock against the run, and too many plays will be made down the field, if the D can force 2nd-and-long it plays into the hands of the front seven.

Georgia will win if … it can somehow figure out how to force mistakes. Georgia doesn't give the ball away all that often, but it never, ever takes the ball away with just six picks on the year – with two coming against Georgia Tech and two coming against Vanderbilt – and eight recovered fumbles – with three coming against Kentucky. Nebraska has turned the ball over a whopping 28 times with two or more giveaways in the final seven games and ten in the last three. The turnover problem was even worse last year, giving it up 35 times with three against Georgia in the bowl loss, but the Huskers can't let good drives stall. The Bulldog defense has to ramp up the pressure and go for the big play.

What Will Happen: Is this when Nebraska comes up with a stunning performance and plays higher than its talent level? Maybe, but it won't matter as Georgia will look healthier and quicker on both sides of the ball. Mason will be good, Gurley will be better, and despite a good overall performance, it'll be another big game clunker for the Huskers under Pelini.

Prediction: Georgia 38 … Nebraska 30
Line: Georgia -9 … o/u: 60.5
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