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Bowl-Bound and Down

After the emotional roller coaster that was the Dawgs’ 2013 season, fans might be forgiven if they’ve checked out. But Georgia has one game left, and pride, if not the national championship we all hoped for, is on the line. Besides, what else are you going to do with a champagne hangover on New Year’s Day, other than camp out on the couch and watch football while quietly cursing yourself? Champagne hangovers are literally THE WORST. Anyway, without further ado, here’s Flagpole‘s Bulldog bowl preview, featuring, once again, your fake made-up questions.

What a crappy season.

Wait, that’s not even a question, but yeah. Not to relive every agonizing moment here, but the Dawgs, who started the year as national title contenders—remember that?—lost to Clemson in the season opener, needed overtime to beat pitiful Tennessee and lost back-to-back games to eventual SEC East champ Missouri (excusable) and lowly Vanderbilt (not). And don’t even get us started on that ridiculous Auburn game. Has anyone seen safety Josh Harvey-Clemons lately? He might be in witness protection, or living in Africa with Jim Morrison, 2Pac and Collin Barber. DAMN IT COLLIN.

In short, NFL-bound senior quarterback Aaron Murray’s magnificence couldn’t overcome a rash of injuries, a mediocre defense and utter incompetence on special teams. It wasn’t all bad, though. The Dawgs beat Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina squad. ESPN’s “College GameDay” came to Athens for a huge win over LSU. And Georgia beat forever-rivals Florida and Georgia Tech—the latter in double overtime—and for a few moments, all was right with the world.

So, what bowl is Georgia going to?

The uber-aggressively named Gator Bowl in beautiful Jacksonville, FL, at noon o’clock Wednesday, Jan. 1. They play Nebraska.

Wait, really? Again?

Yep. Good memory. Georgia slayed the Cornhuskers 45-31 in the Capital One Bowl last January.

What channel is it on?

ESPN2 (“The Dos”). That’s 33 (or 721 for sweet, sweet HD) if you’ve got Charter.

Who’s this Mason Hudson guy under center?

Uh, you mean Hutson Mason, but fair mistake. He’s Murray’s career-long backup and the likely starter next season (shades of Joe Tereshinski). The junior from Marietta filled in admirably after Murray tore his ACL versus Kentucky, completing 46 of 71 passes for 648 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.

Well, that’s good news, I guess. Doesn’t it seem like everybody’s hurt?

Everybody hurts, sometimes. In addition to Murray, tailback Keith Marshall and receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley (what’s with all the multiple-first-named players these days?) are out for the year, all with knee injuries. Are all knees secretly Florida fans or something? At times this season, it felt like the Bulldogs ought to play at Athens Regional.

Back to Nebraska. Are they any good?

Eh. Not really. They went 8-4 this season, but they play in the B1G, or Big Ten (which actually has 12 teams), a conference whose champion, Michigan State, would probably be the fourth- or fifth-best team in the SEC. (Yeah, we said it.) The Cornhuskers only played two ranked opponents—UCLA and the aforementioned Spartans—and lost to both. Georgia is ranked No. 22.

Nebraska, as usual, is a running team, racking up 2,660 yards on the ground this season, including 1,568 by junior Ameer Abdullah alone. Georgia’s run defense, meanwhile, is actually pretty good, giving up 148 yards per game, 42nd out of 123 Division 1 teams. (They were torched for 323 rushing yards by Auburn and 263 by Georgia Tech, but in both cases actually held those teams below their season averages.)

Meanwhile, there are rumors that Bo Pelini is fighting for his job. The underachieving Husker coach spent the 2013 season engaging in a bunch of weirdly aggressive post-game pressers and defending himself against a leaked audio tape in which he railed against Nebraska fans, calling them “fucking fair-weather.” The program is, frankly, kind of a mess right now.

So, we’re gonna win? 

Yeah, definitely. Wait, what was that horrible popping sound? Oh, no. Do we even have a third-string quarterback? (A quick look at the roster reveals that we do, in fact, have a few more QBs to turn to in such a situation, God forbid. One of them is named Faton Bauta, which, come on, that is barely even a name. Does Hines Ward have any eligibility left?)

What’s the line?

Not that we condone gambling (OK, we totally condone gambling), but Vegas favors the Bulldogs by 9 points, and the over/under is around 60. While we think Georgia will win, if, HYPOTHETICALLY, we were to bet on the game, we’d take the over and Nebraska to cover the spread. More interesting: How many times will the cameras catch Pelini saying “fuck” in his inevitable series of sideline meltdowns? Flagpole Vegas puts the O/U at 12.

Let’s talk offseason. Any pro prospects?

Well, Murray, obvs. But because of his injury, he won’t be able to try out for scouts at the NFL combine in February, another bit of terrible luck for the nicest QB in the biz. Still, expect him to be a steal for some lucky squad as a middle-to-late-round pick. Senior tight end Arthur Lynch is another draft prospect, as is defensive end Garrison Smith.

Other than that, the Dawgs are short on pro-ready talent. Mitchell, who missed most of the season, was widely expected to bolt, but the lack of playing time means he will apply for a medical redshirt instead and return for 2014. That’s good news for Dawgs fans. More good news: Sophomore running backs Todd Gurley and Marshall and receivers Chris Conley and Michael Bennett will also be back, meaning Hatson Muttson won’t have to shoulder all of the offensive load in his first (and only) starting year.

How are we looking next year?

Not too shabby. Coach Mark Richt has commitments from about a dozen highly-rated recruits in 2014, including South Carolina’s Mr. Football Jacob Park, who will compete with redshirt freshman Brice Ramsey to be the quarterback of the future. But the star of the class is likely Sony Michel, ranked by as the third-best high school running back in the country. Assuming defensive coordinator Todd Grantham gets his act together (if not, we hear Will Muschamp is available) and Richt FINALLY hires a special-teams coach, the program looks like it’s in good hands for several years to come.

Oh yeah, and we have Chris Conley’s epic Star Wars lightsaber duel to look forward to! Help us, Conley-Wan. You’re our only hope.