LINCOLN — The Southeastern Conference hasn't just claimed the last seven national championships, the league also has won more than 65 percent of its bowl games during that stretch.
Georgia senior defensive end Garrison Smith said Wednesday that protecting that SEC reputation won't burden the Bulldogs when they meet Nebraska in the Gator Bowl on Jan. 1.
“You definitely want to represent your conference well, but at the same time you just want to do the best you can,” Smith said. “We don't worry about any pressure. You just got to play football. You can't worry about that stuff that doesn't matter.”
Georgia beat Nebraska 45-31 last year in the Capital One Bowl as the SEC went 6-3, including Alabama beating Notre Dame in the BCS national championship. The SEC also was 6-3 after the 2011 season, when South Carolina beat NU in the Capital One, and one of those losses was LSU falling to Alabama in the title game.
Overall, the SEC is 42-22 in bowls since 2006 (10-4 in BCS games). Its only time without a winning record was 5-5 after the 2010 season.
Georgia prepared for either NU QB
Georgia coach Mark Richt said on a Wednesday teleconference that his team will be prepared for both redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong and fifth-year senior Ron Kellogg at quarterback for Nebraska in the Gator Bowl.
After Taylor Martinez's injury, Armstrong started seven games. Kellogg then made his first career start Nov. 29 against Iowa with Armstrong fighting an ankle injury.
Richt said “both have had their moments of playing extremely well.”
“One thing I do see in them is a confidence that you've got to have,” he said. “If this (Martinez) injury would have happened the last game of the year, it would have been a bigger question mark at the QB position than it is now.”
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Richt said Georgia will study the film and see what each does better or different, and which tendencies go with them. Otherwise, the Bulldogs expect NU to be balanced like last year, when it ran for 239 yards and passed for 204 in Orlando.
“They were very physical running the ball,” Richt said. “They had some big plays throwing and catching. The skill players, I thought, played extremely well.
“Up front, they're just a very well-coached, tough bunch. To be able to run the ball the way they do and still pass pro the way they do ... there's not many linemen and line coaches that really are good at both.”
Richt praises Mason for stepping up
Georgia is also finishing the season without its fourth-year starter at quarterback. Aaron Murray's knee injury Nov. 23 left the door open for junior Hutson Mason.
Richt said Mason could have left when he realized he was stuck behind Murray, but said he's loyal for sticking it out.
“He stayed because he loves his teammates, he really loves his coaches and he loves Georgia,” Richt said. “There's something to be said for that, and I'm really appreciative of that.”
Even with Murray breaking records, Richt said Mason always prepared as if he were starting.
“Some guys take that seriously and some guys don't,” he said. “Hutson has done a superb job of being on the ready, even though he hadn't had a chance to play an awful lot through all that time. It's a hard thing to do.
“I kind of grew up behind Jim Kelly at Miami. I was second team. I know what it feels like. And Hutson is a lot better than I was at really taking every day and getting better and competing on a daily basis against a defense. His practices were like his game days.”
Murray's legacy more than records
Richt said Murray has been “flying through rehab,” keeping a smile on his face and still excited about the future despite his torn ACL.
“You might want to feel bad for him, then you hang around him and he makes you feel better,” Richt said.
Richt said Murray's legacy won't be about his records, though the quarterback set a ton of them.
“He's really about team and he's about doing the best he can on a daily basis (with) his work ethic, his preparation,” he said. “I think his legacy is going to be that Hutson Mason witnessed it, Faton Bauta witnessed it, Christian LeMay witnessed it, even Brice Ramsey witnessed what it looks like to prepare like a champion.
“If those guys keep doing it that way, or even try to exceed what Aaron did, then it's going to continue throughout the culture of the Georgia quarterbacks as long as the next guys carry that mantle.”
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>> Georgia coach Mark Richt's teleconference: