HOLIDAY BOWL: Let's Play Two?

By at December 5, 2010 | 8:41 PM | Print

This isn't kissing your sister. This is kissing your sister's best friend with the peanut butter breath and three tons of metal in her mouth.

In what appears to be a final turn of the Big 12 screw, Nebraska learned Sunday night that it's headed back to the Dec. 30 Holiday Bowl to play Washington, a team NU smashed 56-21 in September.

The 6-6 Huskies, on a three-game winning streak, qualified for a bowl by scoring a last-minute touchdown in a 35-28 win over Washington State Saturday night.

The 10-3 Huskers lost the Big 12 Championship 23-20 to Oklahoma, which opened them up for a precipitous fall in the bowl slate, especially considering the Big 12 had five teams with at least nine wins.

But no one predicted, until now, that NU would fall this far to face a team it already thoroughly humiliated.

What happened? The Insight Bowl, held Dec. 28 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, selected Missouri over Nebraska to play Iowa. In 2008 and 2009, the Tigers received bowl snubs – although not quite like this.

Conspiracy? NU fans have certainly thrown around the word often enough as it pertains to the Big 12.

Consider: Hawkeyes vs. Huskers sells better on television and at the admission gate. The Big Red Faithful has consistently traveled better than Mizzou – the opposite would be the case in basketball – they gobble up more pay-per-view sales and move more merchandise. The Huskers also have a massive contingent of fans in the Phoenix metro, built up over many years of bowl trips to the Fiesta Bowl and road games at Arizona State.

But a NU/Iowa matchup would also feature two Big Ten teams in a Big 12 bowl. And Missouri is ranked higher than Nebraska in the Bowl Championship Series rankings.

And, of course, the Big 12 is the Big 12.

That UW landed in San Diego is the result of four remarkable Pac-10 events converging in one year:

-The NCAA deemed 8-5 USC ineligible for a bowl game after finding that former Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush and his family received improper extra benefits from runners and hustlers.

-Oregon State chose, of its own volition, to play at Boise State and TCU in Dallas, losing both and leaving the Beavers one win short of bowl eligibility.

-Arizona State won six games and smoked Washington, but two of its wins were against non-Division 1-A opponents. The NCAA denied ASU's appeal for a bowl.

-The Pac-10, which placed Oregon in the BCS national title and Stanford in the BCS, was too damn hard. USA Today's Jeff Sagarin rated the Pac-10 his toughest conference, but the teams – aside from the Ducks and Cardinal – all beat up on each other.

Thus, only four Pac-10 teams qualified for bowl games. So here come the Huskies. Again. It's the 1979 Orange Bowl – when Nebraska played Oklahoma in a rematch of NU's 17-14 regular-season wins – all over again. Minus a quality opponent. And a competitive game. And a Jan. 1 slot on TV.

They do say San Diego's quite pretty this time of year.

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