A season that fell short of expectations will end New Year’s Day in Jacksonville, Fla., with a game against No. 23 Georgia, the same team that beat the Cornhuskers a year ago in the Capital One Bowl.
The matchup has elicited little more than a shrug.
“Everybody is looking forward to next year,” said Steve Glenn, a walk-on offensive lineman for the Huskers in the 1970s who now runs a Lincoln travel agency. “I think people are ready to be done with this season.”
Glenn is selling a Gator Bowl package that includes a 137-seat charter flight. As of Tuesday, he said, fewer than a dozen seats had been filled.
Folks in the travel business used to be inundated with calls in the 24 hours after the bowl matchup was announced. The annual Big Red migration has slowed considerably since the Huskers began slipping in the college football hierarchy.
Mike’l Severe, who co-hosts an afternoon sports radio show in Omaha, said the Gator Bowl didn’t generate much discussion Monday, a day after the bowl lineup was rolled out. The listeners he heard from were unhappy the Huskers had to play the same opponent. They also had hoped to go to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., where the Huskers would have played old Big 12 rival Kansas State.
The Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl picked ahead of the Gator Bowl and chose a Michigan team that lost to Nebraska and had one fewer win.
It’s been a rocky year for the Huskers, who went 8-4 against what was supposed to be a favorable schedule. Injuries to quarterback Taylor Martinez and the offensive line took a toll, and coach Bo Pelini was dogged by speculation that his job was in jeopardy.
Georgia, like Nebraska, went 8-4 and struggled with injuries. Aaron Murray, who threw for more than 400 yards and five touchdowns in a 45-31 win over Nebraska last year, won’t play because of a knee injury.
The Peach State’s reaction to the matchup also was less than enthusiastic, said David Johnston, who hosts a morning sports radio show in Athens.
“It’s good it’s a New Year’s Day bowl game,” Johnston said, “but there was more of an interest in playing Nebraska last year.”
Each school has a ticket allotment of 12,750, about the same as for the Capital One Bowl last year. Nebraska sold about 4,000 tickets for that game and Georgia more than 10,000.
The Nebraska Alumni Association is selling a Gator Bowl package that covers hotel, game ticket, ground transportation and activities. No air transportation will be provided for the first time since the 2007 Cotton Bowl because of the high cost, said Shannon Sherman, senior director for communications.
Sherman said she expects alumni from Florida, Georgia and South Carolina to show up in high numbers.
The Georgia Alumni Association is not offering a travel package but will be coordinating “watch parties” across the nation, said assistant director of communications Elizabeth Elmore.
Bulldogs fans already know their way around Jacksonville. They travel there en masse every year for the game against Florida, dubbed the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.” Mary Daniel, president of the 1,000-member Georgia Bulldog Club of Jacksonville, said if the annual Florida game registers a 10 on the excitement scale, the needle for the rematch with Nebraska sits at a 6 or 7.
“I think it’ll raise up to an 8 once we let it sink in,” Daniel said. “It’s not what we thought it would be, but it’s a bowl game. You hear teasing around here that Florida would take the Gator Bowl all day long.”