SAN DIEGO — The No Doze Bowl.
The “All My Exes Live in Dan Beebe's Office" Bowl.
The “I'd Rather Watch Nebraska play Colorado in basketball" Bowl.
How about the Tylenol Bowl?
That would be for those of us in the media who have suffered numerous concussions this week. It stems from banging your head against the wall repeatedly, trying to find the meaning of this Holiday Bowl game.
Has there ever been a stranger Nebraska bowl game?
Ever been a Nebraska bowl game with less appeal?
Maybe 2002. That was the Independence Bowl against Mississippi. That was pretty brutal, but there was some intrigue because you knew that Frank Solich was at a crossroads and staff changes were on the horizon.
This one is the ultimate Wet Noodle Bowl.
Nebraska has one foot in the Big Ten and one out of the Big 12. The Huskers want to escape their past but can't really dive into the future yet.
There's this rematch against a Washington team that the Huskers beat by 35, on the Huskies' turf and in a stadium where the purple noise shook the roof.
So what is there to gain here? What is there to be won?
Why should you pay attention?
1. The continuing education of young Taylor Martinez.
On Wednesday, coach Bo Pelini was asked if this game could stabilize his quarterback position. Bo said no. End of angle.
However, this game figures to provide some definition to Martinez's debut, perhaps a bookend to the first game back on Sept. 18.
That was No. 3's smashing introduction to the world. He threw for 150 yards and ran for 137 and a combined four touchdowns. We wondered how his speed would look against BCS speed, and on the road. The answers came in spades.
But that was then. Martinez hasn't had a rushing touchdown since Oct. 7 at Kansas State. He hasn't played well since Oct. 23 at Oklahoma State. He's been hurt. He's been caught from behind by quality defenses.
He's been on the phone. He's been yelled at.
And he's been sacked, seven times, in the Big 12 championship game — a game in which he made poor decisions and folks started wondering if he was digressing.
Who is this kid? A one-year wonder or one-trick pony in the zone read? Or, more than likely, a young buck figuring things out on the run and doing so on bad wheels?
We get another glimpse Thursday. And while Washington promises to play better defense, staying home in gaps and not over-playing the zone read, NU's offensive line is still bigger and badder than U-Dub's front. And Martinez' ankle is healthier than it's been since it was first injured against Missouri on Oct. 30.
We may very well get a quarterback horse race in the spring. But Martinez can give himself a serious leg up Thursday. He's a work in progress, and Thursday is all about that progress.
“He hasn't even scratched the surface yet on what he can do," Pelini said. “It's mind-boggling to think about how far he can go."
Boggle our minds again, Taylor.
2. Will a Bo Pelini team dare to show up for a game flat?
No. If I had a life's savings, I would bet no on that every time. But kids are kids. As much as Pelini's “process" seems to run on automatic pilot, it's at least intriguing to me to see how hard this team plays Thursday in a no-win game.
No win? Nebraska is supposed to win. An ugly win won't look good. A loss is not unthinkable, but you don't want to think about what that would mean.
“I never worry about our team not showing up," Pelini said. “Hopefully we're way beyond that."
Nebraska would have to give this one away to lose it. I don't see it. Moreover, this is a group that respects the game, loves to play it and loves to win. Those are the instincts that should kick in Thursday.
3. Shawn Watson's job audition.
Is Watson Miami (Ohio) bound after this one? Stay tuned. Reports surfaced on Tuesday that Michigan State offensive coordinator Don Treadwell had accepted the job. Miami officials refuted it.
NU assistants have told me that Watson expects to hear about the job next week. So, if it is still in the balance, this game could help Watson's cause. With the offense healthy, and Niles Paul expected back, Watson might go for a big splash.
4. A preview of next season's team. We got it in 2008, with Ndamukong Suh's big Gator Bowl. And here last year, with the zone read and Wildcat formations against Arizona.
But this year, with Jared Crick still pondering a move, and Watson not sure if he'll be here, the pieces for 2011 are not yet in place. So what you see Thursday might not be what you get.
5. Momentum for the Big Ten? Nebraska will be feeling its way through that meat grinder for the first time. What happens Thursday won't change NU's perception or chances either way.
6. Pelini vs. Washington coach Steve Sarkisian. This was a fun matchup of Pete Carroll disciples, young defensive and offensive minds, back in September. Pelini had the better players up front and the better scheme.
Now, Sark will change some things. But so will Bo. U-Dub quarterback Jake Locker cost himself some draft money in that game. He thinks that he can get it back Thursday. Look for Locker to flash his wheels more.
But there's a lot of pride in that Blackshirt room. They'll want to prove round one wasn't a fluke. For football aficionados, the chess rematch could prove entertaining.
Pelini still has better chess pieces. And he's the better chess player.
7. This is a Nebraska football game. There are only 14 Husker games a year. Then we wait all year for another.
What other reason does anyone need?
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