Georgia will need Todd Gurley (3) against a stingy Nebraska defense in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl on New year’s Day. (Reuters)
The Georgia Bulldogs will be heading back to Jacksonville for the second time in two months, to play a team they played a year ago.
The No. 22-ranked Bulldogs (8-4) were selected by the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl to play in their Jan. 1 game at Jacksonville Memorial Stadium, as expected. But instead of Michigan, which the bowl had hoped to match against Georgia for the first time in 49 years, the Gator had to go with the Nebraska Cornhuskers. The game is set for a noon kickoff and will be televised on ESPN2.
“They’re obviously a good team,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said on a teleconference call Sunday night accepting the official bowl bid. “We think we’re a good team, too. We had a great battle last year and we’ll see what happens this year.”
The Bulldogs were one of 10 SEC teams to accept bowl invitations on Sunday. No. 2 Auburn will play No. 1 FSU in the BCS National Championship on Jan. 6 and Alabama will play Oklahoma in the Nokia Sugar Bowl. The others matchups are Missouri-Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl, South Carolina-Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl, LSU-Iowa in the Outback Bowl, Texas A&M-Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, Ole Miss-Georgia Tech in the Music City Bowl, Mississippi State-Rice in the Liberty Bowl and Vanderbilt-Houston in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
The Gator gets the sixth selection from the SEC and the fourth selection from the Big Ten. But they were undone when the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., which picks third, took the 7-5 Wolverines over the 8-4 Cornhuskers. Georgia played Nebraska last year in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, winning 45-31 behind quarterback Aaron Murray’s five touchdown passes.
Gator Bowl president and CEO Rick Catlett took the change of plans in stride.
“It doesn’t matter at all to us,” he said. “We had Michigan and Nebraska on one side and Georgia and LSU on the other. We feel like we got one of the best matchups out there.”
As for playing Nebraska in back-to-back years, Richt just laughed. “Oh, I don’t know, I think it’s becoming a good rivalry,” he quipped.
The Cornhuskers are led by running back Ameer Abdullah, who rushed 1,568 yards this season. They lost quarterback Taylor Martinez to a foot injury.
“We know we’ve got our work cut out for us,” Richt said. “Obviously I haven’t looked at them much at this point, but graduate assistants are breaking down film as we speak.”
Georgia returns to Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, where it plays Florida in the season’s 10th week every season. The Bulldogs beat the Gators 23-20 there on Nov. 2.
“I know the Georgia people love Jacksonville. There’s no doubt about that,” Richt said. “We’ve been playing in Jacksonville for about 80 years. So I think everybody enjoys the area and is looking forward to coming back.”
The Bulldogs haven’t played in the Gator Bowl since Jan. 1, 1989. They defeated Michigan State 34-27 that year in what was Vince Dooley’s last game as Georgia’s football coach.
It’s Georgia’s third appearance overall in the Gator Bowl. The Bulldogs tied Maryland 20-20 in 1948 and beat North Carolina 7-3 in 1971. It’s their 49th bowl game of all time, the sixth most of any team in the country. They’re 27-18-3 in bowls.