Georgia, Nebraska hoping to start new year off with win

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Georgia and Nebraska already had a pretty good handle on each other as soon as their Gator Bowl matchup became set three and a half weeks ago.

After all, they went up against each other to end their 2012 season in the Capital One Bowl some 140 miles south of Jacksonville, Fla., in Orlando.

“The fact that we played last year against Nebraska and both staffs stayed pretty much intact, there wasn’t a lot of change,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said Tuesday. “It’s not a whole lot different than playing another (Southeastern Conference) Eastern Division foe again.”

One big change is at quarterback where Georgia won’t have Aaron Murray and Nebraska will play without Taylor Martinez after the seniors’ college careers ended due to injury.

Murray threw for 427 yards and an SEC-bowl record five touchdowns in the 45-31 Georgia win a year ago.

‚ÄúThey‚Äôre very similar to what they did a year ago,‚Äù Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. ‚ÄúThey believe in what they do and they execute it well. … It might be interesting to see how they change a little bit with the younger, more inexperienced quarterback.‚Äù

Hutson Mason’s first Georgia start at EverBank Field will come not against rival Florida but the Cornhuskers in the nationally televised game on ESPN2.

“Seeing the Georgia-Florida game several times, I can know what to expect and the atmosphere,” Mason said.

The layoff between games for the No. 23 Bulldogs was longer than the past two years because Georgia didn’t reach the SEC championship.

“It feels like it’s been forever since we’ve played an actual game,” outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. “I’m ready to get back after Nebraska. Again.”

It’s a matchup between the third-place team in the SEC East and a team that tied for second in the Big Ten’s Legends Division. Both enter with 8-4 records.

Not exactly what either was shooting for, but Georgia endured a slew of injuries and Nebraska had its share as well.

“When you face things like that, tough times as the season goes on and it gets crazy, winning eight games isn’t easy,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. “I don’t think people understand that.”

Said Georgia senior defensive lineman Garrison Smith: “We could have laid down and been like a lot of other teams that are at home right now and didn’t have a bowl game at all. I’m proud of all the guys.”

Weather could play a role in the game.

There’s a 60 percent chance of showers forecast for the noon kickoff and into the afternoon, according to the Weather Channel’s website

‚ÄúSometimes that can change the dynamic of any game,‚Äù Richt said. ‚ÄúIf the skies just open up, it‚Äôs tough. If it‚Äôs just a normal rain, people that throw the ball usually can still throw the ball. … You‚Äôve got to get used to throwing and catching in those type of conditions.‚Äù

Georgia is hoping the final game of the 2013 season jump starts 2014.

‚ÄúYou never want to go out on a loss,‚Äù receiver Chris Conley said. ‚ÄúIt always sets up the offseason, the year coming, it just doesn‚Äôt have the right feeling if you don‚Äôt win. … It‚Äôs just the drive and pride that pushes you.‚Äù

Said Richt: “The game can create some momentum going into your offseason and I think it can also maybe serve as motivation for the future with some things that maybe need to get corrected and things that got to get accomplished in your offseason. It is the one game that I will talk a little bit about the future about because it is very natural for when that thing is over for everybody to say, `Now what?”

Tailback Todd Gurley puts it simply like this: “It’s another win we hope to get. It starts off the next year just right.”

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@JeffSchultzAJC @SethEmerson @BizWriterKristi Less than 3 weeks until basketball opener. Not that we are counting down.

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