The UCLA Bruins and the Nebraska Cornhuskers both have something to prove in Saturday's late Foster Farms Bowl.
Nebraska and first-year coach Mike Riley are just one of three sub-.500 teams (5-7) playing in a bowl game this year thanks to backing in via academic ratings. Backing in or not, the Cornhuskers now have a chance to prove their record is a fluke after five losses by a maximum of five points.
UCLA and Jim Mora would like to point out a few things too, but they'd mainly like to show that the program has something to build on in the coming years. Brett Hundley left the program with consecutive 10-win seasons, but the best Josh Rosen could do was 8-4 while struggling in the deep Pac-12.
Saturday, one will prove something to the world. Let's take a look at everything to know about the contest.
When: Saturday, December 26, at 9:15 p.m. ET
Where: Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, California
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Spread: UCLA (-6.5)
Team Injury Reports
|Alex Redmond||OL||Ques Sat|
|Conor McDermott||OL||Ques Sat|
|Steven Manfro||RB||Ques Sat|
|Josh Woods||LB||Out for season|
|Tyler Scott||WR||Out for season|
|Simon Goines||OL||Out for season|
|Mossi Johnson||WR||Out for season|
|Adam Searl||P||Out indefinitely|
|Myles Jack||LB||Out for season|
|Eddie Vanderdoes||DL||Out for season|
|Source: USA Today.|
|Marcus Newby||LB||Prob Sat|
|Mick Stoltenberg||DL||Out Sat|
|Alonzo Moore||WR||Ques Sat|
|Source: USA Today.|
Injury reports courtesy of USA Today.
The case of "what if?" is strong with Mora's Bruins, a team some people might have thrown around as a potential College Football Playoff contender before the season.
Instead, the Bruins dropped a 38-23 decision to Arizona State at the start of October and then followed with a 56-35 throttling at the hands of then-No. 15 Stanford before getting back on track.
The Bruins finished by losing two out of three. There's redemption available here, though, against a rough Nebraska defense that gave up 288.2 yards per game. Rosen is talented enough to take advantage after throwing for 20 scores this year.
Perhaps more important than anything else is simply taking care of the football while leaning on lead back Paul Perkins, who has 1,275 yards and 13 scores this year.
Taking care of the football isn't something the Cornhuskers do well, as the team ranks 119th with a minus-13 turnover margin.
For UCLA, playing its game and ensuring a 5-7 team cannot capitalize on turnovers looks like the key to success—on paper.
Boom or Bust
The above defines the erratic Cornhuskers well this season.
As a brief example, Riley's team went to Minnesota and scored a 48-25 victory, only to lose to two-win Purdue in 55-45 fashion a couple of weeks later. It also upset then-No. 7 Michigan State 39-38, only to fall to then-No. 4 Iowa 28-20 later in the season.
There's no definitive cause of the struggles, though the erratic play and miserable turnover margin are big reasons there was a coaching change in the first place.
For Riley, Saturday's game is a positive as the program looks to next year.
"We're really glad to be practicing football," he said, according to ESPN.com. "We have a great opportunity. All of what we are doing is focused on winning the game. This is one more great opportunity. We've had a couple of them in the past month, and we have one more coming up."
Nebraska will need to lean on the big play to keep pace. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. is explosive at times while trying to compensate for a struggling pass defense, such as a three-touchdown outing against BYU, but he's miserable at other times, such as his four-interception outing against Iowa.
A defense allowing just 113.4 rushing yards per game will need to force UCLA into a one-dimensional attack, and Armstrong needs to have a near-perfect game for the Cornhuskers to prove to the globe the record isn't indicative of their talent.
Though Rosen's freshman inexperience has shone through at times, UCLA is by and large more consistent and productive with the football than Nebraska.
A team gets only so many passes for mistakes before a minus-13 turnover margin becomes a major talking point, and Riley's first year of molding the program to his liking has been an odd transition period, indeed.
While the Cornhuskers aren't the just-happy-to-be-here type, UCLA is more experienced and consistent at most spots.
Rosen's going to have an easy time throwing against the Nebraska defense, especially if Armstrong makes a few mistakes and gives him additional chances. It'll be the difference as the Bruins pull away late.
Prediction: UCLA 37, Nebraska 30