5 Reasons to Watch the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl
Gator Bowl: Georgia Bulldogs vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Those in charge of selecting the teams for the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl must have really enjoyed last year's Capital One Bowl. The two teams who appeared in the game, the Georgia Bulldogs and the Nebraska Cornhuskers, reprise that matchup in the Gator Bowl on New Year's Day. Both teams are 8-4 and went 5-3 in their respective conferences -- Georgia is in the SEC and Nebraska is in the Big 10.
The common thread between these two teams, beyond their shared records, is an unstable situation at quarterback. Georgia has lost excellent senior Aaron Murray to injury and he won't play in the Gator Bowl. Nebraska, which seems like it has had Taylor Martinez at quarterback since 2003, have used three different quarterback this season. Martinez, Ron Kellogg III and Tommy Armstrong, Jr. have all taken a significant number of snaps for the Cornhuskers this season. Kellogg III might now be the most notable of the three, having thrown the game-ending Hail Mary pass that beat Northwestern on Nov. 2. Not that Northwestern finding strange ways to lose football games has been that weird this season.
Kellogg III, Armstrong, Jr. and Martinez all have a similar amount of pass attempts, and very rarely does one play an entire game at quarterback. None have really stood out throwing the ball, and they haven't added much to the running game for Nebraska.
In the Gator Bowl, Georgia will likely feature junior Hutson Mason at quarterback to replace Murray. Mason threw for 299 yards in Georgia's win over rival Georgia Tech to end the regular season, but is far below Murray in terms of experience in big games.
However, the uncertainties at quarterback for both teams are just one of many things that the Gator Bowl will appoint on television. Here are five reasons you will want to watch the Gator Bowl.
5. Will Revenge Be Beneficial for Nebraska?
One sour point for Nebraska about this bowl trip might be that it once again faces Georgia. The Bulldogs beat the Cornhuskers 45-31 in last year's Capital One Bowl. Such rematches are the product of the SEC and Big 10 having so many shared bowl tie-ins for New Year's Day. If Nebraska can factor in revenge as part of its preparation for the Gator Bowl, it will work to its advantage. Nebraska hasn't had a great season, but turning the tables on Georgia, with a national audience watching, would be a satisfying way to end the season. This is only the third all-time meeting between the teams--all in bowls.
4. Who Plays Quarterback for Nebraska?
The answer to the question of who plays quarterback for Nebraska will likely help decide which teams wins the Gator Bowl. You certainly can't miss Ron Kellogg III on the field. Listed at 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, his build looks far more imposing to defenders. In a rarity for the Cornhuskers, Kellogg III played the entire game in Nebraska's blowout loss to Iowa to end the regular season. Whether that result changes Nebraska's plans here about using only one quarterback will be a key factor in the Gator Bowl.
3. Georgia Kicker Marshall Morgan is Almost Perfect
If the Gator Bowl is a close game and it comes down to Georgia needing a field goal to win, the Bulldogs are going to be in a great spot. Georgia sophomore kicker Marshall Morgan has hit 90 percent of his field goals this season (18-for-20) and all of his extra points. Morgan has twice hit field goals from at least 50 yards, including a long of 56 this season. Morgan has scored 100 points for Georgia this season, and will be a big weapon for the Bulldogs in the Gator Bowl.
2. Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah Can Control the Game
For all the talk about the quarterback situation at Nebraska, one often ignored part of the Nebraska attack is junior running back Ameer Abdullah. Despite a smallish frame (5-foot-9, 190 pounds), Abdullah has been a powerhouse for the Cornhuskers, running for 1,568 yards and averaging a very impressive 6.2 yards per carry. If Abdullah is on his game in the Gator Bowl and can run for 175 or 200 yards, he may take pressure off Kellogg III or whoever is at quarterback for Nebraska, giving it a better chance to win.
1. Can Georgia Win Without Starting QB Aaron Murray?
While Todd Gurley has been a standout running back at times for the Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia doesn't have a running back similar to Nebraska's Abdullah, who racks up yards left and right. That puts more pressure on Hutson Mason, who steps in for his second career start as Georgia quarterback in place of the injured Aaron Murray. Mason has hit 64.8 percent of his passes and has thrown for four touchdowns with two interceptions. The experience of winning Georgia's rivalry game with Georgia Tech will benefit Mason, but he definitely is no Murray, and Georgia must get a decent performance from Mason to win the Gator Bowl.