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Official Husker Locker Blog

2010 Dec 28

HOLIDAY BOWL: NU-UW Matchup

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By HuskerLocker

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Breaking down the matchups for the Holiday Bowl, position by position:

QUARTERBACK: Injuries and inconsistency have plagued both Jake Locker and Taylor Martinez during the last half of the year, and yet both are superior athletes capable of spectacular individual plays when healthy. Locker must atone for the worst game of his career – a 4-of-20 effort with two interceptions vs. NU in September – to give Washington any chance at victory. Martinez, meanwhile, will test a muddy field with an ankle that's closer to 100 percent than it's been in two months. Martinez easily won the first matchup, but the element of surprise is now gone. EDGE: EVEN

RUNNING BACK: Roy Helu (1,211 rushing yards) and Rex Burkhead (912) form one of the nation's best 1-2 punches at running back, especially since they have different fortes. Helu is the big play artist with rare vision while Burkhead is a Swiss Army Rex of versatility. He'll operate out of the Wildcat in the Holiday Bowl. Washington counters with the tough-but-explosive Chris Polk (1,238 rushing yards) and speedier Jesse Callier, who gave Nebraska trouble in the first game. NU has the more proven tandem, but the Huskies bring some talent to the table. EDGE: NEBRASKA

WIDE RECEIVER/TIGHT END: Washington's Jermaine Kearse is one of the nation's best deep threats with a 16-yard average and 12 touchdowns. His speed and quickness make him a tough guy to consistently cover, although Nebraska's secondary snuffed him out in the first game. D'Andre Goodwin and Devin Aguilar are solid 2-3 receivers. NU's top pass-catcher, Niles Paul, will be limited by his still tender foot, recovering from a break one month ago. That leaves Brandon Kinnie and Mike McNeill to carry the load; they have pretty consistent hands, but of course must actually get the ball thrown to them. The Huskers' best deep threat is tight end Kyler Reed, who had 20 catches for 364 yards and seven touchdowns. EDGE: WASHINGTON

OFFENSIVE LINE: NU's budding Pipeline had its best, most dominant game in Seattle this year. We don't see that changing in San Diego. Nebraska's at its best when guards Ricky Henry and Keith Williams can get out and pull on power counters, traps and dive plays. The Wildcat attack fits well into that. Expect a heavy dose of all of it. UW's line has struggled with consistency all season, but they generally keep Jake Locker well-protected. EDGE: NEBRASKA

DEFENSIVE LINE: Even without Baker Steinkuhler, the Huskers' front four should be hitting on most cylinders. Terrence Moore has much talent – if not production – and Steinkuhler, and Jared Crick finally started to find his mojo during the last half of the season as defensive coordinator Carl Pelini moved him around to different spots on the defensive line. Cameron Meredith is a versatile player whom Pelini likes to stand up and play as a “spinner.” Pierre Allen is a tough-minded, physical anchor at base end. Washington's defensive line is basically awful. It's small, banged up and incapable of slowing down a power running game. 383 to NU. 298 to USC. 279 to Oregon. 278 to Stanford. It's a sieve and UW's biggest weakness. EDGE: NEBRASKA

LINEBACKERS: You can't ask Lavonte David to make more plays than he's made or learn more quickly than he has. He's one of the best stories in college football, even if Bo Pelini has been stingy with praise. Washington counters with an All-American of its own in Mason Foster, who is flanked by smart, tough Cort Dennison. NU doesn't rely as much on linebackers as the Huskies do. EDGE: WASHINGTON

SECONDARY: Nebraska has the best secondary in the country and the pelts on the wall to prove it. Washington doesn't. EDGE: NEBRASKA

SPECIAL TEAMS: In terms of coverage and return units, neither Nebraska nor Washington has been particularly effective or consistent throughout the year. Callier is a good kickoff returner for the Huskies with a 23-yard average. Paul has a 25-yard average, but he may not return kicks for the Huskers. NU's primary advantage are two of its newest Blackshirts: Kicker Alex Henery and specialist Adi Kunalic. On a wet field, it's good to have kickers of their skill. EDGE: NEBRASKA

Tags: holiday bowl, matchup

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