ORLANDO - Taylor Martinez is not a very loquacious fellow. The Nebraska quarterback can run very fast and gain a lot of yards, but he speaks in few words. He doesn't seem to want to make headlines.
That's why his Friday comments shouldn't be blown too far out of proportion. Speaking after practice, Martinez was asked what stands out about Georgia's defense.
"Nothing really. Just another typical Big Ten defense," he said.
Obviously this is inartfully worded, unless Martinez is aware of more secret plans by the Big Ten to expand. It also may come off to some as a shot at the Bulldogs' defense, but it didn't seem that way, at least when you consider that Martinez thinks the Big Ten is really good.
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“Everyone thinks the SEC is the strongest in the nation, just because they go to the national championship every year," Martinez said at another point. "I think this year the Big Ten conference was really strong. So we’ll see how all our teams play out this year.”
Actually, most pundits agree the Big Ten had a very down year. The Big Ten champion, Wisconsin, which beat Nebraska in the title game, is unranked. Ohio State was unbeaten, but was ineligible. So was Penn State. Those two might have been the conference’s best two chances to win a bowl.
It was these struggles that led the Big Ten to go out and lure Maryland and Rutgers, which will obviously instantly revive the conference's football fortunes once they officially join.
Martinez also was later asked what the main difference was between an SEC defense and Big Ten.
“Nothing really," Martinez said, using what apparently is a favorite expression. "It’s pretty much the same as a Big Ten defense. They’re both really good, and they’re big up front, and good corners. It’s pretty much exactly the same actually.”
What about the SEC having better speed?
“No. Not at all,” Martinez said.
Well, okay then.
Later, Martinez did mention what he thought would be the key against Georgia's defense.
"It's very important not to go third-and-long. Because they love to rush the passer," he said. "So that's what they like to do, and if we handle that fine, and it's third-and-short, I think we'll be pretty good."
Center vs. Nose
The man who will snap Martinez the ball on Tuesday was much more bubbly. Junior Cole Pensick is set to start only the second game of his career, having taken over after senior Justin Jackson's season-ending injury.
Pensick is a converted defensive lineman who has alternated between guard and center. Georgia, even without nose tackle John Jenkins, would appear to have an advantage in the match-up, especially with nose tackle Kwame Geathers - all 6-foot-6 and 355 pounds of him - set to start.
Pensick is listed at 6-foot-2 and 275 pounds. He acknowledged the disparity, but said he embraces the challenge, mentioning he was reading a book called "Fearless," by Adam Brown, a member of Seal Team 6.
“He was always the underdog. He picked the biggest guy and went after him," Pensick said. "That’s kind of the mentality you have to go with, no matter how big you are, or how big your bark may be, you’re not stopping me type deal. It’s nothing I haven’t gone through before. Ever since high school I’ve been told I’m undersized. I’m ready for it.”
It might not be Geathers the entire game. So would going against Georgia sophomore Mike Thornton (6-1, 302) be a reprieve? Pensick doesn’t look at it that way.
“Well, I’ve personally liked going against taller guys because it’s easier to get under," he said. "And all my teammates on the O-line when we do our big ram drill, we call it, they always hate going against me, just because of the matter of fact it’s easier to be lower than them, so I have a better chance of getting underneath them. So I always like going against the taller guys, get right underneath their chin. They don’t like that."
Pensick's first bowl practice wasn't until Friday, his arrival being delayed after a sickness. So his listed weight of 275 pounds might be a bit generous at the moment.
“I’m kind of nervous to get on a scale,” he said.
All in the family
The other day, Nebraska coach Bo Pelini shrugged off the idea of hitting up his brother Carl – coach at Florida Atlantic, which lost to Georgia in September – for advice on playing the Bulldogs.
But on Friday Georgia head coach Mark Richt brought it up.
“Matter of fact, we already went up against a coach Pelini this year, and they’re very similar in how they go about hteir business. A lot of their pressure, a lot of their coverages, their concepts in the red zone. There’s a lot of things that are similar.”