The Nebraska Cornhuskers will play the Washington Huskies for the third time in a calendar year on Saturday, and although the game's background is reminiscent of last year's matchup with Kansas State in some ways, the Huskers will most likely not find themselves running away with a five-touchdown victory.
After the Huskers struggled against an inferior opponent in South Dakota State, questions arose about their ability to go into Manhattan and beat a much better K-State team.
The Wildcats featured star running back Daniel Thomas, and after the Huskers struggled to stop the running games of the previous few opponents, many wondered if Thomas would have a field day.
Thomas ended up recording just 63 yards on 22 carries.
As Nebraska prepares to take on star back Chris Polk and the Huskies, the Cornhuskers may find themselves in a similar situation. After a less-than-impressive 42-29 win over the Fresno State Bulldogs last week, in which the defense was badly humbled, the team will be put under the microscope against Washington.
Nebraska responded beautifully to the criticism last year, thumping the Wildcats, 48-13. Don't expect the same thing this year, though.
The upcoming contest will be a grudge match for both schools. After Taylor Martinez and the Cornhuskers slapped the Huskies with a 56-21 loss in Seattle, Washington got a chance to redeem themselves when they were paired with Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl.
The Huskies responded by shutting down a hobbled Martinez and knocking off a disinterested Huskers squad, 19-7.
While Nebraska should come into this game with something to prove and play a much more inspired game on both sides of the ball, don't expect Washington to just lie down and give up. Although the Husky defense has been leaky so far this season, defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu recently expressed a strong desire to do to the Huskers what Nebraska did to them in their house last season.
The Washington defense will come to play in this game, and if they are able to shut down Nebraska's big-play ability, the Huskers may have a very difficult time moving the ball.
What's more, the Washington offense will most likely be much more potent than last year's Kansas State squad. In addition to Chris Polk, the Huskies have playmakers such as Keith Price, Jesse Callier and Jermaine Kearse that the Huskers will need to watch very closely.
All indications are that this game will be a dogfight. For Nebraska to come out on top, its performance in the trenches will need to be like night and day compared to the performance against Fresno State.
Even without the return of Alfonzo Dennard, I see considerable improvement on defense and a much more inspired game overall. Nebraska also has a lot more playmakers than it did last year, and if the Huskers can get the ball to their young studs, I see them coming away with a hard-fought victory.
Prediction: Nebraska 35, Washington 20