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December 30, 2010

Callahan's take: Huskers will play loose


SAN DIEGO - Nebraska will go for their first 11 win season since 2001 tonight in San Diego at the Holiday Bowl against Washington.

As things get closer to kickoff, here are the three keys to a Husker victory over the Huskies. NU enters tonight's game as a 14 point favorite.

Stop Washington on the ground

A big part of stopping Washington tonight will be slowing down running back Chris Polk on the ground. Polk has led the Husky offense down the stretch and finished the regular season with 1,238 yards rushing and eight touchdowns.

Nebraska's defense can't let Polk get going early, because that will allow head coach Steve Sarkisian to be more creative with his play calling, which will take a lot of pressure of quarterback Jake Locker.

Don't let Locker create out of the pocket

Over the last several weeks of the regular season Locker was playing with a broken rib that prevented him to get out of the pocket and run.

According to the reports out of Washington, Locker is the healthiest he's been since September. I expect to see Sarkisian to turn Locker loose and let him run tonight. They know they need a big game out of him if they want to beat Nebraska.

Locker is one of the two or three fastest guys on the entire Washington roster, so if he runs effectively he can be very dangerous.

Get Martinez going early

Redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez has had a very good week of practice from all reports in San Diego.

I expect to see Martinez the healthiest he's been since October and if forces Washington's defense to respect his running ability, this offense operates at a much higher level.

Hopefully Shawn Watson will find some ways to get Martinez's confidence going early. If NU can make some big plays out of the gate, it's going to be very tough for the Huskies to keep up.

Limit the costly turnovers

In the Big 12 Championship game people want to point the finger at Watson for the offense's struggles, but the bottom line is NU lost that game by giving the Sooners easy points off turnovers and mistakes.

NU can't afford to give Washington any free points tonight off turnovers. If they can make them earn everything they get, it's going to be difficult for the Huskies to score on NU's defense on a consistent basis.

Play loose

If there's one thing we know about Pelini, it's that he knows how to get his teams ready to play in a bowl game.

Pelini lets his players enjoy the trip by having all the practices done in the morning. This approach typically leads to a football team that plays loose. We saw it last year in San Diego and we saw it two years ago at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville.

I fully expect a motivated and refreshed football team take the field tonight in the Holiday Bowl. I like Nebraska to win and I think they cover the 14 point spread with no problem.


Callahan's Prediction: Nebraska 37 Washington 17
Season Record: 11-2 overall; 8-5 vs. points



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