Nebraska wanted return trip to Orlando
After suffering an embarrassing 70-31 setback to Wisconsin on Saturday night in the Big Ten Championship game, Nebraska's reward on Sunday is a trip to the Capital One Bowl for a second year in a row.
The BCS ranked No. 16 Huskers (10-3) will take on No. 7 Georgia (11-2), who fell one play short of earning a spot in the BCS national championship game against Notre Dame.
Last year Nebraska played in Orlando and lost the South Carolina 30-13. Naturally there was some discussion on Sunday if the Huskers would want to play in the Capital One Bowl two years in a row, but it was both NU Athletic Director Tom Osborne and head coach Bo Pelini that said they wanted a return trip to Orlando.
The Capital One Bowl is not a BCS game, but it has the highest payout of any of the non-BCS bowls. In 2012 the Capital One Bowl had a payout of $4.55 million. The chance to play the Bulldogs also matches Nebraska up against the highest ranked available opponent that didn't make a BCS bowl game.
"Like Coach Osborne said, it was a first class bowl game and the opportunity to play the highest ranked opponent out there that we possibly could," Pelini said. "With Georgia coming off of that game we knew they were highly ranked and it was going to be a highly ranked opponent and one that would give us a tremendous opportunity. I thought it was pretty obvious with all the reasons behind it that it was pretty clear where we needed to go. Coach Osborne agreed."
On Saturday it was reported that Texas A&M was expected to be invited to the Capital One Bowl, but pressure from both the Big Ten and SEC forced the Florida Citrus Sports committee to invite the Huskers and the Bulldogs.
Capital One Bowl CEO Steve Hogan said those reports couldn't be further from the true, as the they have always traditionally taken the loser from the SEC Conference title game more often than not.
"(Nebraska) wanted to play the best available (team) and Georgia is pretty much the best available you are going to find anywhere in the county if you aren't one of the best two teams and (Nebraska) wanted to play them," Hogan said. "I think it starts there, and once we heard (Nebraska) really wanted to be here, and with the SEC and the Big Ten having a couple of different New Year's Day bowl games in Florida, sometimes teams want to get a different change of scenery, but we didn't hear that.
"Coach Osborne said 'we really want to be there' and said 'we hope you take us back' and 'we want that trip.' When they said that we looked at a 10 win football team and a team that for most of the season was right there with Ohio State in terms of the best team in the league. If you get a chance to get them down here you take it. We've got a 10 win team and an 11 win team together and I think everything else that's happened to date you throw out the window and in 30 days we are all going to have a lot of fun."
Sunday's announcement to play Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl also had special meaning for Georgia head coach Mark Richt.
The long time Bulldog head coach grew up in Omaha and considered himself a Husker fan as a kid. In fact he still has several family members that live in Nebraska.
"It's kind of personal for me because I was born in Omaha and my mom and dad grew up in Nebraska and all my cousins on that side of the family are big Husker fans," Richt said. "They like the Dogs too. They call themselves the "corn-dogs" actually. They are a combination of the Cornhuskers and the Dogs."
Richt even recalls getting into the Nebraska-Oklahoma rivalry as a kid.
"My next door neighbor was an Oklahoma fan, so we had this feud between all the neighbors when Nebraska and Oklahoma would play," Richt said. "Those are games I really remember growing up as a kid. By age 13 we moved to Boca Rotan, Florida, but I still had Nebraska on my mind really until I went to college at the University of Miami.
"It's going to be fun for my family. I know everybody is going to be making that trip to Orlando from Nebraska. I know my mom and dad's side of the family they're all going to be having a good time with this."
***Richt obviously hasn't seen much from Nebraska, but immediately the rushing numbers from running backs Ameer Abdullah and Rex Burkhead, along with quarterback Taylor Martinez jump out to him.
"To hear that they led their league in rushing and have a three-headed monster is going to be a great challenge for us," Richt said.
***As for Martinez, Pelini said on Sunday to his knowledge he didn't suffer any type of concussion when a Wisconsin defender picked him up and slammed him to the turf.
"I didn't see Taylor (Martinez) today, but I don't think there are any issues," Pelini said. "Nothing that the trainer came up to me with any concern about. I just think like anything else, when you get banged in the head you are going to have a little bit of a headache, but I don't think it was anything major like a concussion. He played after that. He had no issues."
***Nebraska and Georgia have only played one other time. The two teams met in 1969 in the Sun Bowl with the Huskers winning 45-6.
****Pelini said the Huskers will practice twice towards the end of the week and then take next week off for finals. Pelini said more than likely NU will leave for Orlando on the morning of Dec. 26.