Game Day: Nebraska vs. Georgia

A chance to build

Husker players would like to see the 2014 Gator Bowl be a bridge to something else: the 2014 season. A win Wednesday would serve as a connector to a campaign in which most of the defense and key parts of the offense are slated to return. "It's huge to start off 2014 with a win," said junior I-back Ameer Abdullah.

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2-Minute Drill by Rich Kaipust

Nebraska rush offense vs. Georgia rush defense

Nebraska hopes to get back to near full speed after the rash of injuries on its offensive line. The Huskers were limited to 89 yards against Iowa and averaged just 141.8 per game and 3.7 per carry in their last four games overall. Georgia linebacker Ramik Wilson was the SEC tackles leader as the Bulldogs held five of eight conference opponents under 145 rushing yards. Edge: Nebraska

Nebraska pass offense vs. Georgia pass defense

The Huskers need to take better care of the football after throwing 11 interceptions in their last seven games, including two game-changers against Iowa. But NU veteran receivers Kenny Bell and Quincy Enunwa will get some opportunities against an inexperienced Georgia secondary susceptible to the big play. The danger for Tommy Armstrong and/or Ron Kellogg is the pressure the Bulldogs bring (32 sacks, 105 hurries). Edge: Georgia

Georgia rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense

It's no stretch to say Georgia tailback Todd Gurley starts the 2014 season in the Heisman Trophy conversation, and television on New Year's Day isn't a bad place to launch your campaign. The sophomore is healthy again and running behind a veteran line, and Nebraska has had its issues with getting backs to the ground. Edge: Georgia

Georgia pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense

Georgia isn't going to be quite the same without record-setting quarterback Aaron Murray, but junior Hutson Mason still has the weapons at his disposal that help the Bulldogs rank No. 16 nationally in passing offense and No. 11 in passing efficiency. Nebraska will have to find a way to generate some rush against an offense that allowed just 18 sacks despite throwing 420 passes. Edge: Georgia

Special teams

Georgia lacks punch in the return game, ranking last in the SEC in kickoffs (16.9 yards) and 13th in punts (3.2). But the Bulldogs are solid in coverage, All-SEC kicker Marshall Morgan has made 20 of 22 field goals and Collin Barber averages 44.1 yards per punt. For NU, Mauro Bondi has 46 touchbacks in kickoffs (25 more than Georgia) and Pat Smith has connected on 11 of 12 field goals. Edge: Georgia

Intangibles

Motivation is a legitimate question after both teams played in conference championship games a year ago and expected to be better than 8-4 this season. Both have negative turnover margins, but experience in close games. Nebraska hasn't won a bowl since 2009 (0-5 in last five postseason games overall), while Georgia owns an 8-4 bowl mark under Mark Richt. The crowd should be pretty much equal. Edge: Georgia

Key matchup: Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason vs. Nebraska cornerbacks

Although a fourth-year junior, Mason had played little behind Aaron Murray until the last six quarters of the regular season. Nebraska can challenge him with veteran cornerbacks in coverage such as Ciante Evans, Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Josh Mitchell.

Nebraska wins if ...

It can get better quarterback play in a battle of backups.

Georgia wins if ...

It comes out with the right motivation and mind set.

Our take

Nebraska has watched SEC opponents eventually pull away in its last two bowl games, so it has to prove it can play the full 60 minutes. Both teams got battered by injuries this season, although NU hasn't had as many of the season-ending variety and will get some players healthy for this one. The Huskers' defensive improvement will get challenged here and they better keep their turnover problems under control, or else ...

Our prediction: Georgia 35, Nebraska 23

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Extras

Printable rosters

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Big Red Today coverage

Husker Talk Live: Replay

Replay Tuesday's "Husker Talk Live” chat with World-Herald staff writer Jon Nyatawa to get all of your Husker questions answered.

Live Blog Husker Talk Live: Noon

Big Ten notes: Maryland, Rutgers off to solid starts

Maryland and Rutgers, which just joined the Big Ten in July, have more than held up in trying to bolster the league’s image through nonconference play.

The schools were ...

Barfknecht: If Michigan’s Brady Hoke 
goes, so should A.D. Dave Brandon

If anyone in charge at Michigan is in the mood to fire someone for the current mess in football, make sure to get a 2-for-1 deal.

Fire head coach Brady ...

Husker notes: Slow defensive starts puzzling to Papuchis

LINCOLN — It’s not quite a fact-finding mission, but Nebraska defensive coordinator John Papuchis has asked several starters why the unit has struggled on opening drives.

The Huskers have allowed ...

Husker O-line coming together 
after early ‘wake-up call’

LINCOLN — They gathered before the next practice and met as a unit, because that’s what Alex Lewis said you do after your head coach calls out your group for ...

Video: Bo Pelini talks about Michigan State

Nebraska football coach Bo Pelini and several Huskers spoke to the media on Monday as the team prepares to face Michigan State in East Lansing. 

Nebraska volleyball coach John Cook ...

Lunch with Tom: Replay

Hungry for some sports chat? Replay the "Lunch with Tom'' with World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel in which he discusses Nebraska’s win over Illinois and more.

Live Blog Lunch with ...

Freshman Kieron Williams sees more studying, snaps

LINCOLN — There already had been some long hours and late nights, but Kieron Williams wanted to get it right last week.

So the Nebraska freshman safety was still going over ...

Notes: Santos feeling better, but status for Spartans remains in question

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said he and his staff will use the week of practice to evaluate the status of linebacker David Santos, who missed Saturday’s win over Illinois ...

Ameer Abdullah wins Big Ten honor again

For the third time in five weeks, Nebraska I-back Ameer Abdullah earned a Big Ten weekly honor, as the senior was chosen as the Big Ten offensive player of the ...

Q&A with Husker receiver Jordan Westerkamp

One of the spotlights on Saturday night will be on the Nebraska receivers going against the Michigan State defensive backs. Among them is Westerkamp, the sophomore who has caught at ...

Nyatawa: Ameer Abdullah’s running style conducive to durability

LINCOLN — On his 21st carry Saturday night, Ameer Abdullah lowered his shoulder and chugged his way forward to gain a couple of extra yards, just as he’d capped off ...

Huskers 'hungry' to prove they can hang with Spartans

LINCOLN — Tommy Armstrong has lost one game as Nebraska’s starting quarterback. He’s watching tape of that 41-28 loss to Michigan State this week.

He’ll see the five ...

Shatel: Don’t count out Ameer Abdullah for a run at Mike Rozier's mark

Don’t look now, but it’s trivia time again. Where and when was the last time Nebraska beat a top 10 team on the road? Answer below. Winner gets ...

Huskers moving on up in Coaches, AP Top 25 polls

The Huskers continue this week to move up the ranks in both the AP Top 25 and the Coaches Polls following a 45-14 pounding of the Illini Saturday.

Last week ...

New look on ‘D’ made difference for Nebraska

LINCOLN — It was obvious to safety Nate Gerry that Illinois’ quarterback wasn’t completely sure how to attack a new personnel package that Nebraska unveiled for Saturday night’s matchup ...

Nebraska lays groundwork with running attack

LINCOLN — Some of the offensive numbers were staggering by the time Nebraska had taken its final snap Saturday night.

The NU offense was on the field for a season-high 39 ...

Nebraska gets commitments from two 2016 offensive linemen

They won't be in a Nebraska uniform for two years, but John Raridon and Bryan Brokop had to make Husker offensive line coach John Garrison very pleased late Saturday ...

Backup quarterback first of many problems for Illini

LINCOLN — One backup quarterback. Two big plays. Three simple words. And four wheels that fell off.

That about summed up the latest trip to Lincoln for Illinois, a 45-14 loss ...

Barfknecht's Big Ten Rankings, Sept. 29

World-Herald staff writer Lee Barfknecht ranks the Big Ten conference football teams as published in The World-Herald on Sept. 29.

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1. Michigan State (3-1, 0-0)

Last week: beat Wyoming 56-14 ...

Barfknecht: If Nebraska is on its game, look for a shootout with MSU

EAST LANSING, Mich. — All joking aside about Big Ten football, Michigan State is the most complete league team I’ve seen one-third of the way through the season.

But as ...

McKewon: Huskers match up well with Michigan State

LINCOLN — Hello, darlin’.

Michigan State, that is. The green-eyed girl of the northern league, the one Big Ten team that escapes the “Big Ten” label, the one that national analysts ...

Video: Nebraska postgame press conference

Watch Nebraska's postgame press conference live as Bo Pelini and select Husker players address the media.

* * *

Video: Bo Pelini postgame

Video: Tommy Armstrong postgame

Video: Nate Gerry postgame

Video ...

Husker Talk Live: Game Day

Get live analysis, photos, video and more during the Huskers’ showdown with Illinois. Want to chime in? Use the #NEBvsILL hashtag on Twitter.

Live Blog Husker Talk Live: Game Day

Quarter by quarter: Nebraska 45, Illinois 14

World-Herald staff writers Sam McKewon and Rich Kaipust recap the key plays in each quarter of Nebraska's win over Illinois.

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First quarter

Ameer Abdullah: Nebraska’s top offensive weapon ...

Tracking the Husker offense, defense

World-Herald staff writer Rich Kaipust takes a look at Nebraska's effort on both sides of the ball during the Huskers' 45-14 win over Illinois.

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TRACKING THE OFFENSE

The game ...

Barfknecht: Great divide in the Great Lakes

EAST LANSING and ANN ARBOR, Mich. — My map tells me the football programs at Michigan State and Michigan are 60 miles apart.

My eyes tell me the current gap is ...

From the sidelines: Fans get kick out of Nebraska’s alternate kicks

LINCOLN — All that glittered was gold.

OK, maybe a little silver, too.

Nebraska’s alternate uniforms Saturday were definitely something to look at. But the all red had been done ...

Nebraska-Illinois: Five things we learned, don't know

Five things we learned and five things we still don’t know coming out of Saturday's Nebraska-Illinois football game.

* * *

Five things we learned

1. Ameer Abdullah’s a legitimate ...

Notes: To Gerry, Gregory’s big hit looks as good on video as it did in person

LINCOLN — Safety Nate Gerry didn’t get to see a replay of the big hit junior Randy Gregory had on his second-quarter interception return until they were in the locker ...