Capital One Bowl Preview: 12 Wins, Bowl Streaks and Bo Pellini’s Cargo Shorts
I don’t know that an X’s and O’s preview would carry much weight at juncture. Despite the hoopla that comes with a major Bowl atmosphere (and this is still – as the largest non-BCS Bowll – a major bowl), this is very much not what Georgia wanted this season. The Bulldogs’ improvement since that fateful game in Columbia, South Carolina in early October is beyond admirable, but the sting of the SEC Championship remains with this team. I’ve noticed this week that it remains with the fanbase. As I pointed out way back in 2012, if the Dawgs had known 11 regular season wins was in the cards this year, then the Capital One Bowl would have been deemed as a disappointment. And with all due respect (and for once I actually sincerely mean that) to the Capital One Bowl, am still a little disappointed too.
My one personal regret regarding the Bowl is that I didn’t get down here earlier. Every event that I have (or the DudeYouCrew has) attended has been great. Check-in was largely seemless, the hotel accommodations are centrally located to all the good stuff (and even some of the bad), the Press Conference yesterday was a success as was the luncheon that followed it. By all accounts the pep rallies for each team were smashing successes; I even got a photo of Bo Pellini wearing cargo shorts. There’s a concert this morning and a football carnival of sorts going on near the stadium and the half-time show promises the crowning of the Capital One Mascot Challenge and more live music from Dierks Bentley. From top-to-bottom the Bowl has been a blast.
But the Bowl is not in Miami, Florida, and the game today will not crown a National Champion. So, it remains a bit of a disappointment and I still don’t know what to predict from the Georgia Bulldogs. If it was a regular season game then I’d expect a winning effort. After all, the Bulldogs have won 21 of their last 22 regular season games, and the Huskers don’t stand out in that crowd of competition. If it was a big game with a transcendent (and permanent) value to it, I’d feel fantastic as Georgia has recently dismantled Florida to claim the SEC East and played with Alabama to a frighteningly close degree.
Alas, those factors are not at play. So, to come back to a point I began three paragraphs ago, I don’t know that the X’s and O’s matter. If they did, I’d say that Nebraska’s chances of stopping Georgia’s offense pale like a redhead in winter in comparison to Georgia’s odds of stopping the Cornhuskers. If this game really mattered on one of those levels, I’d comment on Georgia’s ability to move the ball – possibly at will – against Nebraska, and the fact that Georgia’s defense should be able to make plays when they actually matter. If this was a regular season game or a BCS Bowl game, the 8.5 point spread given in favor of Georgia would seem laughable. Frankly, I think in either of those circumstances Georgia would be at least 14 points better than Nebraska.
But this is a Bowl game, and that doesn’t necessarily engrain confidence in this Georgia fan. And that is not so much an indictment of the Capital One Bowl as it is of the Georgia Bulldogs’ football program’s recent history. Georgia’s junior signal-caller Aaron Murray might leave after this game. He has never won a Bowl game. Georgia was the better team in each of his two Bowl appearances. But the finale on the scoreboard disagreed.
Ultimately there are plenty of motivations for Georgia to show up and win. The Dawgs are playing for a top-5 BCS finish. They’re playing for a 12-win season that would mark just the third in the program’s storied history (joining the 1980 National Champion 12-0 team and the 13-1 SEC Champs from 2002). But it’s that Bowl win that matters. It’s that Bowl win that Coach Mark Richt stressed in the Capital One Bowl Kickoff Luncheon Press Conference. And at the end of the day, I think that will be the victory cry.
The Georgia Bulldogs will win this game, because Richt has them prepared to do so. Any other extra-curricular successes or dominance is up to the players. On one hand I hope those are superfluous. On the other hand I’d be OK with guys like Aaron Murray and Kwame Geather feeling the need to come back after a lackluster, but winning, final performance.
So maybe, in a weird way, we should be rooting for just a little bit of disappointment today.
But even with that in mind and even with the generally friendly demeanor of all these Nebraska fans, I still want a statement game from the Dawgs. They don’t owe it to me. But I think they owe it to themselves. And in that regard, I do expect a dominating performance.
We’ll see what we get.
In the meantime, check back starting around 10:30 for some live updates from the Press Box.
That’s all I got/