NCAA Football

Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl: Washington vs. Nebraska

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Washington Huskies vs Nebraska Cornhuskers

Qualcomm Stadium

Thursday, December 30, 2010 10:30 PM ET ESPN

Laying the scene

Nebraska and Washington faced each other at the beginning of the season that resulted in a Nebraska win, 56-21. Both teams know what to expect coming into this game and the following home and away series starting next year. Nebraska did not expect to see the Huskies again this season, but after a terrible loss to Texas A&M and a loss in the conference championship to Oklahoma, it made it possible. For the Huskies, they were 3-6, and had to win their final three games to become bowl eligible. It came down to the final 44 seconds when quarterback Jake Locker threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse that solidified a bowl berth. The Huskies might be on a roll, but don't think too much of it, since they beat less talented teams like UCLA, California, and barely beat Washington State.

What Nebraska has to do to win

In the first matchup between these two teams, Nebraska's quarterback Taylor Martinez dominated his competition and featured a play that was the longest touchdown run by any freshman, an 80 yard touchdown. In that game he ran for 137 yards with three touchdowns and threw for 150 yards with another touchdown. Inconsistencies and injuries have hampered this quarterback all season, therefore a healthy right ankle and left foot is important heading into this game. Even though Martinez is the most important player to his team, the x-factor for this game will be running back Roy Helu Jr. He ran for 110 yards with two scores in their last matchup, but with a possible hurt quarterback he will be called upon to run more. On defense, the defensive line has to provide plenty of pressure throughout the game. In their previous matchup, defensive tackle Jared Crick and defensive end Pierre Allen were able to get to Locker and frustrate him throughout the game. However, the constant pressure could hurt them this week, as Washington will alter their game plan from their previous matchup and the talent of Locker can make any negative play into a positive one.

What Washington needs to do to win

In order for Washington to win, quarterback Jake Locker is going to have to figure out how to throw against the Nebraska defense. Yes I know, it's easier said then done, but in their last matchup he completed 4 of 20 passes. In this game he struggled to read the coverage and was inaccurate when someone was open. In essence, he had an awful game due to the constant pressure and mix coverage the defense was throwing at him. However, like Nebraska, the key to the game is not with the quarterback, its with their running back, Chris Polk. In their previous matchup Polk did not get enough touches, as the offensive coordinator abandoned the run early. Nebraska's weakness on defense is stopping the run, and Polk can exploit that problem. Not only could he gain plenty of yards, but he can block also with his 214-pound body. If Washington sticks to the run, it could open up the play action, where Locker can cause some damage. But once again, it's easier said then done against this Nebraska defense. For the defense, or the lack thereof, they have to focus on the running game of Nebraska. Quarterback Taylor Martinez is more of a scrambler then a passer and running back Roy Helu Jr can cause some damage. Washington's defense has struggled all season, but if they concentrate on the run, then they have a chance.

The call

This game will be much better than the last. It will be closer and Jake Locker should play a lot better. In the end though, Washington has less talent all around than Nebraska. Nebraska's offense will prove to be too much for the Huskies defense, Helu Jr. and Martinez won't be stopped. On offense for Washington, they will improve, but not enough as Nebraska's defense will be able to do what Washington's defense won't, make some stops. That is why I'm going with the heavy favorite in this one, Nebraska for the win.

Player(s) to Watch

Eric Hagg, DB, Nebraska - Eric Hagg is the cornerstone of the talented Nebraska defense. He has the ability to defend the run and lockdown receivers in man and zone coverage on the inside. Opposing quarterbacks have to constantly keep tabs on him when they throw through the middle. In this matchup, Jake Locker must be aware of where he is on the field, because he can intercept any pass his way, or provide pressure off the edge on third downs. However, Hagg has to be in control when blitzing, because Locker is very athletic, he can use his strength and speed to get away from the blitz. Hagg could be a difference maker.. - Jared Levine

Jared is a Journalism and Sports Administration major at the University of Miami providing introspective, insight, information and opinion on the world of College Football.

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