WHO: No. 21 Tennessee (8-4) vs. Nebraska (9-3)
WHAT: The 19th Music City Bowl
WHEN: December 30, 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee
THE SKINNY: A pair of college football blue-bloods who have suffered some key injuries over the past few months meet up in the postseason looking to avoid an unwelcome losing streak to close out 2016.
That’s certainly the case for the in-state participant in this bowl, as Tennessee began this season with talk of being “back” to national prominence and winning the SEC East, but quickly saw things spiral out of control with losses to South Carolina and Vanderbilt down the stretch. The defense has seen several starters go down with injuries and given up points and yards a plenty the past month. They still have one of the best players in the country in Derek Barnett, who is tied with Reggie White on the school’s all-time sack list and has a chance to move past the Hall of Famer in his hometown for what likely will be the defensive end’s final game with the Vols. Offensively, the team is led by the steady signal-caller Joshua Dobbs and explosive tailback Alvin Kamara, who both need big games if the team want to take home a victory.
As banged up as Tennessee is, the injury situation for Nebraska is no better. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong has set a handful of career records with the Cornhuskers but has missed bowl prep with a hamstring injury and may not be 100 percent if he ends up starting. Backup Ryker Fyfe is also recovering from a wrist injury and productive wideout Jordan Westerkamp‘s career is over after needing surgery on his knee. That will put a lot of pressure on the big boys up front for Nebraska and tailback Terrell Newby to keep grinding things out and staying productive on offense. Be on the lookout for linebacker Josh Banderas too, as the Blackshirt defense will be counted on to keep things close.
This one doesn’t have quite the cache of the previous meetings between Big Red and the Vols back in the Orange and Fiesta Bowls of the late 1990’s but it should still be a pretty entertaining one given the squads involved. Neither team enters this one with any momentum but in the end Tennessee’s superior athletes win out in a high-scoring affair.
THE PREDICTION: Tennessee 42, Nebraska 30