WHO: 8-4 Nebraska (Big Ten) vs. 8-4 Georgia (SEC)
WHAT: TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl (68th year)
WHERE: EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida
WHEN: Jan. 1 at noon ET
WHY: You’ll have to pardon both the Bulldogs and Cornhuskers if they send their players out onto the field early this afternoon encased in bubble wrap. Injuries, especially as they pertain to UGA, have been an ongoing theme throughout the 2013 season.
Each team lost their long-time starting quarterbacks to what turned out to be season-ending injuries. Aaron Murray tore an ACL in the Bulldogs second-to-last regular season game, while Taylor Martinez (no relation) has played in just one of the last nine games due to a lingering foot injury. Murray is one of more than a half-dozen Bulldog starters sidelined for the game due to a combination of injuries, suspensions and academics.
Both of the programs began the 2013 season with high expectations, with Georgia ranked fifth and Nebraska 18th. UGA made it through a brutal first month of the season — at No. 8 Clemson, home vs. No. 6 South Carolina and No. 6 LSU — at 3-1 and appeared poised for another run at an SEC championship game appearance before the injuries derailed what was a promising start.
The Huskers endured not only its own spate of injury but off-field controversy as well. At various points throughout the 2013 season, speculation had head coach Bo Pelini all but fired. After weathering a storm that ended with the unequivocal backing of his boss, Pelini will look to end the year on a high note after dropping two of its last three games and tumbling down the Big Ten’s bowl pecking order.
And, if you’re getting the feeling you’ve seen this game before, you’re spot on. In last year’s Capital One Bowl, Georgia slid past Nebraska 45-31 on the strength of a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns. Last year was just the second-ever meeting between the two programs, with the first coming in the 1969 Sun Bowl.
PREDICTION: Georgia 27, Nebraska 24