Here is my primer to tonight's Holiday Bowl. Have broken this matchup down over the past few weeks; don't need to add any more as a lead-in to this:
No. 17 Nebraska (10-3)vs. Washington (6-6)
Kickoff: 7:06 p.m. PDT, Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego Television: ESPN. Radio: 950-AM. The series: Nebraska leads 4-3-1, including an earlier-season 56-21 victory over the Huskies in Seattle. The Cornhuskers have won the past three games. The coaches: Nebraska’s Bo Pelini (30-11 record) is in his third season. He was a former defensive coordinator at Louisiana State (2005-07), Oklahoma (2004) and Nebraska (2003). UW’s Steve Sarkisian (11-13 record) is in his second season. He spent seven seasons as an assistant at Southern California. Last game: Three Nebraska backfield runners, led by quarterback Taylor Martinez’s 137 yards and three touchdowns, rushed for 100 yards or more against the UW defense as the Cornhuskers rolled up 383 yards on the ground – its second-highest total of the season behind the 451 at Kansas State. Injury report: For Nebraska – QB Taylor Martinez (toe) and WR Niles Paul (foot) are probable. For UW – DE Talia Crichton (knee) is out; S Sean Parker (shoulder) is doubtful; and WR Cody Bruns (clavicle), DT Chris Robinson (knee) and LG Ryan Tolar (knee) are probable. The matchups: QuarterbackWhen you run, you get hit. And UW’s Jake Locker (ribs) and Martinez (ankle, toe) have missed games since their earlier matchup. Both can still change the complexion of a game, however, with one run.EDGE: Even. Running backUW’s Chris Polk has been as vital to the Huskies’ late-season surge as anybody. His 1,238 yards are most ever by a UW sophomore. … Nebraska’s Roy Helu, Jr. almost matched Polk (1,211), and teammate Rex Burkhead is running the ‘Wildcat’ more.EDGE: Cornhuskers. ReceiverExpect the Huskies to take calculated shots down the field to Jermaine Kearse (62 catches, 1,001 yards, 11 TDs) like they did in the first meeting. … Brandon Kinnie and Niles Paul are big targets who break tackles. But they have had ball-security issues.EDGE: Huskies. Offensive lineOne unit (Nebraska) has started all 13 games with the same starting five linemen. The other unit (UW) hasn’t seen the same five guys start more than two consecutive games together, mainly because of injuries.EDGE: Cornhuskers. Defensive linePerhaps the UW’s biggest worry coming into the game. If Kalani Aldrich plays limited snaps, the Huskies will have seven linemen to rotate. … For the Cornhuskers, did we mention defensive tackle Brandon Crick was a second team All-American?EDGE: Cornhuskers. LinebackerIn terms of playmakers and always being around the ball, UW’s Mason Foster (151 tackles) and Nebraska’s Lavonte David (145 tackles) are as dependable as they come on the outside. Foster has better supporting cast with Cort Dennison and Victor Aiyewa.EDGE: Huskies. SecondaryLet’s see – Locker completed four of 20 passes for 71 yards and two interceptions in the first matchup. And that was after the Huskies knew how fast and aggressive Nebraska’s defensive backs were. Cornhuskers might be best against the pass in the country.EDGE: Cornhuskers. Special teamsBoth placekickers and punters have been consistent and been huge weapons. Thing is, nobody does either job better than Nebraska’s Alex Henery, who converted 18 of 19 field goals (including 10-of-11 from 40 yards or longer). He averaged 43.9 yards per punt.EDGE: Cornhuskers. IntangiblesNebraska has had an interesting past four weeks, to say the least. Two players were arrested for DUIs. Because he was linked to a couple head-coaching job openings, Pelini stopped talking to the media until arriving in San Diego. … Outside tight end Chris Izbicki abruptly quitting the team, the UW has had no such drama.EDGE: Huskies. The News Tribune pickThe UW has a tall task in front of it. Not only do the Huskies need to get Polk and Jesse Callier established heavily in the offense, Nebraska needs to also make mistakes for the Huskies to win. Not seeing that happening tonight as the better team wins – again.WINNER: Cornhuskers, 35-19. PRIME NUMBERSNebraskaNo. Name (position) Ht./Wt. Year03 Taylor Martinez (QB) 6-1/205 FreshmanLikely still not fully healthy (toe), so big-play rushing could be limited04 Lavonte David (OLB) 6-1/210 JuniorFirst-year starter is like a piece of dynamite – “Boom!” on quarterbacks.21 Prince Amukamara (CB) 6-1/205 SeniorSays if the referee allows him to use hands on receivers, he’ll jam away.22 Rex Burkhead (RB) 5-11/210 SophomoreSuddenly, the ‘Wildcat’ is back in the game plan – with him running it.95 Pierre Allen (DE) 6-5/265 SeniorDoes UW’s Cody Habben really have a chance to contain Allen? Nah.
WashingtonNo. Name (position) Ht./Wt. Year01 Chris Polk (RB) 5-11/214 SophomoreShould be able to attack middle of Nebraska defense for big scampers.10 Jake Locker (QB) 6-3/230 SeniorFire away in final game? His No. 1 priority is to keep UW offense on field.31 Cort Dennison (MLB) 6-1/236 JuniorMissed first meeting (head); should do better job settling defense down.73 Drew Schaefer (C) 6-4/281 SophomoreThe times pressure has gotten to Locker has usually come up the middle.74 Alameda Ta’amu (DT) 6-3/330 JuniorBlames himself for not slowing Nebraska rushing attack first time around.