Capital One Bowl 2013: Why Nebraska's Blackshirts Are Key to the Game

Andrew SteierContributor IIIDecember 28, 2012

LINCOLN, NE - NOVEMBER 10: Quarterback Matthew McGloin #11 of the Penn State Nittany Lions looks for an opening in the Nebraska Cornhuskers defense during their game at Memorial Stadium on November 10, 2012 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska beat Penn State 32-23. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images

The Nebraska Cornhuskers’ matchup with the Georgia Bulldogs will be decided on one side of the ball, and it all depends on Nebraska’s defense.

As has been the case throughout much of 2012, the Huskers’ success will likely depend on the performance of the Blackshirts on New Year’s Day because one can expect Nebraska’s offense to keep churning out yards and putting points up on the board.

Although the importance of Nebraska’s numerous and costly turnovers cannot be understated, there is no denying the Big Red’s ability to consistently score points on their opponents.

Certainly, that was not the case when the Huskers visited Iowa City for their final regular season game.  The Hawkeyes held the Huskers’ high-powered offense to a mere 13 points and 263 total yards, far below their season averages.

Yet aside from that terribly cold and blustery day, Nebraska’s offense has performed with incredible consistency.  In every other game against BCS conference teams, the Huskers tallied at least 23 points, despite never exceeding 38 points.  And this was all while facing a conference schedule that featured every one of the top-eight defenses in the Big Ten.

Even though comparing the SEC to the Big Ten is clearly an apples-to-oranges analysis, Georgia’s defense does fall behind at least Michigan and Michigan State in almost every major statistical category.

Translation: expect the Husker offense to do just fine against the Bulldogs in Orlando.

If the Blackshirts can hold Georgia to three touchdowns or less, one has to like Nebraska’s chances.  But that “if” could not be any larger.

Calling Nebraska’s defense inconsistent would be perhaps the kindest word one could choose.  Sure, the Blackshirts have had some great games and some horrific games. 

But, do not fall into the trap of thinking those were just good days and bad days for the Big Red defense.

In truth, the Blackshirts did not just happen to have a couple bad days.  They simply played well against the struggling offenses of the Big Ten and were completely dismantled by the proficient ones, giving up at least 27 points to every decent offense they faced this season (excluding Michigan who was clearly not “proficient” with the helpless Russell Bellomy at quarterback).

So, if Nebraska stands a chance against a national championship-caliber Georgia squad, it begins and ends with the Blackshirts.

The Bulldog defense is not an insurmountable one.  Taylor Martinez and company will surely get their points.

It will all come down to whether Nebraska’s defense can step up to a real challenge for the first time this year, answer the bell and earn the title of Blackshirts.