Nebraska Cornhuskers: (9-3, 5-3)
It was just announced the USC Trojans will play the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the National University Holiday Bowl on December 27th in San Diego. This will be Nebraska’s fourth appearance in the Holiday Bowl and third since 2009. Talk about consistency, Nebraska has had at least nine wins in the past seven seasons, yet they made the shocking move and fired head coach Bo Pelini last Sunday.
Nebraska’s 2014 season was simple: They played well against unranked teams and struggled against top 25 teams. They started off the season with five straight wins but their nonconference schedule was weak: (Florida Atlantic, McNeese State, @ Fresno State, and Miami.
Against McNeese State at home, the Cornhuskers needed a late touchdown from quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. to running back Ameer Abdullah to survive the upset bid from an FCS team. They opened their conference season with a 45-14 victory over Illinois as Ameer Abdullah rushed for 208 yards and three touchdowns. Hint: you will hear a lot about Abdullah.
Nebraska’s first loss of the season came on October 4 in East Lansing, 27-22 to No. 10 Michigan State. Nebraska would respond with three straight victories over Northwestern, Rutgers and Purdue. Nebraska’s goal of a Big Ten title ended with two-straight losses to No. 20 Wisconsin and No. 25 Minnesota.
It was the first time since 2009 that the Cornhuskers lost back-to-back conference games. But Nebraska responded strong and ended the regular season with a dramatic 37-34 overtime victory in Iowa.
Players to Watch
Quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr.:
Tommy Armstrong had an up and down season in his first full season as the starting quarterback for Nebraska. The dual-threat product from Cibolo, Texas improved from last year, throwing for 2,314 yards and 19 touchdowns while also rushing for 664 yards and five touchdowns.
However, Armstrong still had a ton of issues with his competition percentage and turning the ball over. Armstrong completed just over 51% of his throws and had an interception in eight of the 12 games this season.
Running Back Ameer Abdullah:
Ameer Abdullah rushed for over 1,000 yards for the third straight season. His 1,523 rushing yards was good enough for 11th in the nation and one of the reasons why he was a finalist for the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation’s top running back. The 5’9" senior from Homewood, Alabama had seven games with at least 100 rushing yards and four with at least 200. Abdullah has elusive speed and will be the focal point for the Cornhuskers’ offense in the Holiday Bowl.
Defensive End Randy Gregory:
The matchup between Nebraska and USC will feature two of the best defensive prospects for the 2015 NFL Draft, both of which are juniors. Randy Gregory’s 2013 season was his first with the the team after transferring from Arizona Western CC and boy, did he impress.
He was named First-Team All-Big Ten and finished the season with 66 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, and 10.5 sacks. This season, Gregory’s numbers were down as he was constantly double-teamed but he did have 50 tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss, and 7.5 sacks. He’s extremely athletic and will play either outside linebacker or defensive end in the pros.