Washington (6-6); Nebraska (10-3) Time: 7 p.m. at Qualcomm Stadium TV: ESPN Radio: 950 AM and 710 AM The line: Cornhuskers by 14. The setup setup: Washington...
Washington (6-6); Nebraska (10-3)
Time: 7 p.m. at Qualcomm Stadium
TV: ESPN Radio: 950 AM and 710 AM The line: Cornhuskers by 14.
The setup: Washington is hoping to pull off a big upset in its first bowl game since 2002, and also trying to achieve its first winning record since that season. It is also hoping to avenge a 56-21 loss to Nebraska on Sept. 18 in Seattle. Nebraska is attempting to win 11 games for the first time since 2001 and take the Holiday Bowl for the second straight year after beating Arizona 33-0 in 2009.
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What to expect: Nebraska will try to establish dominance on both sides of the ball by getting its running game going offensively and forcing UW to throw on defense. Nebraska rushed for 383 yards in the first game — the most allowed by the Huskies this year — and that looms as a key matchup in this game. Washington is likely to use Jake Locker’s running ability more in this game, and will also try to continue Chris Polk’s stellar play of the last three games (508 yards).
Notes: This is Washington’s fourth Holiday Bowl appearance, and the Huskies are still looking for their first win. They were defeated by Colorado in 1996, 33-21; Kansas State in 1999, 24-20; and Texas in 2001, 47-43. … This is UW’s first bowl since the 2002 Sun, a 34-24 loss to Purdue. … Washington is 15-14-1 all-time in bowls dating to the 1924 Rose Bowl. … Washington won three in a row to close out the regular season and get to a bowl. The Huskies haven’t won four in a row since the first four games of the 2001 season. This is the 47th bowl game for Nebraska, the fifth most of any program in the nation. … The teams are scheduled to play again Sept. 17 in Lincoln. … Nebraska leads the series 4-3-1, including wins in the last three (1997, 1998 and earlier this year). Washington finished the regular season ranked 17th in the nation in converting opportunities inside the 20, scoring on 30 of 34, with 22 touchdowns.
Injuries: UW — RB Deontae Cooper (knee), P Will Mahan (knee), DT Semisi Tokolahi (knee), DE Talia Crichton (knee), DL Cameron Elisara (shoulder), RB Johri Fogerson (hip), S Sean Parker (stinger) are out; WR Cody Bruns (clavicle), G Ryan Tolar (knee), DT Chris Robinson (knee) all probable.
NEBRASKA — DT Baker Steinkuhler, S Rickey Thernase (both suspended for being arrested for suspicion of DUI) out; WR Niles Paul (foot) probable; QB Taylor Martinez (ankle) will play.
Upset possibility: One of the aspects of this game that may be the hardest to judge is Nebraska’s psyche. The Cornhuskers had goals much bigger than landing in the Holiday Bowl again and having to play UW a second time. If Nebraska comes out flat, that could leave an opening for the Huskies to pull off the upset. That makes it especially critical for Washington to get off to a fast start, something it has had trouble doing consistently this season. While Nebraska outscored foes 99-30 in the first quarter this year, UW was outscored 81-48.
Key matchup: Nebraska’s offensive line vs. Washington’s defensive front. Nebraska dominated UW up front the first time, and on paper still appears to have a significant edge. Nebraska has four starting offensive linemen listed at 305 or 310 pounds, while UW has been hit hard by injuries up front and is going with a small line with just one player listed over 253 pounds. If Nebraska again pushes UW around it could be a long night for the Huskies.
Prediction: Nebraska 34, Washington 21.
QBTaylor Martinez obviously had a big edge in the first game, rushing for 137 yards and completing 7 of 11 well-timed passes. But he hasn’t been the same since a midseason ankle injury, and Jake Locker appears to be rounding back into form after a midseason rib injury. Expect UW to put Locker in some better positions to succeed this time. And while he downplays it, Locker obviously wants to make up for the 4-for-20 passing showing in the first game against the Cornhuskers.
RBNebraska has one of the best rushing attacks in the country and a solid corps of running backs. Roy Helu Jr. finished with 1,252 yards, and Rex Burkhead with 912. UW can counter with sophomore Chris Polk, who had 1,238 yards to finish second in the Pac-10 despite running behind a less stable offensive line. True freshman Jesse Callier has been a solid second option. Both teams have used some Wildcat in recent games, and that could be a key play in the Holiday Bowl.
OLWhile UW has had a revolving door at some offensive line spots this year, Nebraska has been stable, starting the same five up front for all 13 games. Four of the players weigh 305 pounds or more, including the best of the lot, senior right guard Ricky Henry. Washington’s line is healthier and the roles are more set than the first game against the Cornhuskers. But the Huskies are still more of a work in progress than Nebraska, which rushed for 200 or more yards 10 times this season.
WRHuskies have a slight edge due largely to a foot injury to Nebraska’s second-leading leading receiver, Niles Paul, who doesn’t figure to be 100 percent. However, this may be a better group than the numbers might indicate — junior Brandon Kinnie is an underrated receiver. UW’s corps, meanwhile, is back to full health, a group led by junior Jermaine Kearse, who has caught the ball more consistently of late. Nebraska has the edge in tight end, with sophomore Kyler Reed making 10 of his 20 catches in the past three games.
DLCornhuskers have the edge here, despite the loss of starting DT Baker Steinkuhler, suspended after being arrested on suspicion of a DUI. He will be replaced by junior Terrence Moore, who had a good game against UW the first time with four tackles. But the highlight player is fellow DT Jared Crick, a second-team AP All-American. Washington is having to shuffle personnel up front due to the loss of three players to injury, notably DT Semisi Tokolahi, who had made a big impact in starting the past three games. End Everrette Thompson will move inside, making UW a little lighter everywhere.
LBThe Huskies get a minor edge here due in part to having its full corps available, led by senior Mason Foster, a third-team AP All-American. MLB Cort Dennison missed the first Nebraska game with a concussion. And Victor Aiyewa came on strong at the end of the year to finish with a Pac-10-high 18 tackles for a loss. Nebraska technically goes with just two linebackers, led by weakside backer Lavonte David, who had 145 tackles, second-most in Nebraska history. Will Compton, who battled injuries all year and had just three starts, is slated to get the start in the middle.
DBThe Huskers have a big edge here, led by cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Alfonzo Dennard, who each may be first-round picks eventually. Dennard had an interception for a TD in the first game against UW. Nebraska, which usually starts with five defensive backs and often employs six, has real quality all over the secondary, notably nickel back Eric Hagg. The Huskies have settled on a regular foursome in the secondary and coaches have cited improvement from the likes of junior corner Quinton Richardson and sophomore free safety Nate Fellner as keys to the three-game win streak.
STThe Cornhuskers dominated every area of the special teams in the first game and appear to again have significant edges. Kicker-punter Alex Henery was a first-team AP All-American as a kicker this year, hitting 18 of 19 field goals. UW’s kickers have been dependable all season but the return and coverage units often spotty. The return to health of Aguilar, however, means he could take on punt return duties again.
|UW stat leaders|
|Nebraska stat leaders|
|Roy Helu Jr.||177||1,211||6.8||11|
|Who has the advantage?|