Holiday Bowl: No. 17 Nebraska at Washington
This will be the second time these two teams have met this season — and for the sake of the University of Washington, let’s hope it’s not a repeat performance.
Yes, it was just a few short months ago that the Huskers traveled to Huskies Stadium and laid a 56-21 whipping on UW in front of the purple-clad masses. That day, Washington didn’t put up much of a fight at home against the Huskers, allowing 533 yards of total offense, including 383 rushing as Taylor Martinez (137 yards, 3 TDs), Roy Helu Jr. (110 yards, 2 TDs) and Rex Burkhead (104 yards, 1 TD) combined for the fifth triple-100-yard game in school history.
That said, don’t count out another repeat performance from Nebraska. A team that had hopes of a BCS Bowl at the start of the season, the Huskers finished with a whimper by losing 23-20 to Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game. That, combined with losses to Texas and Texas A&M this year, kept Nebraska from going to one of the marquee bowl games. As such, they’ll get their second shot at UW quarterback Jake Locker.
This will be Locker’s last game at the collegiate level. He returned to UW for his senior season after toying with the idea of entering the 2010 NFL Draft, where he was pegged as a potential first-round pick. His return has not gone according to plan, however. Expected to star for the Huskies and tear up the Pac-10, Locker put up pedestrian numbers (2,209 yards, 17 TDs) and looked erratic at times in the passing game.
Music City Bowl: North Carolina at Tennessee
A tale of two programs going in different directions. The Tar Heels are looking to salvage a disappointing season that was derailed by an NCAA investigation into agent-related benefits and academic misconduct that eventually forced 14 players to miss at least one game. The Vols, meanwhile, are looking to finish coach Derek Dooley’s first season with a five game winning streak — this after starting the year 2-6.
Tennessee has been very good down the stretch, albeit against some of the weaker opposition in the SEC. Huge wins over Memphis (50-14) and Mississippi (52-14) were followed with a tough road victory at Vanderbilt and then a season-ending win over the University of Kentucky. The emergence of RB Tauren Poole has been nothing short of extraordinary, as he’s rushed 193 times for 944 yards and 11 TDs, good enough for a SEC Honorable Mention award.
North Carolina, meanwhile, will once again be led by QB T.J. Yates, who despite the off-field distractions had a solid year under centre. Yates had 3,184 passing yards and 18 TDs, good enough for All-ACC Second Team honors.