LINCOLN — Georgia has a three-year starter at quarterback, a defense stacked with NFL prospects and a football team that fell one play short of making the national championship game.
Former Georgia three-time All-American David Pollack said none of that, however, makes the Bulldogs immune to a potential letdown in the Capital One Bowl.
“The thing you say is, 'Where are their heads at?' That's always the issue with bowl games,” Pollack said. “That's a team that was 4 yards away from something they've been dreaming about since they were probably 6 or 7 years old.
“The hardest part about bowl games is gauging that emotion and where teams are at mentally.”
So how does Georgia recover from its crushing defeat in the SEC championship game and take its best shot at Nebraska on New Year's Day? Pollack said he doesn't have any inside information despite his past association with head coach Mark Richt and the Bulldog program.
“I don't think you can predict it,” Pollack said. “I don't think you can say this is the reason they can do it or they can't. But when I predict bowl season, I start to look at teams' leaders. Are they guys that have been there and done that and guys that I can trust? Those are the guys that are going to show up.”
Pollack, 30, said he will be in full neutral mode when he joins his usual ESPN crew that will broadcast the Capital One Bowl for ABC. Pollack and former Florida quarterback Jesse Palmer will handle color commentary alongside play-by-play announcer Rece Davis, with Samantha Steele on the sidelines at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium.
Although a relative newcomer to the ESPN lineup, Pollack realized that getting Georgia-Nebraska was a good draw.
“You feel the excitement from Jesse and Rece, and see that they're happy, so I knew I should be happy,” Pollack said. “Otherwise, I'm the new guy, so I do what I'm told and I show up and I just keep my mouth shut.”
Or at least until kickoff at noon on Jan. 1.
Pollack said he's anxious to see how the Nebraska offense operates against a Georgia defense that has a month to prepare for it. But the former defensive end said he was impressed by quarterback Taylor Martinez's work during the six-game winning streak that put NU in the Big Ten championship game.
“Nebraska on offense can get streaky hot,” Pollack said. “And one thing I'm impressed with about Nebraska is their finishes. Martinez has been clutch. And he's got legitimate playmakers around him.”
Defensively, Pollack said, the Huskers will have to make huge strides from how they played in the 70-31 loss to Wisconsin that left them headed to Orlando instead of Pasadena for the Rose Bowl.
“It's been a struggle, and now you think about the Georgia offense and Todd Gurley and that running game,” Pollack said. “And with what you saw last from Nebraska — with (Montee) Ball and (James) White and those Wisconsin guys having a lot of success running the football — the first thing you think is how are they going to stop Gurley and (Keith) Marshall?”
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Pollack played at Georgia from 2001 to '04, joining the program just as Richt started his 12-year stint as head coach. He said Richt has done an amazing job assembling talent and been a dependable and likable leader of the program who has been good with his players.
Those players can determine how Capital One Bowl preparations go, but Pollack said from what he knows of linebacker Jarvis Jones and quarterback Aaron Murray that there is good leadership in place to make sure No. 6 Georgia (11-2) is ready for No. 23 Nebraska (10-3).
“Sometimes with bowl games you've got guys who know they're going to be getting a paycheck soon and they don't want to get hurt,” Pollack said. “It's just a time when you've got to play for the guy next to you one more time.”
Who's Pollack going to pick? Not sure just yet. But he's not concerned that some Husker fans might frown about a former Georgia player in the booth, and points out that he picked Alabama over the Bulldogs in the SEC championship game.
“I get more grief from Georgia fans,” he said. “What I learned in this business is you can't win. You pick your school and you're a homer, pick against them and you're a traitor. So I just try to pick a winner.”
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