Capital One Bowl
Both schools are coming off disappointing conference championships, albeit in much different fashion. Nebraska was slight favorites over Wisconsin and ended up getting annihilated by the Badgers. As underdogs, Georgia played what many believe is the top team in the Nation in Alabama and fell just short of defeating them. No matter what the result was for either team, both had glaring deficiencies in their losses, the inability to stop the run.
The Cornhuskers finished at the top of the Legends Division in Big 10 play, overtaking the two schools from Michigan. Their main problem has come playing away from home this year. Already noted was that Wisconsin game, but also a 63-38 beat down at Ohio State. Early in the season, they lost at the hands of UCLA. Nebraska won their other three road games, but they weren't pretty at all. They had to come back and win both games at Northwestern and Michigan State. At Iowa, one of the worst teams in the conference, they struggled to put points on the board with only 13. They haven't really put together a great game away from Lincoln this season.
Georgia has also had problems on the road, but they haven't been as bad. Their one regular season loss came at South Carolina and that game was over from the start. But in their second loss as mentioned above, they fought tough with Alabama. The rest of their road games weren't too close against Missouri and Auburn, although they did only beat Kentucky by five points. An important neutral site game they won came over Florida 17-9 in Jacksonville.
Looking at these teams defensively, Georgia has a slight advantage, but after giving up 350 rushing yards to Alabama in the SEC title game, that may not be the case as Nebraska's strong suit is running the ball. As for Georgia , they shouldn't have a ton of trouble moving the ball led by Aaron Murray, one of the best passers in the country.
Murray is second in the nation in passer rating and is having his best college season yet, with 3,466 yards, 31 touchdowns and only eight INTs. Although one can argue he hasn't been great playing the top defenses. Against South Carolina, Florida and Alabama, Murray only had 518 yards, two TDs and five interceptions. Considering Nebraska doesn't have quite the defense of those giants, he should have another successful outing. Top wide receiver Tavarres King shouldn't have much of a problem getting open. While Murray does like spreading the ball, King leads the team with 846 yards, eight TDs and 21.7 yards per catch. Freshman RB Todd Gurley has been huge for the Bulldogs this season, hitting the 100-yard mark in eight games to total 1,260 yards and 16 TDs. Georgia be able to pass and run on the Cornhuskers defense.
For Nebraska, quarterback Taylor Martinez is what makes them go. He's had his best passing season to date throwing for 2,667 yards and 21 TDs in his third year. Along with that, he still has a top running game with 973 yards and a team-high 10 touchdowns. Martinez single-handedly won their game at MSU rushing for 205 yards and two TDs. Also on the ground are Ameer Abdullah and Rex Burkhead who will likely split time out of the backfield. Abdullah has ran well this season with 1,089 yards and eight TDs, but Burkhead, last year's starter, should be healthy and ready to go for this one. The team's top receiver is Kenny Bell who leads the team with eight TDs, six more than anyone else.
When looking at each teams yards per point numbers we see that both teams have no trouble converting yards into points. Georgia's ypp number on offense is a blistering 12.1 while Nebraska weighs in with a not too shabby 13. It's the defensive side of the ball that we see a significant difference with Nebraska a very bad 13 while the Bulldogs are a very respectable 18.6. Also note the turnover differential here, Nebraska -11 and Georgia +10!
Our model's predictions are 38-23 using full season data, 37-12 using last 5 games and 28-17 using the last 7 games, all with Georgia on top. We hate laying big numbers in high profile bowl games but it looks like Georgia is the way to go in this one. Georgia -8.5