Big 12: Pac-10

Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl

December, 5, 2010
Nebraska Cornhuskers (10-3) vs. Washington Huskies (6-6)

Dec. 30, 10 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Nebraska take by Big 12 blogger David Ubben: If it seems like you've seen this movie before, it's because you have. Nebraska went up to Seattle this September and ran all over the Huskies, beating Washington 56-21. The Huskers racked up 383 rushing yards, including an 80-yard touchdown run by Taylor Martinez on the first play of the second half.

Even more impressive than the Huskers rush offense was its pass defense. The last time the Blackshirts crossed paths with Jake Locker, it cost the presumptive No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft a big chunk of change. His 4-for-20 performance with a pair of interceptions -- one was returned for a touchdown -- started the beginning of a disappointing season for Locker.

He'll be ready to have a different result this time around. But after being burnt for more than 300 yards by Oklahoma's Landry Jones in the Big 12 Championship, Bo Pelini's defense will be ready to make sure Locker has similar results to the September meeting. After all, they're not short on NFL talent themselves. Cornerbacks Alfonzo Dennard and Prince Amukamara will be playing at the next level, and Amukamara could be a top five pick in 2011.

The Huskers came close to a BCS bid for the second consecutive season, but a midseason injury to Martinez brought Nebraska's offense back down to earth. He'll have plenty of time to heal for this one, and the freshman might look like his early-season self if separate injuries to both feet are nonfactors by late December.

Washington take by Pac-10 blogger Ted Miller: Washington used a late surge to earn bowl eligibility in a season that was all over the place in terms of emotions.

Over the first half of the season, the Huskies alternated winning and losing, disappointment and satisfaction. A poor performance at BYU was followed by a strong effort versus Syracuse. The Huskies then were blown out by Nebraska, only to beat USC in their next game. A loss to Arizona State was followed by a double-overtime win over Oregon State. That inconsistency was frustrating, but not as frustrating as what followed: three consecutive blowout defeats to Arizona, Stanford and Oregon. It was clear the Huskies weren't ready for primetime.

The chief problem was the play of both lines -- both were frequently overwhelmed. While Locker was suffering through an injury-riddled, disappointing season, the Huskies were mostly solid on offense. The defense was just terrible.

But then the schedule softened up, and the Huskies ran off three consecutive wins to reach 6-6 and earn bowl eligibility. The big question is: Are they improved enough to stay on the field with Nebraska, which crushed them on Sept. 18? Washington wants redemption for that loss, but it might not be able to keep up with the Cornhuskers.
Spring practice begins Friday for Texas, which means the program can leave behind an excruciating "what might have been" from the national championship game and start looking forward to a promising 2010.

Well, sort of.

"It's one of those things that is kind of hard to get over, just looking back on it, but you know you have to move on to the next year and try to get back there again," senior defensive end Sam Acho said.

One noble gesture eases the sting for Acho, a first-team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American. All the merchandise -- T-shirts, hats, etc. -- that was produced to celebrate the national championship that never was, was shipped off to Haiti to help the relief effort.

"That touched my heart and it speaks volumes about Texas as a program," Acho said.

Acho figures to be a cornerstone of the program next year, particularly for a defense that welcomes back seven starters. He was honorable mention All-Big 12 in 2009 after recording 63 tackles -- 14 for a loss -- with 10 sacks and four fumble recoveries, which tied for the most nationally.

While many expect the defense to have to carry the offense early -- quarterback Colt McCoy and four other starters are gone -- Acho isn't so sure, noting that the Longhorns "don't rebuild, we reload."

While replacing the winningest quarterback in NCAA history won't be easy, the silver lining of the charcoal gray cloud of seeing McCoy go down early in the 37-21 loss to Alabama was the play of Garrett Gilbert, who will take over the starting job as a true sophomore.

"Garrett did a great job and got a lot of leadership experience from that one game," Acho said. "A couple guys were saying that one game Garrett played gave him a year's worth of experience. So we're excited for next year and for him at quarterback."

Speaking of the future of the program, yes, Acho said, he and his teammates have heard all the talk of the Big Ten and Pac-10 planning to raid the Big 12 for the biggest expansion prize: Texas.

The Dallas native doesn't believe any conference is going to mess with Texas.

"I heard some guys talking about it," he said. "I know it's not going to happen. We're not really worried about that."