As we prepare for the Georgia Bulldogs’ Capital One Bowl date with the Nebraska Cornhuskers, we have looked not just at the only previous meeting between the two teams, but also at Georgia’s five previous trips to Orlando. From these prior treks to the City Beautiful, we are able to discern certain patterns, upon the basis of which I have identified the Athenians’ six keys to victory near Disney World, historically speaking. These are they:
1. Score more than 17 points. Obviously, you always want to score as many points as possible, but this appears to be the threshold between defeat and victory. The Red and Black are 0-1-1 in Orlando when scoring 17 or fewer points, whereas the Classic City Canines are 3-0 in the Theme Park Capital of the World when scoring more than 17 points.
2. Throw the ball. Except when Garrison Hearst is lining up in the Bulldog backfield, there is no correlation between rushing yardage and a Georgia victory in Orlando; the Red and Black ran for 189 yards and two touchdowns in the 1984 Citrus Bowl, but did not win, yet they emerged victorious from a 2009 Capital One Bowl in which they rushed for 81 yards and no touchdowns. However, the Athenians won all three of the bowl games in Orange County in which they threw for more than 240 yards.
3. Make the other team throw the ball, as well. Once again, stopping the run is not mission-critical for the Red and Black in Orlando, where holding the Florida St. Seminoles to 161 rushing yards did not guarantee victory and conceding 202 yards on the ground to the Ohio St. Buckeyes did not ensure defeat. The two times Georgia held the opposition to fewer than 110 passing yards in Walt Disney’s backyard, though, also were the only two times the Bulldogs played there but did not win.
4. Don’t win the turnover battle. This seems counterintuitive, but facts are facts: Georgia finished +1 in giveaway/takeaway both in the 1974 Tangerine Bowl and in the 1984 Citrus Bowl, winning neither, but the Bulldogs were even in the 1993 Citrus Bowl and -1 in each of their prior Capital One Bowl appearances, producing a trio of triumphs.
5. Have one of the five best passers in Georgia history at quarterback. With all due respect to Matt Robinson in 1974 and James Jackson a decade later, those signal callers cannot compare to Eric Zeier, David Greene, and Matthew Stafford, who guided the ‘Dawgs in their last three visits to Orlando. Through 2011, Greene, Stafford, and Zeier were the top three Georgia quarterbacks in the record book in career pass attempts, career pass completions, career passing yards, and career touchdown passes. Inasmuch as Aaron Murray is the only quarterback in SEC history to have thrown for more than 3,000 yards in each of three consecutive seasons, and he has thrown more touchdown passes as a collegian than Peyton Manning, I like our chances.
6. Play a Big Ten team. MAC champions and elite independents? That could be trouble. Members of the Big Ten? That’s a W.
Now you know the statistical measures of which history counsels us to take heed. In the here and now, however, what do you think will be the keys to a Georgia victory against Nebraska? Offer your thoughts in the comments below.