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December 8, 2013
Huskers-Bulldogs will meet in Gator Bowl
For the second year in a row Nebraska will play Georgia in a Florida bowl game.
In 2012 the two teams faced off in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, and this year they will play one another in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville on New Year's Day. The game will kickoff at 11 am CST on ESPN 2.
It will be the Huskers third consecutive bowl trip to Florida and fourth in the last six years. It will also be the second time in four years the Huskers will have a rematch opponent in a bowl. In 2010 NU played at Washington in the regular season, faced the Huskies again that same season in the Holiday Bowl and played them in Lincoln during the regular season in 2011.
Nebraska (8-4) lost to UGA (8-4) 41-24 in last year's Capital One Bowl, however the game was tied at 31-31 in the fourth quarter and completely changed after a controversial Ameer Abdullah fumble when the Huskers were driving in Bulldog territory to take the lead.
"I think it's become a good rivalry," Georgia head coach Mark Richt said on Sunday night. "Of course everyone knows my background growing up a Nebraska fan and being born in Omaha. I know my mom and dad we grew up loving Nebraska and the Big Red."
The biggest difference though with this year's NU vs. Georgia match-up will be all the injuries on both sides. The Dawgs will be playing without quarterback Aaron Murray and the Huskers most likely without quarterback Taylor Martinez.
Like Nebraska, UGA has suffered several injuries on their offense. In all, the Dawgs have suffered six season-ending ACL knee injuries to starters on offense.
"It's never good when anybody gets injured," Richt said. "It's a sad time for that player and it's a sad time for his teammates to see that and it affects the team obviously, but that's part of football and we all understand that. We are not complaining or we aren't crying about it, we just find out who the next in line is and make sure they know what to do and give them an opportunity for them to have their day."
As for Nebraska's injuries, head coach Bo Pelini said on Sunday he expects his team to go into Jacksonville at as close to full-health as they've been in quite some time. Pelini didn't rule out Martinez for the bowl, but it's highly unlikely he plays in Jacksonville. He also said on Sunday that redshirt freshman quarterback Tommy Armstrong has used the down time to heal up his injured ankle and he should be ready to go.
"It's a little too early to tell, but I think we should be a lot more close to being 100 percent," Pelini said. "I think a lot of the offensive linemen who struggled at the end of the year, other than Spencer Long and Taylor (Martinez), the rest of the guys should be ready to go, and that's a big plus. We haven't been close to being healthy for a while yet."
There was strong speculation the Huskers were heading to Tempe for the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl to take on Kansas State, but the BWW Bowl pulled a fast one on everyone and selected Michigan over the Huskers.
The Wolverines haven't played in Arizona since 1985 and the Big Ten ends their agreement with the Buffalo Wilds Wings/Fiesta Bowl after this season. Nebraska hasn't played in Arizona since the 1999 season when they faced Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl.
That left the Gator Bowl with the choice between Nebraska and Minnesota, and they chose the Huskers even though it's a rematch of last year's Capital One Bowl. Minnesota will play in the Texas Bowl on Dec. 27 against Syracuse. Both Pelini and Richt did not seem upset at all about the rematch, despite the national scrutiny the match-up has received around the country.
"I want to play a good football team and a team that has a lot of tradition," Pelini said. "I don't know anyone that would complain - what you are looking for is good match-ups. When you look at football across the country, teams play each other more than once a year. Playing somebody two years in a row, I don't know why it's a bad thing. It's a good match-up and it should be fun."
"Obviously I have not looked at any film this year, but I know their great back (Ameer Abdullah) has close to 1,600 yards rushing and I know they always throw the ball extremely well," Richt said. "Certainly they have the same type of balance as they did a year ago and their defense is outstanding as well. We know we have our work cut out for us."