Nebraska's secondary to be attacked by high-powered Bruins
Who: Nebraska vs. UCLA
What: Foster Farms Bowl
When: Saturday, 8:15 p.m. CT
Where: Levi’s Stadium, California
Line: UCLA -6.5
Matchup to watch: Josh Rosen vs. Nebraska secondary
For all the talk about the Huskers’ bad luck in 2015, they wouldn’t have been in such vulnerable positions had they been able to stop big passing plays down the stretch. The Huskers will be without their top cover corner in Jonathan Rose, who was kicked off the team following yet another violation of team rules. The biggest challenge for the Blackshirts will be staying with Jordan Payton all over the field. He and Thomas Duarte formed one of the better receiving duos in the country this year. No doubt, Jim Mora will look to spread the Huskers out and attack. Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine have to get off the line of scrimmage and get to Rosen. It’s worth noting that the Bruins will be without their top offensive lineman, Alex Redmond, who declared early for the NFL draft and is missing the game. UCLA could also be without offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone after a blood clot in his lung hospitalized him during bowl preparations. No matter what, Rosen and the Bruins won’t lack firepower.
Thing I’m excited to see: B1G partake in Pac-12 after dark
If you stay up late on Saturday nights during the fall, you know about Pac-12 after dark. This year, the late games on the West Coast produced plenty of madness, which UCLA is no stranger to. No B1G team has traveled out west since Michigan did to kick off 2015. But if there was ever a team that fit in with Pac-12 after dark, it’s Nebraska. The Huskers had more wild finishes than anybody in college football this year. They wouldn’t mind ending up on the better end of one of those this time. If college football fans outside of Nebraska are able to stay up past midnight the day after Christmas, they could be rewarded with plenty of live football entertainment.
Number to remember: 7
After non-conference play, the Bruins were ranked seventh and were very much early national title contenders. They had quality wins over two top-20 teams in BYU in Arizona and had the look of a Pac-12 champion. But without All-American candidate Myles Jack, they lost their next two games by double figures and vanished from the playoff picture. Nebraska is facing a team with loads of talent, and one that beat four top-20 teams this year. And despite all of their injuries on defense, the Bruins still held Utah without a touchdown on the road. They were still alive to make the Rose Bowl in the final week of the regular season. To sum it up, UCLA is no slouch. Nebraska should know not to underestimate Jim Mora’s squad. After all, he did hand the Huskers a loss in 2012 and 2013.
Prediction: UCLA 42, Nebraska 31
I know I spent a lot of time talking about Rosen and the Nebraska secondary, but I think this game turns into the Paul Perkins show. The talented tailback came on strong down the stretch and has a major chance to boost his draft stock with another big game. I think the Huskers struggle to stop the pass early and Perkins takes over. Once again, Nebraska will show flashes of what it can become. That is, look like one of the nation’s better offenses behind one of the nation’s better dual-threat quarterbacks in Tommy Armstrong. But Nebraska doesn’t have the balance to keep pace with the high-powered Bruins attack for 60 minutes. Mike Riley’s return to the West Coast doesn’t prove to be a victorious one, and the Huskers go back to the drawing board in 2016.