A Most Unhappy Holiday (Bowl)
By Paul Myerberg // Dec 21, 2010
Washington hosted Nebraska in September. The Cornhuskers return the favor next September. In between, the two will meet in next week’s Holiday Bowl. Three games in a calendar year? I suppose there’s reason for each program to be upset about this development, though one — Nebraska — has a bigger gripe than the other. Washington wants another shot at the Cornhuskers; the Cornhuskers just want to get to the Big Ten, sooner rather than the later, putting the final chapter in a messy divorce behind them.
Now, from Washington’s point of view: the Huskies were run through by Nebraska in September, with the Taylor Martinez-led Cornhuskers storming out to a sizable halftime lead before cruising to a 35-point win. Washington has improved, but this team still struggles against premier competition.
A three-game winning streak to end the season — which helped U.W. finish 6-6 — came against U.C.L.A., California and Washington State. Prior to that stretch, Washington lost to three straight ranked teams — Arizona, Stanford and Oregon — by the combined score of 138-30. So work remains to be done, though one important point remains to be made: despite the up-and-down play, Steve Sarkisian has nevertheless led Washington from 0-12 to bowl play in the span of two seasons. Nice job.
So in the big picture, Washington is happy to be here, happy to be at any bowl, Holiday or otherwise. A closer look, however, would certainly reveal that U.W. would have preferred a different opponent. Yes, Nebraska grants the Huskies another shot at a top-notch opponent, but little more.
Will Sarkisian play things closer to the vest offensively, knowing that his team heads to Lincoln next fall? Not a chance. Should he? Still, no. Yet you could see why he’d want to — Bo Pelini and the Nebraska coaching staff might have enough tape on U.W. to predict each play Sarkisian will call next in September.
Nebraska’s argument stems from the fact that the team fared better than this bowl slot indicates: the Cornhuskers believe, and rightfully so, that they should have gone to the Insight Bowl over Missouri. Nebraska beat Missouri during the regular season, after all, and won the Big 12 North ahead of the Tigers.
No more arguments about a Big 12 bias — those days are over. You could see why the conference wouldn’t want one Big Ten team, Iowa, playing another program soon to join the Big Ten, Nebraska, in what should be a Big 12 showcase. If the fact that Nebraska was passed over isn’t fair, it is logical.
That means nothing to Nebraska, which can’t wait to switch leagues. The loyal fan base can’t be blamed for not heading west in droves, as seems to be the case. The Cornhuskers played in last season’s Holiday Bowl, so you can’t blame a number of fans for not making the same trip twice.
What Nebraska fan really wants to pay for a second trip to San Diego in 12 months? What fan wants to drop money for airfare, hotels and tickets to see the same Washington team the Cornhuskers faced in September — the same team, by and large, that’s coming to Nebraska next season?
So the big loser here, when taking that into account, is the Holiday Bowl itself: less out-of-town fans, less overnight stays, less money for San Diego, less draw, less cachet, lighter pockets. Is anyone happy about this season’s Holiday Bowl?
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Tags: Holiday Bowl, Nebraska, Steve Sarkisian, Washington
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