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December 31, 2012
ORLANDO, Fla. - Say one thing for Tuesday's Capital One Bowl against No. 21 Nebraska, there's no shortage of storylines for the fifth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs.
For example: Can Mark Richt's squad bounce back from its disappointing loss to Alabama in the SEC championship, a game which saw the Bulldogs come five yards short of a trip to the BCS title game?
Quarterback Aaron Murray certainly thinks so, explaining the Bulldogs (11-2) have plenty to play for in Tuesday's game at Citrus Bowl Stadium (1:07 p.m.; ABC).
"We know we have a good chance to hopefully crack the top five, which would be pretty great," Murray said. "I think everyone would consider that a great season and win a Bowl game and finish on top, something we haven't done in a couple years."
Richt could not agree more, although he knows what happened at the Georgia Dome won't be forgotten about anytime soon.
"They won't forget about it, but life goes on, they've gotten back to work, we know there's been a lot of time between that last game and this one," said Richt. "We had some great practices on campus, then home for Christmas for a few days, which was great, but now everybody is back. They know we've got a serious bit of business to take care of here."
Of course, Murray will play a big role in the final storyline - in more ways than one.
The junior quarterback could well be playing his final game in a Bulldog uniform, should he decide to leave Georgia for the NFL Draft.
He won't be the only one.
"I'm just worried about this game right now," said Jones. "There will be time to think about that, but right now we're just trying to win this for our seniors."
Contrary to popular belief, Murray said the team is excited about its opportunity.
"I know our guys are excited to play in the Capital One Bowl, and I think it's been a great week of practice. The guys know what they're doing, and know our game plan extremely well," he said. "We know what they do defensively and everything like that, so like I said, I feel great about our game plan. I know the rest of the offense does. And we still have a couple days to continue watching film, to continue walking through plays and making sure we're ready to go, but at this point, I think our guys would be ready to go."
Richt does as well.
"I just think that there are enough veteran guys that know this is their last moment wearing the red and black, I just can't imagine them not playing with great effort," Richt said. "Will they play a great game? I don't know. But I think they'll play with great effort and when the seniors and leaders play that way I think the young guys will take notice and try to do the same."
Defensively, slowing down the Huskers' power rushing attack (250 yards per game), led by quarterback Taylor Martinez remains Job 1 for the Bulldogs.
Running back Ameer Abdullah leads Nebraska with 1,145 yards and eight touchdowns, but it's Martinez (973 rushing, 2,667 passing) which makes the Cornhuskers (10-3) go.
"Martinez can take it the distance on any play, he's a very mobile quarterback, he does a great job, and we have to keep pressure on him," said Jones. "We've faced a couple athletic quarterbacks that are gifted with speed. He's explosive. We understand we have to execute our game plan and prepare to do our best when it's game time. The coaches have been doing a great job of putting us in situations to make plays this season. We know Nebraska is very capable of going the distance on some plays."
But Nebraska has some challenges of its own.
The Cornhuskers are coming off a 70-31 loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship, something that head coach Bo Pelini concedes won't be easy to forget, no matter what happens in Tuesday's game.
"No matter what happens, let me tell you, you don't ever wipe that taste out of your mouth. People who have been part of this profession and played the sport of football understand that," Pelini said. "Regardless of what happens (Tuesday), but to me life is about opportunities, it's about challenges. That's why I'm in this profession and that's why the players play."
Richt can certainly empathize from where Pelini is coming from.
His Bulldogs were blitzed 35-7 by South Carolina in Week 6, a loss that still sticks with the Bulldog head coach.
"It was one of those games that got away from them," Richt said. "We had our game like that too against South Carolina where they started out hot and we could never do much to stop it. I think that's what happened to them and they were playing the very same team they beat earlier in the year. If they just studied our South Carolina film they'd probably be licking their chops, but when you watch the rest of the season we had a lot of performances better than that and they have as well."
NOTES: Richt said Monday he remains unsure how much Abry Jones will play due to the ankle injury he suffered against Kentucky. ? If any of Georgia's draft-eligible underclassmen are turning pro, Richt said he hasn't heard from anyone yet. "I think the day before the game is probably not a good time to talk about that, but I don't know for sure. Nobody has told me point-blank that they are going." ? Richt was asked to respond to Martinez's comments earlier this week when he compared Georgia's defense to your typical one from the Big Ten. "I don't know what a Big Ten defense looks like as far as typical," Richt said. "We've studied Nebraska but haven't looked at everybody in that league. I don't know, I think we're a defense that's got a really strong base, one that can play physical, one that can play fast, guys who have pass-rush skills. If we put it together I'd expect us to have a good performance."