Music City Bowl: Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Tennessee Volunteers

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Tennessee Volunteers

Date: Dec. 30, 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

Location: Nissan Stadium | Nashville, Tennessee


Best moment: In the season opener against Fresno State, Nebraska intentionally lined up to punt with only 10 men on the field. It was a tribute to Sam Foltz, their punter who was killed in a car accident this summer. It was a touching moment, and the Cornhuskers drew inspiration from Foltz all season.

Lowest moment: A week after an overtime loss at Wisconsin, Nebraska failed to show much fight at Ohio State. The 62-3 blowout loss -- the program’s biggest margin of defeat in 12 years -- exposed a team that had started 7-0 and risen into the top 10 while playing a soft schedule. The Cornhuskers would lose three of their final five games.

Key player: Quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. was knocked out of the Ohio State game early, hurt his hamstring the next week against Minnesota and missed the Maryland game. He returned but did not have his trademark mobility in a 40-10 loss at Iowa in the season finale. As he goes, usually, the Nebraska offense also goes.

Motivation level: Medium. The late-season swoon calls into question how invested the Cornhuskers will be in a postseason contest. Then again, Nebraska sneaked into a bowl at 5-7 last year and beat UCLA. Head coach Mike Riley has praised the high character of this year’s team, and he’ll have to hope a strong group of seniors leads the way in December. -- Brian Bennett


Best moment: That last-second, Hail Mary victory at Georgia was the last great moment of the Tennessee season. Just seconds before Joshua Dobbs heaved a 43-yard pass to Jauan Jennings in a sea of red, Jacob Eason thought he won the game with his own Hail Mary.

Lowest moment: Losing to South Carolina was bad, but getting beat by 11 to Vanderbilt to close the season – with the Allstate Sugar Bowl in sight – was gut-wrenching for the Vols. What’s more is that the defense gave up 608 yards to the SEC’s worst offense.

Key player: Defensive end Derek Barnett has been the best player on Tennessee’s team from day one this season. On a depleted defensive line, he’s the key to everything Tennessee is capable of doing on defense. Barnett ended the regular season leading the SEC in sacks (12) and tackles for loss (18).

Motivation level: It can’t be very high after the way the Vols ended the season. The overwhelming favorite to win the SEC East went 4-4 in conference play, despite beating Florida for the first time in 11 years. Tennessee had a chance at the Sugar Bowl, but those dreams were dashed after the loss to Vandy. -- Edward Aschoff