Arizona (8-4) vs. Nebraska (9-4)
Dec. 30, 8 p.m., (ESPN)
Look for defense, defense and more defense when Nebraska’s Bo Pelini and Arizona’s Mike Stoops hook up in the Holiday Bowl.
The Cornhuskers are hot -- literally and figuratively -- after a strong finish capped by their near miss in a controversial loss to Texas in the Big 12 title game. The Cornhuskers struggled moving the ball offensively in the Texas game, producing only five first downs, and were repeatedly stoned trying to rush against the Longhorns’ top-ranked rush defense. Running backs Roy Helu Jr. and Rex Burkhead will be challenged by Arizona’s underrated defense.
The Wildcats limited five of their last six opponents to 24 points or less -- including strong performances in road victories at Arizona State and USC to finish the season. The game will feature two of the nation’s top pass rushers in Arizona’s Ricky Elmore and Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh, who cemented his Heisman credentials with a 4.5-sack effort against Texas and has been a beast all season. Nebraska’s kicking game with Alex Henery and Adi Kunalic will be challenged by an Arizona team that ranks fourth in punt returns and 11th in kickoff returns.
It will be the first matchup between these two teams since the 1998 Holiday Bowl, where Arizona punctuated a 12-1 season with a 23-20 victory. The Cornhuskers will need to find some more offensive production to keep from enduring a similar result this time around.