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Bowl notes: QB situation still very much in the air

Here are a few news and notes from Nebraska head coach Mike Riley's teleconference with reporters following NU's invitation to the Music City Bowl on Dec. 30.

The Huskers (9-3) will take on Tennessee (8-4) and the game will be played on ESPN at 2:30 pm CST.

Quarterback situation still very much up in the air for Nashville

As Nebraska learned their bowl game plans on Sunday, there is still a big piece to the puzzle we don’t know. Will quarterback Tommy Armstrong be available against Tennessee in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 30?

Head coach Mike Riley spoke on a teleconference Sunday night and said Armstrong’s health is still very much a question as they open up bowl practices this week.

“It will be slow for him to resume full-time and full-speed,” Riley said of Armstrong. “I think we were real fortunate that he was even able to play (at Iowa). I think in order to let that thing heal, he’s not going to go full speed in the early parts of the bowl preparation.”

The Huskers will depart for their bowl game in Nashville on Christmas Day, and Riley said he would like to get a pretty good idea of where Armstrong is at health wise before they leave Lincoln.

“The first thing that we have to do is see who’s healthy and what that time table really means,” Riley said. “Tommy (Armstrong) will start if he’s going to be healthy for a good period of the preparation time. That might mean a week or 10 days before the game. I would like to think his leg would be healthy and that Ryker (Fyfe) would be able to function properly for the whole game for an extended period of time and that they can practice. I don’t know that yet?

“If everything is good and he’s healthy, Tommy will start the game. If this drags on with Tommy, then we’ll spend that early time getting Ryker ready to start and just see where Tommy progresses after that.”

Iowa took the Outback Bowl bid right from Nebraska 

A big part of why Nebraska is heading to the Music City Bowl in Nashville is how the Huskers lost to Iowa on Black Friday.

With Iowa's wins over Nebraska and Michigan to close the season, the Hawkeyes seemingly took the Outback Bowl bid from the Huskers hands, after it looked like a lock the week before.

“The reason why they were selected this year — and we know a lot of people wanted them in their bowl game — is the way they finished,” Outback Bowl President Jim McVey told Land of 10 on why they picked Iowa. “The way those guys hung together, the way these guys went after Michigan, who’s an excellent football team also, beat Michigan and played Nebraska and really took it to Nebraska.

"You get a team that’s hot like that, that can play with any team in the country and we’ve had great experiences with these guys, Gary Barta, coach (Kirk) Ferentz and everybody. Iowa’s got everything you want in a bowl team. That starts with the football team winning those games in the end and making everything feel right. That’s why we took Iowa.”

The Land of 10 also reported Iowa more or less had their pick of either the Outback Bowl or Holiday Bowl, and chose to go to Tampa, which moved the Huskers down to the Music City Bowl since they were not eligible to play in the Holiday Bowl.

Riley said on Sunday that he really didn't have much involvement in the selection process, but added that Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst had a pretty good idea by Monday the Huskers were headed to Nashville.

“We are proud to be selected and excited to go,” Riley said. “I’ve never been involved in a game in Nashville before, but I’ve heard great things about it and I know it will be a great crowd. I know we’ll get great hospitality and we’re playing another good school in Tennessee. It’s exciting for the Huskers and we’re looking forward not only to the game, but the preparation that we get before that game.”

Quick hits

***Riley said that Nebraska would like to sign 22 recruits in their 2017 class.

"As we learn more about where everybody sits currently with our team, that might adjust +1 or -1, but probably in that range," Riley said. "I think we have 16 commitments right now, so we are heading down the stretch here looking for half a dozen more commitments.”

**Riley had little to no knowledge of Tennessee, as he has not had a chance to watch them much this season.

***Riley hopes to have an announcement on the hiring of his new assistant coach any day. The new hire is expected to coach with NU at the bowl game.

“The timetable is imminent,” Riley said. “We can anticipate something announced very soon.”

***Look for the Huskers to give their young players plenty of extra reps over the bowl practices in December.

“We’ll spend every extra minute we have in bowl practice to give our younger guys some real bowl practice technically and some real teamwork practice that they can actually run our plays and get some repetitions,” Riley said. “These are guys that might not get in the game, or guys that are redshirting that are really practicing and developing their craft for the upcoming spring and spring practice and competition for positions next year.”

***The Huskers will begin their bowl practices on Friday Dec. 9.