Georgia’s bowl game will have a familiar feel to it.
The Bulldogs will play Nebraska in the postseason for the second consecutive year, this time in the Jan. 1 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla.
That’s the same locale as the Bulldogs’ annual Southeastern Conference tilt with rival Florida.
The official announcement came Sunday night after a wild day of speculation below the BCS selections as the bowls and conferences settled on matchups.
The Bulldogs beat the Cornhuskers 45-31 in the Capital One Bowl to end last season, and this year’s matchup between the two teams figures to be a particular challenge in moving tickets. Reaction on Twitter was heavily negative. And not just with the fans.
“Nebraska again? You kidding me?” Georgia junior wide receiver Michael Bennett tweeted.
“Didn’t we see this in Orlando already?” tweeted former Georgia quarterback Buck Belue.
Georgia is heading to its 49th bowl game, but it’s never had the same opponent in back-to-back bowls.
Georgia coach Mark Richt tried to put a positive spin when asked if he was disappointed about playing the same team for a second year in a row.
“Oh, I don’t know, I think it’s becoming a good rivalry,” said Richt, who touched on his roots being born in Omaha, Neb. “It was a great battle last year, and we’ll see what happens this year.”
Georgia’s ticket allotment is 15,000, Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said.
“It’s in a different venue, it’s a different site,” McGarity said. “I would be more concerned it if were the same city, same site. For our players and staff, they’ve never really spent more than one night, actually never in Jacksonville. It’s always been St. Augustine. Heck, we play teams every year regardless. We play Auburn every year, we play (Georgia) Tech every year. In that case, people have always turned out in great numbers.”
The Big Ten bowl selections after Michigan State to the Rose and Ohio State to the Orange were Wisconsin to the Capital One, Iowa to the Outback and Michigan to the Buffalo Wild Wings.
Then the Gator Bowl tabbed Nebraska, setting up a matchup of 8-4 teams.
Georgia is ranked No. 23 in The Associated Press poll and finished No. 22 in the BCS standings. The Cornhuskers are unranked.
Gator Bowl president and CEO Rick Catlett told the Athens Banner-Herald a week ago that he preferred not to match the teams again, but Minnesota’s poor record of traveling to bowl games factored against it, according to the Florida Times-Union.
Catlett on the bowl teleconference said: “What we try not to do is have the same teams back-to-back in a bowl game from the standpoint of that city’s bowl game. Having two teams of this quality between each other in two separate years is pretty much like playing in a conference rivalry game.”
Kickoff at EverBank Field is at noon on Jan. 1 on ESPN2.
Georgia hasn’t played in the Gator Bowl since Jan. 1, 1989, in Vince Dooley’s final game as Bulldogs coach. Georgia is 2-0-1 all-time in the game.
A rematch in a bowl game isn’t unprecedented for an SEC team, but bowls and teams usually try to avoid them if they can.
South Carolina beat Ohio State in back-to-back Outback Bowls to end the 2000 and 2001 seasons.
Asked if the SEC did anything to try to avoid Georgia playing the same team two years in a row, SEC spokesman Chuck Dunlap said via email: “The SEC’s role is to facilitate the process between the bowls and the schools because ultimately the bowl makes its selection. The selection process changes next year (when the conference will make bowl selections).”
The Bulldogs have won three straight against Florida in Jacksonville, where the rivals play annually in the same stadium where the Gator Bowl is played.
The suspense on Georgia’s bowl selection began with whether the Bulldogs would get selected by the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta before the Gator Bowl picked, and that remained up in the air until early evening.
That hinged on which way the Outback Bowl went with its selection. When the Outback tabbed LSU, the Chick-fil-A scooped up Texas A&M and 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel to play Duke.
“If you look at CBS’ broadcast, you find Alabama is probably the No. 1 draw and Texas A&M No. 2 with respect to TV viewership, primarily because of Johnny Manziel and being a Heisman Trophy winner and the way he plays the game,” Chick-Fil-a Bowl president and CEO Gary Stokan told the Banner-Herald last week.
If LSU and Georgia were available, the Bulldogs probably would have gone to Atlanta because the Tigers were in the game last year.
McGarity said Georgia fans have supported the team in traveling to bowl games, even to the Liberty Bowl against UCF.
“Our track record has been very, very good,” McGarity said. “We expect it to be good. We also understand there may be some people who may not attend due to the rematch, but we have rematches every year, that’s nothing unusual in college football. It is in a bowl game. … There may be some disappointment on the front end, but once you analyze everything and people understand how the system works, that’s who we’re matched up to play. We’re just thankful that the Gator Bowl invited us.”
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini has been in the news this season for his postgame comment after a 38-17 home loss to Iowa on Nov. 29 when he said: “If they want to fire me, go ahead. I believe in what I’ve done.”
Athletic director Shawn Eichorst issued a statement saying: “We very much look forward to our upcoming bowl game and Coach Pelini continuing to lead our program in the future.”
Earlier in the season, postgame audio surfaced of Pelini making a profane rant against fans for which he apologized.
The rematch will have different quarterbacks.
Hutson Mason is starting for Aaron Murray, who threw five touchdowns against Nebraska but tore an ACL in his home finale. Ron Kellogg III has replaced injured Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez, who has a left foot injury that his father told the AP would keep him out the rest of the season.