The Gator Bowl is a Better Deal
Prior to the announcement of bowl bids Sunday, most of the predictions and projections had Nebraska headed to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl to play Kansas State. However, that bowl selected Michigan leaving the Gator Bowl to select between Nebraska and Minnesota from the Big Ten. As expected in that scenario, the Gator Bowl chose the Huskers to play Georgia. There are a few reasons why that's a good thing.
Who Wants it More?
The nightmare scenario in a bowl game is that the players will have no enthusiasm for the game. Back in 1998, Kansas State lost the Big 12 championship game in overtime. A victory would have sent the Wildcats to the national championship game. The loss dropped them all the way to the Alamo Bowl. KSU fans, coaches, and players all seemed to think the team deserved a better bowl bid. The result? A loss to Purdue. Similarly, Nebraska lost a heartbreaker in the Big 12 championship game after the 2010 season. The Huskers were shipped off to the Holiday Bowl to face a Washington team they'd already pounded 56-21 in Seattle. NU lost the rematch by 12.
While there's some history between Nebraska and Kansas State. Any residual enthusiasm for a rematch would be on the KSU side. The Huskers won the last six meetings between the schools and owns a 78-15-2 series advantage overall. At 7-5, the Wildcats offer little in the way of satisfaction if you beat them, yet with a 6-1 finish to the season and a dual-threat quarterback they are a very dangerous team. Let Michigan take that no-glory/all-downside matchup.
Meanwhile, Georgia is a team that the Huskers should be excited to play again. They hung with a Bulldog team for 3 quarters that was on par with national champion Alabama, only to come up short. The Gator Bowl should offer a measure of redemption. Georgia's also a ranked team and is part of the most hyped conference in football.
It might be fair to suggest that Nebraska is sort of the nightmare scenario for the Bulldogs. There's little enthusiasm for a rematch on their end and so they have to find a way to stay motivated for three and a half weeks. That's probably a good thing for a Husker team that hasn't been hitting on all cylinders this year.
What Time is It?
Proponents of the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl try to sell that it's the only game on which will attract more eyeballs then in a crowded spot on New Years Day. Fair enough. But do you really want to see a game that will end after midnight central time (or after 1 on the east coast)? It's a little better if you're in Arizona but that's still hardly the fan-friendliest time slot.
Meanwhile, the Gator Bowl starts at noon ET, the first bowl game on New Years' Day. A little competition from UNLV and North Texas (the only other game starting at that time) shouldn't steal many viewers. There will be a bit more competition when the other Big Ten bowls begin at 1 pm ET. But that's why God invented the remote control. If a good game is brewing between Nebraska and Georgia, people will find their way back.
A Full House
One of the major reasons that Georgia and Nebraska were selected (despite the fact that they'd played the year before) was that it seemed likely to help sell tickets to the game. It may not be a sellout, but it also may not be one of those embarrassing outings where you see almost nothing but empty seats (like when the Jacksonville Jaguars play). A game without fans, is just a scrimmage. While the future of the bowl business model may be in doubt, this should be a game that's actually played in front of a live audience. Husker fans would have turned out in Arizona, but how many KSU fans would bother?
Whether it's the opponent, the date and time, or the energy in the building, Nebraska probably came out a winner with the Gator Bowl. Should be a nice way to start the New Year.