Heart of Dallas Bowl: Washington Huskies vs. Southern Miss Golden Eagles

Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl: Washington Huskies vs. Southern Miss Golden Eagles

Date: Dec. 26, 2:20 p.m. ET on ESPN

Location: Dallas | Cotton Bowl

Washington Huskies

Best moment: Washington didn't just become bowl eligible with its victory in its season finale, it also blew out state rival Washington State, 45-10. And it didn't only blow out the Cougars, it also embarrassed the nation's 20th-ranked team. Washington had three defensive touchdowns in the second half against a previously rolling Washington State offense, which struggled without starting QB Luke Falk. It was the Huskies’ sixth win in the series' past seven games, and perhaps the sweetest because it hurt the Cougs the most.

Lowest moment: After Washington upset USC, the Huskies returned home to play the struggling, wounded, hated Oregon Ducks, who had just lost at home to Washington State. It seemed like a perfect moment for Washington to end 11 years of frustration against its Northwest rival. Alas, it was not to be, though the 26-20 final brought the Huskies within 17 points for the first time during the series losing streak.

Key player: Senior linebacker Travis Feeney led the Huskies' defense, the Pac-12's best unit, with 15.5 tackles for a loss and seven sacks. He also was tied for the team lead with three forced fumbles. He was voted defensive MVP by his teammates.

Motivation level: This is a young team that was hot and cold much of the year, though the defense was consistently good. You'd think they'd be pretty excited about earning bowl eligibility in what was clearly a rebuilding year. But young teams also can get distracted.

-- Ted Miller

Southern Miss Golden Eagles

Best moment: The Golden Eagles claimed the Conference USA West Division title with a 58-24 win over Louisiana Tech on Nov. 28. Three fourth-quarter touchdown runs from Ito Smith and 30 points off turnovers helped Southern Miss secure the overwhelming road win. It was the Golden Eagles' sixth straight win to end the regular season.

Lowest moment: Southern Miss’ 31-10 loss to Marshall on Oct. 9 was the Golden Eagles’ only conference setback during the regular season. It was a lackluster offensive showing from one of Conference USA’s top offenses, with Southern Miss managing a season-low 0.71 points per drive and 4.72 yards per play against Marshall.

Key player: QB Nick Mullens makes Southern Miss’ offense go with his efficient passing. He finished the regular season with 3,964 passing yards and 35 touchdowns to rank in the top 10 among FBS quarterbacks in each category.

Motivational level: A double-digit win season would be a major step forward for a Southern Miss program that won four games in the previous three seasons.

-- Brandon Chatmon