Storylines: Nebraska vs. Georgia

2012-12-31T21:15:00Z 2013-08-30T20:06:06Z Storylines: Nebraska vs. GeorgiaBy BRIAN CHRISTOPHERSON / Lincoln Journal Star

1. And their response is …

That wasn't them. Husker coaches and defensive players say they're sure of it. That trip down Interstate 70 in Indianapolis is tough for them to explain, and so mostly they haven't tried. They've looked to put it in the rear-view mirror as much as possible. Really, there's no other option. Because today they meet a better team with a much better quarterback and dynamic running backs who probably were bouncing off walls with excitement watching Nebraska's last game tape. Can the Husker D go from embarrassing to having the bite to go toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the country? That's the challenge. Can Nebraska's makeshift defensive line — without Baker Steinkuhler and with an undersized Cameron Meredith playing inside — not be a nail to Georgia's hammer? That's the concern. Hey, nothing is certain, not when it comes to bowl games and not with this Husker team. One of this defense's best performances came at Northwestern after two weeks of being grilled for the Ohio State game. This is a tougher test, a test many seem to be assuming Nebraska's defense won't pass. But if you want to prove you're not what the people say you are, this is the test you want to take. Can Nebraska's defense go from an "F" to an "A" in a month?

2. Bulldogs who steal footballs

Last time the Huskers were here, Nebraska's offense spent the second half looking overwhelmed and struggling to pick up yards, let alone points. Different year, different teams, but this Georgia defense's athleticism will remind people of that South Carolina team. No Clowney this year. Just All-American linebacker Jarvis Jones, who had 12 1/2 sacks and seven forced fumbles despite missing two games. Then there's safety Baccari Rambo, who has three picks and three forced fumbles. This isn't to say the Dawgs' defense is impenetrable. South Carolina's mobile QB Connor Shaw gave the Bulldogs fits. Tennessee put 44 on them. That was earlier in the season. This defense has been on the climb of late. And it's their ability to take the ball away that might scare Husker fans the most (21st nationally in takeaways). Can Nebraska's offense buck the turnover trend that has killed it this season? This is not the kind of game the Huskers can go minus-2 in turnovers and expect to be flashing victory smiles.

3. The Martinez factor

Taylor Martinez will be the most dynamic running quarterback Georgia has seen all year. He'll make some plays. He always does. But can the junior quarterback avoid the giveaways against a team that will be banking on them? Martinez will need to play maybe his sharpest game of the season. And he'll need his offensive line to be his best friends. A couple of blindside hits could turn things in the wrong direction in a hurry. Given the defense's recent showing, Nebraska's offense can't afford too many 3-and-outs, and certainly can't give the Bulldogs the short field.

4. A chance to change the conversation

Would a Husker bowl win against a top-tier SEC team wipe away the championship debacle in Indy? Not at all. You can't erase a 70-31 memory or the fact winning a conference championship was the highlighted goal all season. But the Huskers sure could turn the offseason conversation in a much more favorable direction by knocking off a team that was 4 yards from the national championship game. The embarrassments at Ohio State and Wisconsin wouldn't disappear, but Nebraska would have 11 wins and a victory against one of the best teams in the country on its resume. That'd be nothing to scoff at. But to do that the Huskers will have to show some serious mental strength, among other things. How will they react when something goes wrong? Will the Huskers punch back, or does the "here-we-go-again" mentality set in? Defensive coordinator John Papuchis said this game isn't about redemption. It's about opportunity. Maybe it's a little bit of both. Just don't say this isn't a big game.

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