Sunday, December 6, 2009
Pacific Life Holiday Bowl
Arizona (8-4) vs. Nebraska (9-4)
Dec. 30, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Arizona take by Pac-10 blogger Ted Miller: If you watched the Big 12 championship game, you know one huge question hangs over the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl.
Can Arizona’s offensive line handle All-Universe defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh? Suh had 4.5 sacks among his seven tackles for a loss in the narrow defeat to Texas, a performance so stellar he might get invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony.
Of course, the Wildcats defense probably feels good about its chances vs. the Huskers anemic offense, which ranks 102nd in the nation.
On paper, Arizona is a more balanced team. The Wildcats are good on defense, ranking 21st in the nation (315.8 yards per game), and solid on offense, ranking 40th in the nation (407.5 yards per game). They also should benefit from the expected return of tailback Nic Grigsby from a shoulder injury that’s riddled him this season.
Nebraska, meanwhile, is dominant on defense. Its No. 2 in the nation in scoring defense (11.2 points per game) and is ranked in the top-10 in just about every defensive category. It, however, is ranked 102nd in total offense and 80th in scoring.
Perhaps a low-scoring game?
Nebraska likely will play to its defense and try to win the field position battle. The game may turn on how well the Wildcats can protect quarterback Nick Foles, who can be lethal in the short-passing game.
Nebraska has 42 sacks this year. Arizona had yielded only 11.
If the Wildcats can’t handle Suh, that total will go way up, and it might be a long night for Foles.
Nebraska take by Big 12 blogger Tim Griffin: 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.