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January 1, 2014

Georgia keys to victory and HOL staff predictions

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - After a disappointing loss to Iowa in the regular season finale, Nebraska will try to change the flavor of this 2013 season today in the Gator Bowl.

The Huskers (8-4) have a rematch game with Georgia (8-4), who they lost to last year 45-31 in the Capital One Bowl.

As things get closer to kickoff, here are today's keys to victory for Nebraska over the Bulldogs. UGA currently is a 9 point favorite over the Big Red. It is the biggest point spread the Huskers have faced this season.

Wrap up Gurley

A year ago Georgia star running back Todd Gurley had his way with the Huskers rushing for over 100 yards in Orlando.

This year's match-up is much different though, because Gurley no longer has quarterback Aaron Murray and the firepower at wide receiver around him. Everybody knows Gurley is going to get the ball today. Can the Huskers keep him in check and not let him get going? This will ultimately be one of the biggest keys to the game.

Play a clean game on offense

It feels like we've been waiting all season for Nebraska to play that turnover free, error free game on offense.

With a month to prepare and plenty of time to get healthy, one would think Nebraska would go into this game fresh both physically and mentally. Will that be enough for this offense to finally play that error free game they've been searching for all season?

Exploit UGA's secondary

Georgia has a very young defense just like Nebraska, but the biggest difference is the secondary. The Huskers have a veteran group on the backend and the Bulldogs do not.

With several young and fresh faces in the secondary, offensive coordinator Tim Beck needs to use NU's offensive tempo to his advantage to find big plays with Nebraska's wide receivers. With everybody healthy, look for guys like Kenny Bell and Quincy Enunwa to get some big play opportunities today.

Special teams

Nebraska's punt return game has been an eyesore all season. With a month to prepare for Georgia you would hope the Huskers made a few adjustments as they get ready for the Bulldogs.

The offense has been put in several tough spots this season, and a big reason why has been because of poor field position and mistakes made in the punt return game. This has to get addressed today and NU needs to find a way to make something happen in the return game and not give up empty yards in field position.

Who wants it more?

Ultimately all second tier bowl games come down to who wants it more? Both teams are playing back-up quarterbacks and have had several injuries this season. Both teams are 8-4, but expected to have 10-2 or 11-1 type of seasons.

Who is more motivated today for an early kickoff New Year's Day game in Jacksonville? I think this favors Nebraska. Georgia does not have much motivation to win this game, where NU has a lot on the line if they can find a way to get a win today in the Gator Bowl.

Callahan's weekly predictions

Nebraska just wants it more. I truly believe that and that's why I think the Huskers find a way to win this game as a 9 point underdog. I look for Armstrong to finally play an error free game and NU's defense to get some key stops on the Bulldogs.

Nebraska 34 Georgia 31
Wisconsin 27 South Carolina 23
LSU 20 Iowa 17
Michigan State 19 Stanford 17
North Texas 38 UNLV 27
Baylor 52 Central Florida 31

Season Record: 48-24 overall; 39-33 vs. points

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