Big 12 Bowl Central
Need to know: 9 p.m. CT, Dec. 30, Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, ESPN.
Team records: Nebraska 10-3, Washington 6-6.
Story lines: A year ago, Nebraska finished its season with a 33-0 shellacking of Arizona in the Holiday Bowl. The Huskers hoped that would be a springboard to a Big 12 Conference championship and a BCS game.
Instead, a bitter 23-20 loss to Oklahoma in the Dr Pepper Big 12 Championship game has Nebraska making a return trip to San Diego. The sense of deju vu is doubled by the fact that the Huskers are facing a Washington team that they blasted 56-21 on Sept. 21.
"It's pretty obvious what the level of disappointment is," coach Bo Pelini said of his team’s second consecutive loss in the Big 12 Championship game. "We came in here to win the Big 12 championship. We didn't get it done. (The Holiday Bowl is) the opportunity to win our 11th game and that's what we're looking to do."
In the September victory in Seattle, Nebraska had three players – Taylor Martinez (137 yards), Roy Helu (110) and Rex Burkhead (104) – rush for 100 yards.
Martinez, a redshirt freshman quarterback, was hobbled during the last few games of the regular-season and his lack of mobility contributed to Nebraska’s losses at Texas A&M and to Oklahoma. If his foot and ankle injuries have healed, he should return as a big-play threat.
The Huskies won their last three games to become bowl eligible. Jake Locker’s 27-yard touchdown pass with 44 seconds remaining gave the Huskies a 35-28 victory over Washington State in the season finale. Four of Washington’s victories came in the final minute of regulation or overtime.
"I can't be more proud of this football team," said Washington coach Steve Sarkisian, who took over a team that finished 0-12. "Two years ago I met them for the first time. There wasn't a lot of school spirit, lots of heads down.”
This will be the third game between the two schools in a one-year span. Washington will play at Nebraska in September to complete a home-and-home series. … Nebraska is making its 47th bowl appearance (fifth-most in college history) and the third consecutive bowl game under coach Bo Pelini. … The Huskers have won 10 of its last 14 bowl games and four of its past five since 2003.
Washington last played in a bowl in 2002 when the Huskies lost to Purdue, 34-24, in the Sun Bowl. … The Huskies’ 6-6 record is the worst in Holiday Bowl history. Senior quarterback Jake Locker, considered a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate, completed just 4-of-20 passes for 71 yards against Nebraska in September.
Washington’s first three games this season were against non-conference foes who are playing in bowl games (BYU, Nebraska, Syracuse). The Huskies’ schedule is ranked as the second-toughest in the nation by the Sagarin computer rankings.