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Originally published December 5, 2010 at 5:05 PM | Page modified December 6, 2010 at 7:14 PM

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Washington to play Nebraska in Holiday Bowl

UW landed in the Holiday Bowl after the Alamo Bowl took Arizona to face Oklahoma State. And the Holiday ended up with Nebraska largely because the Insight Bowl selected Missouri, leaving the Cornhuskers for the San Diego game.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Dec. 30

Holiday Bowl, UW vs. Nebraska @ San Diego, 7 p.m., ESPN

Getting tickets

Listed at $80-$95.50 at www.holidaybowl.com and $70 (for season-ticket holders only Monday) at www.gohuskies.com

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The Washington Huskies say the three-game winning streak that propelled them into a bowl is proof of how much they have changed since their 3-6 start that made the postseason seem unlikely.

They'll get a chance to prove that assertion in the bowl game their winning streak earned them when they face Nebraska on Dec. 30 in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego. Kickoff is 7 p.m. Pacific time.

It's the same Nebraska team that beat the Huskies 56-21 in Seattle on Sept. 18, a low point in a season that verged on disappointing until the last three games.

"It's an opportunity to get revenge on them a little bit because they came in here and they whupped us pretty good," said safety Nate Williams. "So I think we will definitely end up having a big chip on our shoulder and that will just naturally give us a little bit of motivation off the top."

The pairing was a bit of a surprise as bowl games generally attempt to avoid rematches of regular-season games. And UW and Nebraska also will play next September in Lincoln.

But the Holiday Bowl ultimately had little choice when bowls ahead of it in the pecking order made their decisions. The Holiday Bowl has the No. 3 pick of Pac-10 bowl-eligible teams and No. 5 of Big 12.

When the Alamo Bowl chose Arizona to face Oklahoma State, the Holiday Bowl had to take Washington as its Pac-10 team. And when the Insight Bowl, in more of a surprise, chose Missouri, the Holiday had to take Nebraska, which fell out of a chance to play in a BCS bowl when it lost the Big 12 title game Saturday to Oklahoma 23-20.

That Nebraska had played in the Holiday Bowl last year, beating Arizona 33-0, had made many think it even more unlikely the Cornhuskers would return to San Diego.

One theory is that the Big 12 helped persuade other bowls to look more favorably on teams that are remaining in its conference, one reason the Insight might have chosen Missouri instead of Nebraska, which is leaving the Big 12 after this year for the Big Ten. However, Insight Bowl officials noted that Missouri finished six slots ahead of Nebraska in the final BCS standings and said they simply chose the team they thought would make the best game.

Holiday Bowl president Eric Graves said he was excited about the matchup and that "it has the potential to be a great game."

That's certainly what the Huskies are counting on, though they are likely to be significant underdogs considering the manner in which Nebraska dominated the first meeting this season.

Nebraska scored touchdowns the first two times it had the ball and rushed for 383 yards and six touchdowns in tying the record for points scored by an opponent at Husky Stadium.

"They were ranked No. 8 in the nation and with all that hype I think guys were trying to do a little too much," Williams said. "We've just got to stay levelheaded and stay cool and take care of our one job and everything will work out like it has the past three weeks for us."

UW quarterback Jake Locker was just 4 for 20 for 71 yards passing in that game with two interceptions. It's a performance often cited as one that has turned NFL scouts more cautious about his future.

"I just think from anybody who plays sports and is competitive, anytime you have the opportunity to go out and improve on a performance or a game that you didn't do your best in individually and as a group, it's always a good opportunity and it's something that all competitors hope for, I think," Locker said.

Mostly, however, he was glad to have a bowl game to go to, UW's first since 2002. Getting to a bowl was one of the main reasons Locker said he came back for his senior year, and he said his happiness in that decision was reinforced as he listened to the plans for the next few weeks during a team meeting Sunday night.

"It's really cool just to be able to be in there and have them explain this kind of stuff," he said, noting that usually the meeting this time of year is to discuss plans for the offseason instead of trips to a bowl. "It just puts a smile on my face. It feels good."

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com.

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