ORLANDO, Fla. — As millions of Americans try to shake off hangovers today, so will two storied college football programs at the Capital One Bowl.
Georgia and Nebraska have not played since losing their respective conference championship games one month ago. The Bulldogs suffered a 32-28 heartbreaker to Alabama in the Southeastern Conference title game, thus denying Georgia a berth in the BCS championship showdown, while the Cornhuskers had their Rose Bowl plans derailed in a 70-31 loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game.
"No matter what happens, you'll never wipe that taste out of your mouth," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said during Monday's final news conference before today's kickoff.
Bowl games often are determined by which team is more motivated, and both the No. 5 Bulldogs (11-2) and the No. 21 Cornhuskers (10-3) claim they are ready. Georgia is a 9-point favorite to extend the SEC's streak of impressive performances in this theme-park mecca, with South Carolina having thumped Nebraska 30-13 last year and Alabama having mutilated Michigan State 49-7 after the 2010 season.
The biggest question facing the Bulldogs is whether they've gotten over their loss to the Crimson Tide, which ended with Georgia on Alabama's 5-yard line as time ran out.
"It was not fun to lose," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "It was great to be in that game, and it was great the way we competed, but we don't like consolation prizes around here. The bottom line is once the game is over, you've got to get over it."
Said Pelini: "Different things motivate different people, and our circumstances are different from Georgia's. I'm sure both teams will be extremely motivated, because at the end of the day, it's competition."
Nebraska gave up a school-record 539 rushing yards and 10.8 yards per carry against the Badgers, but Richt isn't putting too much stock in that outcome.
"That was one of those games that got away from them," Richt said. "We had a game like that against South Carolina. They got hot and got momentum, and we never did much to stop that momentum. That's what happened to Nebraska. It just got away from them.
"It's the same with us. If they just studied the South Carolina game, they would be licking their chops, but we had other performances that were better, and they have as well."
The Bulldogs have their own run-defense concerns after they allowed 350 rushing yards against Alabama. Also, they will not have starting noseguard John Jenkins today due to academic ineligibility.
Georgia and Nebraska have had their fill of practices and fun since arriving last Wednesday. "It feels like we've been here for two weeks," Pelini said. Each team has visited Universal Studios, SeaWorld and the Disney theme parks.
"The coaches told us when we got here that there were going to be a lot of distractions but that when it was time to play football, it was time to play football," Georgia sophomore defensive end Ray Drew said. "They reminded us that when we look back at this trip, we will remember the Shamu shows, but what is important is looking back at this trip and remembering a win."
The Cornhuskers are trying for their first 11-win season since 2001. Georgia is seeking its first 12-win season since 2002.
"This senior class has meant so much to this program," Georgia junior quarterback Aaron Murray said. "These guys have brought Georgia back to where it needs to be, and I know that myself and the rest of the underclassmen want to send them off on the right note."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...