The Gator Bowl will feature two 8-4 teams this year when the Nebraska Cornhuskers take on the Georgia Bulldogs. Both teams were expected to contend for conference titles this season, so finishing 8-4 and appearing in the Gator Bowl is a bit of a letdown. Nebraska ended the season losing two of their last three games, and that lone win game in overtime against Penn State. It was a less than stellar finish for the Huskers, so you can rest assured knowing they will want to end the year on a positive note.
Georgia was plagued with injuries this season. They lost their star running back for several games, and had a wealth of injuries at the wide receiver position. It came at the worst possible time, and the Bulldogs ended up dropping back-to-back conference games against Missouri and Vanderbilt. They ended up finishing the season wining four of their last five games, but had an underwhelming performance in the final game of the season against Georgia Tech. It took double-overtime for the Bulldogs to win that game.
Kick-off for the Gator Bowl will take place on New Year’s Day at 12:00 PM ET. You can catch television coverage for this Big Ten vs SEC matchup on ESPN2. The oddsmakers have listed Georgia as a 7.5-point favorite over the Cornhuskers.
Why Nebraska Covers
Getting points on the board should be an easy task for the Cornhuskers in this Gator Bowl matchup with Georgia. Nebraska averages 32.6 points per game this year, and they are facing a Bulldog’s defense that has allowed 32.8 points per game on the road. Georgia has been very soft on defense, and that gives Nebraska a substantial matchup advantage. The Cornhuskers are averaging 222 rushing yards per game, while the Bulldogs defense has struggled to stop the run on the road this year. The biggest advantage Nebraska has is their ability to throw the ball. The Cornhuskers typically have a strong run bias, but the Bulldogs secondary is allowing over 230 passing yards per game.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers are 45-27 ATS after failing to cover the spread in two out of their last three games.
Nebraska’s defense has played extremely well in road game situations. They are holding opponents to a mere 18.5 points per game. The run defense ranks among the best in the Big Ten and the country in road games, allowing just 113 rushing yards per game on 2.8 yards per carry. They will see a balanced attack for Georgia in this game, but that suits the Huskers just fine since the secondary is also comprised of very talented players. Nebraska is holding opposing quarterbacks to a 49.6 percent completion rate in road games, allowing a mere 189 passing yards per game.
Why Georgia Covers
While Nebraska’s defense may be one of the best in the Big Ten, they have not been tested by an SEC offense like Georgia’s this season. The Bulldogs are averaging 38.2 points per game, and I think they would be playing in a much better bowl game if not for being plagued by injuries this season. Hutson Mason has proved to be every bit as good as Aaron Murray under center, and I expect him to have a strong performance against Nebraska. The Huskers don’t have much game film on Mason, and that gives the Bulldogs a big advantage from a preparation standpoint. Mason has completed 64.8 percent of his pass attempts with four touchdowns in his 71 pass attempts this season. He has also thrown for 648 yards in his limited amount of playing time.
The Georgia Bulldogs are 25-11 ATS in non-conference road games.
Georgia’s defense has earned a bad reputation this year. They have certainly allowed a lot of points, but their strength of schedule is much stronger than Nebraska’s. The Bulldogs opponents have averaged 29.7 points per game, while Nebraska’s opponents average just 26.8 points per game. If you look outside of the numbers alone, you also have to consider the fact that an SEC opponent averaging 29.7 points per game is probably much stronger than a Big Ten opponent averaging that same amount of points. The SEC is the power conference in college football, and the talent gap between SEC and Big Ten teams is a big one.
I think Nebraska comes to play in this game. They are a much better team than they get credit for, and the Bulldogs simply have too many injuries to overcome. This is the Huskers chance for revenge after losing last year’s Capital One Bowl to the Bulldogs so they will have a little extra motivation coming into this game.
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