Upon hearing this year's bowl pairings, I was disappointed that the Huskers weren't going to face Kansas State. After more deliberation, I'm glad we got the Bulldogs again. There was nothing to be gained from playing the Wildcats, while not only do we get to play a SEC team, we get to be the first game everyone turns on as they try to wake up after amateur night (otherwise known as New Year's Eve).
That and the fact the bowl is in Florida is great exposure. Much better than being on so late no one watches in a bowl sponsored by a restaurant that preferred the UFC fight that night to their own bowl game.
I like the sound of the "Nebraska vs Georgia" part. There's something about Georgia I've liked for a long time. Perhaps it's my impression that Mark Richt seems like the most mentally stable coach in the SEC. Perhaps it's his nature, that of a gentleman. It could be how amazed I was at watching Herschel Walker run over people years ago. It could be a Ray Charles "Georgia On My Mind" influence. Or maybe I just like the color red.
The more you look at this game, the more you like the match up.
On to the numbers that matter for this most important game!
I have no idea what Taxslayer.com is, but it has SLAYER in the name, and that's not so bad.
1 - In 1955, the Gator Bowl was the first bowl broadcast from coast-to-coast.
2 - The Gator Bowl will be the second career start for junior Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason. His first career start came against rival Georgia Tech, when he went 22-for-36 for 299 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Mason led Georgia back from a 20-0 deficit to get the 41-34 double-overtime victory. This season, Mason has appeared in four games and is 46-for-71 for 648 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.
2 - Georgia national championships in football, one in 1942 (Coach: Wally Butts) and the other in 1980 (Coach: Vince Dooley). Frank Sinkwich won the Heisman that year. 1980 was Herschel Walker's freshman season and he exploded onto the college football scene. The man was a beast and lead the Bulldogs to a 12-0 record. Walker was one of the most amazing running backs in the history of the game. He won the Heisman in 1982. He was an All-American three times, then left after his junior year for the USFL. So, Nebraska - FIVE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS, three Heisman trophy winners. Georgia - two national championships, two Heisman Trophy winners. Nebraska is clearly superior.
2 - Times that Nebraska and Georgia have met and are tied at 1-1 so this game means everything to the series. Everyone remembers last year's 45-31 loss in the bowl game. The previous meeting was in 1969, a 45-6 Nebraska win.
3 - Bo Pelini's bowl wins.. and losses. He won his first three, including the 2003 Alamo Bowl when he was the interim head coach, but has lost his last three.
3 - Nebraska's ranking in total bowl appearances with 49, tied with Tennessee and USC. The upcoming Gator Bowl will be the Huskers' 50th, but only the second Husker appearance in the Gator Bowl. 21 of those bowls have been played in Florida. Nebraska's bowl record is 24-25. Joe Ganz was the MVP of the 2009 Gator Bowl as Nebraska beat Clemson 26-21. It seems so long ago now, doesn't it?
3 - Georgia sophomore running back Todd Gurley aims to become only the third tailback in school history to have back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. He aims to join Herschel Walker, who did it from 1980-83, and Knowshon Moreno, who accomplished the feat in 2007-08. Gurley currently has 903 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns in only nine games. He missed three and a half games due to an ankle injury after getting hurt in the second quarter during the win over LSU.
3 - (Lots of threes. Maybe that's a foreshadowing of this game!) Number of Georgia players on the 2013 SEC All-Conference first team. Quarterback Aaron Murray, running back Todd Gurley, and tight end Arthur Lynch made the first team offense. Georgia had no players on the first team defense.
5 - Georgia's 2013 preseason ranking as compiled by SBNation.com from 12 different preseason polls. Georgia had an incredible season ahead of them before losing so many players to so many injuries.
6 - Nebraska's national ranking in opponent third down conversions at 30.2%. Georgia is 74th at 40.6%.
7 - Number of games in which Georgia had a different leading receiver. Part of this is due to Murray's ability at quarterback and part due to injuries. Wide receivers Tramel Terry, Justin Scott-Wesley and Malcolm Mitchell were lost for the season due to knee injuries, while Chris Conley suffered an ankle injury against Vanderbilt and missed the next two games. Conley re-injured his ankle and is questionable for the Gator Bowl.
9 - As in UGA IX, the ninth Bulldog mascot for Georgia. Named UGA after University of Georgia, Athens. Never been a big fan of bulldogs myself, but honestly haven't known any personally. In fact, I've never known anyone who's ever owned one. They don't hunt pheasants, nor ducks, so Nebraskans would have had no use for them. UGA IX has a 11-2 record.
9.5 - Sacks for the season so far by Randy Gregory. Nebraska finished the regular season 20th in sacks with 34, compared to Georgia at 29th with 32. Gregory is 28th nationally, while Georgia's leaders here are Leonard Floyd (6.5, 59), and Ray Drew (6.0, 73).
10 - Number of passes Gurley caught against Auburn for 77 yards, a season high for receptions in a game for the 2013 Bulldgos team.
13 - This is Georgia coach Mark Richt's 13th year. He has a 126-44 record, has two SEC titles (02, 05) and five SEC Championship Game appearances (02, 03, 05, 11, 12) to go with a 8-4 bowl record. Did you know he was born in Omaha? Neither did I.
17 - The Bulldogs' national ranking in total offense at 489.8 yards per game. Nebraska is 58th here at 421.2 yards per game.
17 - Number of Randy Gregory's tackles for loss according to Nebraska's statistics. The NCAA lists him with 15.5, ranking 23rd nationally. cfbstats.com, my favorite stats site, lists him with 14.5 and 36th. (And some say doing this kind of stuff isn't difficult.)
27 - Number of records held by Georgia quarterback Murray. He owns 12 career records, nine game, and six set in bowl games. He is the first quarterback in SEC history to have four 3,000 yard passing seasons.
32 - Consecutive career starts by Georgia offensive left tackle Kenarious Gates who leads the team in that statistic. Tied at second is center David Andrews with 26, and third on offense is right guard Chris Burnette with 15. Left guard Dallas Lee has 10, while right tackle John Theus has 6. In other words, Nebraska's young defensive linemen has their work cut out for them.
37 - Number of school records set by Taylor Martinez during his Nebraska career. He came into the season with 29 school records. He ended up three touchdowns shy of the 90 touchdowns for a career still held by Eric Crouch.
45 - The low end of the average weight of an English bulldog, which is 45 to 55 pounds.
48 - Georgia's national ranking in total defense, giving up 381.3 yards per game. Nebraska is 33rd here, after starting the season pretty roughly. To be fair to Georgia, they played some of the better offenses in the nation. They gave up a season high 566 yards to Auburn, 323 of that coming on the ground.
50 - Number of dollars you'd spend for a Gator Bowl ticket. Those are for corner seats or for midlevel sideline seats.
51 - Nebraska's national ranking in opponent long scrimmage plays. The Huskers have given up 172 plays of 10+ yards. Move to 20+, Nebraska drops to 63rd. Move to 30+ yards, and the Huskers are 52nd. Georgia is 25th at 10+ yards, 43rd at 30+, and 40th at 30+ yards.
52 - Mark Richt's number of wins against teams outside the SEC. Richt is 52-9 in such games. He is 36-1 at home, meaning he's 26-8 on the road, giving Nebraska more of a chance at a win! Is this a road game? Well, it's outside Georgia, so, yeah, it's a road game.
81 - Total tackles by David Santos and Corey Cooper, tied for team high in that category. Both have two sacks, but Cooper has an interception and forced fumble while Santos has seven tackles for loss compared to Cooper's five.
97 - Georgia's national ranking in turnover margin. Nebraska is 121st. Much has been said about the Husker turnover problem, as they stand at an amazing -12 on the season. Georgia is at -6. The Bulldogs have thrown more interceptions (12 to 11), but have fumbled 20 times to Nebraska's 28. The problem for both teams have been in takeaways, where Nebraska stands at 106th nationally and Georgia at 112th. Georgia has a backup quarterback making his second start and Nebraska has two players with very few starts, anything can happen in this game.
252 - Rushing yardage by Keith Marshall this season. It would be remiss to not mention Marshall, who along with Gurley was considered one of the best rushing tandems in the nation. Marshall suffered a season-ending knee injury during the Tennessee game at the beginning of October.
272 - Days after the bowl game until the next Nebraska football game on August 30th, 2014 against Florida Atlantic. Could also be known as the number of days of constant bitching by Husker fans should Nebraska lose the game.
362 - Miles from the University of Georgia football stadium to the Gator Bowl. By mapquest.com estimate, approximately a six hour drive. Estimated cost of gas: $41.78 (24/30 MPG)
483 - Receiving yardage for Michael Bennett, second in receiving for Georgia. Conley is the top receiver with 605 yards and four touchdowns on 42 receptions, but remember he might not play. Bennett has four touchdowns on 39 receptions. Bennett is 6'3", 205 pounds, and he along with tight end Lynch at 6'5", 254 pounds will be big targets for Mason. Lynch has five touchdowns on 24 receptions for 390 yards.
1,000 - A key number for Nebraska. Given the loss of their star quarterback Murray, their wide receivers, it will be imperative to stop Gurley from his goal of becoming a 1,000 yard running back this season. It cannot be stressed enough that the Husker defense stop the Bulldog running game.
1,568 - Season yardage for Ameer Abdullah, #5 in the Huskers single-season rushing. If he can rush for his average (130.67 yards per game), he will move past Mike Rozier's 1982 rushing yardage of 1,689 yards.
1347 - Miles from Memorial Stadium in Lincoln to the Gator Bowl. Mapquest.com estimates a 21 hour, 18 minute drive, or, really a full day in a car if you're driving all the way through. Cost of gas estimate: $155.23 (24/30 MPG)
34,538 - 2013 enrollment at the University of Georgia. Compare that to Nebraska at 24,445 in 2013, which included the largest freshman class in the history of the university.