Big Ten: 2012 capital one bowl

B1G bowl primer: Capital One Bowl

December, 17, 2012
12/17/12
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Our snapshots of each bowl featuring a Big Ten team continues.

CAPITAL ONE BOWL

No. 16 Nebraska (10-3) vs. No. 7 Georgia (11-2)

Where: Orlando, Fla.; Florida Citrus Bowl

When: Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET

TV: ABC

About Nebraska: The Huskers won the Legends Division title in their second year in the Big Ten, saw tangible strides from junior quarterback Taylor Martinez and overcame the absence of star running back Rex Burkhead for most of the season. But many of the good things Nebraska did were overshadowed by two implosions on big stages, first on Oct. 6 against Ohio State in Columbus and then Dec. 1 in the Big Ten championship game against Wisconsin. The Huskers surrendered 133 points in the losses, had damaging turnovers and fell apart defensively midway through both games. Primed to win their first league title since 1999, Nebraska fell flat in Indy and instead plays in the Capital One Bowl for the second straight year. Nebraska leads the Big Ten in offense (462.2) and boasts a nice collection of backs, receivers and tight ends. The Huskers lead the nation in pass defense (148.2 ypg). They rank 105th nationally in turnover margin.

About Georgia: Like Nebraska, Georgia heads to Orlando a bit glum after falling short in its league championship game. Unlike Nebraska, Mark Richt's team showed up in its title contest, only to fall late to No. 2 Alabama. The Bulldogs took care of Florida to win the SEC East division and benefited from a regular-season schedule that didn't include Alabama, LSU or Texas A&M. After a blowout loss against South Carolina and a near letdown the following week against Kentucky, Georgia really buckled down on defense, surrendering just 43 points during a five-game stretch. All-America linebacker Jarvis Jones leads a unit that ranks 17th nationally in points allowed (18.8 ppg). Like Nebraska, Georgia is very good against the pass (eighth nationally). Junior quarterback Aaron Murray leads an offense that ranks 19th in scoring (37.2 ppg) and does a much better job of taking care of the football than Nebraska.

Key players, Nebraska: Martinez had a mostly excellent season for Nebraska, racking up 2,667 pass yards, 973 rush yards and 31 touchdowns. He has plenty of help in the backfield in Burkhead and sophomore Ameer Abdullah, the team's featured back for most of the season who had 1,089 rush yards and eight touchdowns. Sophomore wide receiver Kenny Bell emerged as Martinez's top target this season. Nickel back Ciante Evans and safety Daimion Stafford headline the secondary, while linebacker Will Compton anchors the middle and Eric Martin triggers the Huskers' spotty pass rush with eight sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss.

Key players, Georgia: It all starts with the strong-armed Murray, who ranks second nationally in pass efficiency (172.4 rating) and 45th in total offense (261.1 ypg). He has two big-play targets in Malcolm Mitchell and Tavarres King, while dynamic freshman Todd Gurley triggers the rushing attack. Although Notre Dame's Manti Te'o received more recognition, many think Jones is the best defender in college football. His stats are staggering: 22.5 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles, 33 quarterback hurries and an interception. Mercy. Don't forget about freshman linebacker Jordan Jenkins, who boasts four sacks and seven tackles for loss. Safety Bacarri Rambo leads the secondary with three forced fumbles and three interceptions.

Did you know: This marks only the second time Georgia and Nebraska have squared off. Nebraska defeated the Bulldogs 45-6 in the 1969 Sun Bowl. ... Nebraska makes its third trip to the Orlando bowl, having lost to Georgia Tech after the 1990 season before the South Carolina loss in the 2012 game. ... The Bulldogs are 3-1-1 in previous trips to the Capital One/Citrus/Tangerine Bowl, with all three wins coming against Big Ten teams (Ohio State in 1993, Purdue in 2004 and Michigan State in 2009). ... Nebraska makes its 49th bowl appearance, which is tied with USC and Tennessee for the third-most in the nation. The Huskers are 24-24 all time in bowls. ... Georgia makes its 48th bowl appearance, tied for sixth most in the FBS. The Bulldogs are 26-18-3 in bowls.

Video: Capital One Bowl -- Georgia-Neb.

December, 12, 2012
12/12/12
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Georgia and Nebraska square off in a top-16 matchup between the Big Ten and SEC (Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET -- ABC).

Video: Jeffery named Capital One MVP

January, 2, 2012
1/02/12
5:32
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Capital One Bowl MVP Alshon Jeffrey talks about South Carolina's win over Nebraska.

South Carolina stopped a three-game losing streak in bowl games Monday with a 30-13 victory against Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl.

Here’s an instant analysis from the game:

How the game was won: South Carolina’s defense clamped down in the second half. In fact, Nebraska went scoreless the last three quarters after putting up 13 points in the first quarter. South Carolina was able to run it just enough (121 yards) to keep the Nebraska defense honest, and sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw kept the Huskers off balance with his ability to run. The Gamecocks also didn't turn it over, while the Huskers had two turnovers.

Turning point: The Gamecocks looked like they had mismanaged the clock at the end of the first half, leaving Shaw with just one play. He heaved it toward the end zone, and the 6-foot-4, 229-pound Alshon Jeffery went up over everybody to catch it and lunge across the goal line for a 51-yard Hail Mary touchdown with no time remaining in the first half. So instead of going into the locker room trailing 13-9, the Gamecocks went in with a 16-13 lead and all the momentum.

Turning point II: The Huskers took the second-half kickoff and drove the ball down to the Gamecocks’ 8-yard line and had it first-and-goal. A motion penalty and a couple of big plays by South Carolina’s defense forced Nebraska to kick a field goal, and Brett Maher’s 35-yard attempt was no good.

Player of the game: Shaw finished 11-of-17 for 230 yards passing with a pair of touchdown passes, and he also rushed for 42 yards and a touchdown.

Unsung hero: Despite being kicked out of the game in the third quarter for fighting with Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, Jeffery caught four passes for 148 yards, including the 51-yard touchdown pass right before the half, in what was likely his final game in a South Carolina uniform. He’s expected to enter the NFL draft.

Stat of the game: Nebraska was held to minus-15 yards in the fourth quarter.

Stat of the game II: South Carolina sacked Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez six times, and four of those sacks came in the fourth quarter.

Record performance: Jeffery had his 12th 100-yard receiving game, breaking the South Carolina school record. He also caught his 23rd career touchdown pass, tying Sidney Rice’s school record.

What it means: South Carolina (11-2) won 11 games in a season for the first time in school history and will likely be a top 10 or top 15 team nationally to start next season. Nebraska (9-4) ended the season by losing three of its last five games. It was also the Huskers’ second straight bowl loss.
Halftime has arrived in Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville.

Let's take a look at how the Big Ten teams are faring in the Florida bowls so far.

Nebraska-South Carolina, Capital One: A really good half for Nebraska ended in disaster, as the Huskers allowed a 51-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass to South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery on the final play. Rather than leading 13-9, the Huskers go to the locker room down 16-13 -- and Bo Pelini has to be beside himself. His defense simply couldn't let a star like Jeffery get in position to make a play. Nebraska should have been leading by more had Ameer Abdullah not fumbled in the South Carolina red zone. Credit Nebraska's defense for preventing disaster after a long Jeffery reception set South Carolina up to completely change the game. The Huskers' defense forced a field goal try inside their own 10-yard line, and South Carolina missed. The offense has been balanced so far and has found some room against a very good South Carolina defense. Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead both are making plays, and until the final seconds, the Blackshirts did a decent job against Connor Shaw and the Gamecocks' passing attack.

Michigan State-Georgia, Outback: The Spartans' defense actually played a phenomenal half but had little to show for it, as an anemic offense has hurt Michigan State against an SEC opponent in a bowl for the second straight year. A special-teams breakdown capped a horrendous second quarter, as Georgia leads 16-0 at the break. Michigan State fell behind 2-0 after a questionable swing pass from inside its own end zone resulted in a safety. The defense kept the score that way until late in the half, when Georgia's Tavarres King beat Michigan State safety Trenton Robinson for an 80-yard touchdown. After the offense stalled yet again, Michigan State allowed a 92-yard punt return for a touchdown. Kirk Cousins and the Spartans' offense must get something going soon after recording only two first downs and 72 total yards in the opening half. Georgia's defense looks faster and more physical, and Michigan State's play calling has been unimpressive. The Spartans are staring at another humbling bowl performance.

Ohio State-Florida, TaxSlayer.com Gator: Buckeyes fans won't be sorry to see offensive coordinator Jim Bollman go. Ohio State didn't pass the ball in the first quarter -- it took one sack -- even though freshman quarterback Braxton Miller threw the ball well in a Nov. 26 loss at Michigan. Things opened up a bit in the second quarter, and Miller finished the half 4-for-6 passing for 53 yards and a touchdown. Florida leads 14-10 thanks to a 99-yard kick return touchdown by Andre Debose. Ohio State entered the game ranked 10th nationally in kick coverage. The Buckeyes' defense has been so-so, letting Florida quarterback John Brantley get a bit too comfortable but forcing a pair of turnovers. Ohio State must get better on third down, as Florida has converted 4 of 6 opportunities. These teams are evenly matched, and Ohio State should have a shot to win if it can limit the major breakdowns.
Let's look at three keys for Nebraska as it takes on South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl.

1. Establish tempo on offense: When Nebraska's offense operates in high tempo, it's extremely tough to stop. The key is finding that rhythm, and the Huskers will need to be effective with first- and second-down runs. Junior I-back Rex Burkhead needs to pick up positive yards to prevent obvious passing situations, when Gamecocks standout pass-rushers Melvin Ingram and Jadeveon Clowney can pin their ears back and go. South Carolina's defense is outstanding against the pass, but the Huskers can attack the Gamecocks on the ground with Burkhead, quarterback Taylor Martinez and others. Nebraska's offensive line has dealt with inexperience and injuries all season. This is the time for the unit to step up.

2. Alfonzo Dennard vs. Alshon Jeffery: The game's best one-on-one matchup pits Nebraska's top cornerback (Dennard) against South Carolina's star wideout (Jeffery). Dennard has shut down standout receivers like Iowa's Marvin McNutt, and he'll need a strong effort against another NFL prospect in Jeffery, who holds South Carolina's career receiving record. Opposing teams often shy away from throwing in Dennard's direction, but South Carolina's Connor Shaw will be looking for Jeffery on Monday. Which Nebraska defense shows up will go a long way toward determining the game's outcome, and the Huskers will lean heavily on Dennard.

3. Win the turnover battle: South Carolina has struggled with giveaways in its bowl losses, while Nebraska committed eight turnovers in its three defeats and just nine others in its other nine contests. If the Huskers can hang onto the football and force a mistake or two from Shaw and the Gamecocks' ball-carriers, they'll be in good shape to pull off the victory. Nebraska senior linebacker Lavonte David has been the defense's top playmaker, recording two interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Look for David to set the tone and have a strong performance in his final game as a Husker.
The last time Nebraska played a Steve Spurrier-coached team, the Huskers steamrolled Florida 62-24 for the national title. The stakes won't be as high when the Huskers meet Spurrier's South Carolina Gamecocks in the Capital One Bowl, and the scoring doesn't figure to reach anywhere near those heights, either.

WHO TO WATCH: Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez and I-back Rex Burkhead. The ball is almost always in one of these two Huskers' hands. They combined to rush for more than 2,000 yards and 24 touchdowns, including some option work between the pair. When we last saw Burkhead, he carried a school-record 38 times for 160 yards in a win over Iowa. The month off should really help him get his legs back after a heavy workload this season. Martinez made great strides as a game manager and leader this year but remains an inconsistent passer, as his 55.9 completion percentage attests. Martinez and Burkhead are a formidable pair, but they'll have to be at their best to counter an impressive South Carolina defense that allowed fewer than 270 total yards per game this season. Can either one of them turn the corner on the edge, especially with top-flight defensive ends Melvin Ingram and Jadeveon Clowney in pursuit?

WHAT TO WATCH: Can the Nebraska defense match South Carolina's? The Huskers thought they would have the same kind of disruptive defensive line as the Gamecocks boast this season, but an injury to star Jared Crick and underwhelming performances by others made this an average group. Lavonte David had an All-America season at linebacker, but much of the rest of the front seven was inconsistent during the year. This isn't a typical Spurrier team, especially with quarterback Connor Shaw posing as much of a threat running as he does passing. Star receiver Alshon Jeffery has been all but ignored and should be neutralized by Nebraska stud cornerback Alfonzo Dennard. So it will probably be up to the Huskers' front to make plays and disrupt South Carolina's timing in what could be a low-scoring affair. Do they have a Blackshirt-worthy performance in them?

WHY TO WATCH: Neither of these teams won a conference championship or even a division title, but this still has a chance to be one of the best non-BCS matchups. Both teams have a lot of talent and speed and spent some time hanging around the Top 10 this season. Nebraska has a chance to clinch its third straight 10-win season and will play its first postseason game as a Big Ten member. What better way for the Huskers to ingratiate themselves into their new league then by winning a bowl game against the SEC?

PREDICTION: South Carolina 20, Nebraska 17. It will be a defensive grinder, and the Huskers will struggle to move the ball down the field as the Gamecocks force Martinez to beat them with his arm. South Carolina's defense is just too good, and its speed helps contain Burkhead and the Nebraska option game.
Jermarcus "Yoshi" Hardrick hears it every time he returns home to his native Mississippi.

"I get a lot of crap about why didn't I pick the SEC," the Nebraska senior offensive tackle told ESPN.com.

Hardrick did pick the SEC, at least for a little while. He verbally committed to LSU after his freshman year at Fort Scott Community College in Kansas. He also had scholarship offers from Arkansas and Ole Miss, among others.

But Hardrick wanted to continue his career with Fort Scott teammate Lavonte David. When LSU didn't offer David, Hardrick looked elsewhere and both men ended up with Nebraska.

Hardrick is happy with his choice, but he's not spared from the chiding when he returns to the South.

"They say I'd be undefeated with LSU," he said. "[They say] there's no way we can play with those fast boys and things like that."

Hardrick and his Huskers teammates get a chance to measure up with the SEC on Monday when they face South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl. Nebraska has 12 players hailing from current SEC states as well as a host of other from Texas, which will become SEC territory next year.

Although Hardrick, like many Big Ten players, has grown annoyed with the speed argument, he provides an honest assessment of South Carolina's defensive line, which is highlighted by ends Melvin Ingram and Jadeveon Clowney.

"Fast, fast, fast," Hardrick said.

Nebraska's ability to contain Ingram, Clowney and the Gamecocks defenders will go a long way toward determining Monday's winner. Hardrick, one of the elder statesmen on a mostly young Huskers offensive line, said the unit takes pride in being physical, particularly on first and second down.

A win Monday would mark Nebraska's third consecutive 10-win season, a milestone the program hasn't achieved since 1999-2001.

But for Hardrick, it's personal.

"It's a big chance for me to show why I picked here," he said.

And if Nebraska wins?

"I'll probably crack a couple SEC jokes about them being all physical and fast and things like that," he said. "I'll be like, 'Well, we're not the SEC, but we're Nebraska.'"
The 2011 season has been all about getting up to speed for Nebraska's offense.

In film sessions. In practices. In games.

The Huskers had to absorb a new system under coordinator Tim Beck, and do so with one of the Big Ten's youngest units. Nebraska had 11 players on the offensive two-deep make their collegiate debuts this season. While Huskers players studied their own scheme, Beck and the offensive staff had to guesstimate how 11 new opponents would defend Nebraska.

[+] EnlargeTaylor Martinez
Zuma Press/Icon SMIQB Taylor Martinez and the Huskers plan to keep the game's tempo at a fast pace against South Carolina.
"The hard part was us as coaches trying to figure out what the hell teams were trying to do to us," Beck recently told ESPN.com. "We never knew."

Given the obstacles, Nebraska's offenses fared pretty well overall.

The Huskers finished 13th nationally in rushing and fourth in the Big Ten in both scoring and total yards. They tied for 10th nationally in red-zone efficiency and performed decently on third down.

"We're getting there," Beck said. "The games we lost, we turned the ball over. The thing that really impressed me about our players was their ability to adapt during the course of the game. When we saw things or felt like this could be good or this blocking scheme might be better, they were able to adapt to it pretty well.

"Didn't freak out, didn't panic."

And as has been the case for months, Nebraska's learning curve on offense must be accelerated for its upcoming Capital One Bowl matchup.

The Huskers take on a South Carolina team ranked No. 4 nationally in total defense. The Gamecocks have held seven of their past nine opponents to 16 points or fewer.

"They're really good," Beck said. "They're fast. You can see through the course of the year how they’ve grown, how they understand their system better."

The same can be said for Nebraska.

Although the Huskers put up some big numbers in September (171 points), the unit had a rough night in the Big Ten opener against Wisconsin and a few other hiccups along the way. The offensive line constantly shuffled personnel and the team's youth at receiver showed up at times, but certain players made strides as the season progressed, including I-back Rex Burkhead, receiver Kenny Bell and, most important, quarterback Taylor Martinez.

The sophomore threw three interceptions in the Wisconsin loss and came under fire from fans before rebounding the next week against Ohio State. Martinez enters the bowl having attempted 116 consecutive passes without an interception. He has only one pick in his last 26 quarters (152 attempts).

"Where things started to get better actually was after Wisconsin," Beck said. "Most teams that get better or people that improve in any aspect of life, you've got to know what it is to hit bottom. That was an eye-opening experience for him. That was something that woke him up."

Martinez followed the Wisconsin loss with a strong five-game stretch, completing 64.2 percent of his passes for 865 yards and six touchdowns. He continued to attack defenses with his feet in a system that seemed to accentuate his strengths.

"We knew we had the offense when Taylor got us out of a lot of bad looks and gave us a chance to win on every play," left tackle Yoshi Hardrick said. "We've got a physical offense, we run the option and Taylor's the man with the ball. We run a lot of play-action pass off the line. It fits him well."

Martinez was at his best and Nebraska's offense was at its best when operating at an extremely fast tempo. Once the Huskers picked up a first down or two, they zoomed downfield to the end zone.

Against Ohio State, the Huskers had only seven first downs in the opening half and trailed 20-6. They moved the chains 18 times in the second half and rallied to win 34-27.

"We want to play in that high tempo as much as we can," Beck said. "Our players seem to play well that way, our quarterback in particular."

It's a focal point for the Huskers against South Carolina, which ranks second nationally in pass defense and has shut down better aerial attacks than Nebraska's. Hardrick acknowledges it'll be the line's fault if Nebraska finds itself in third-and-long against the Gamecocks.

South Carolina is led by defensive ends Melvin Ingram and Jadeveon Clowney, who have combined for 14.5 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss.

Hardick breaks down both stars.

Ingram: "He's different from a Big Ten D-end because in the SEC, it's more of a finesse rush. In the Big Ten, it's more of a power rush. He’s very active with his feet and hands, and he likes to get tackles in space. I just like how he plays hard. You've got to respect a man who plays like that."

Clowney: "Clowney’s their best pass rusher. On third down, that’s easy to see. Clowney’s the more natural pass rusher. He doesn't look like a true freshman at all."

Beck is very excited about the long-term outlook for Nebraska's offense, especially with nine starters returning in 2012. But the short term provides an excellent growth opportunity against South Carolina.

"You always want to play your best," Beck said. "If you can do that against a great opponent like South Carolina, it will carry on into next season."

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