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Can 5-win Nebraska pull off an upset against UCLA?

Foster Farms Bowl
UCLA (8-4) vs. Nebraska (5-7)
Santa Clara, California
Dec. 26, 2015

Nebraska head coach Mike Riley stands on the sideline during the first half of an NCAA college football game in West Lafayette, Ind., Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Nebraska head coach Mike Riley stands on the sideline during the first half of an NCAA college football game in West Lafayette, Ind., Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

On the whole, Mike Riley’s first season at Nebraska did not go so well, but the Huskers happened to be one of three 5-7 teams to earn a bowl invitation thanks to a high APR.

Things looked really bad following a disastrous loss at Purdue on Halloween, but the Huskers responded by playing some of their best football of the season down the stretch, including handing Michigan State its only loss of the year. Nebraska also gave Iowa a good showing in the season finale, so there is reason for a bit of optimism in Lincoln heading into Saturday’s Foster Farms Bowl.

The Huskers have a tough test against a talented UCLA team that fell short of high expectations this year. The Bruins had a chance to clinch the Pac-12 South against USC in the regular season finale, but fell 40-21 in a disappointing performance. So instead of playing in the Pac-12 title game for a shot at a Rose Bowl berth, the Bruins will face a five-win Nebraska team in a mid-tier bowl.

UCLA QB Josh Rosen. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
UCLA QB Josh Rosen. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

That’s certainly an underwhelming consolation, but it’s another chance to see some of the playmakers the Bruins have on both sides of the ball. Freshman phenom quarterback Josh Rosen (3,351 yards, 20 TDs) had a great season and earned Pac-12 freshman of the year honors. Rosen has a slew of talented receivers to work with, highlighted by Jordan Payton (75 catches, 1,069 yards, 4 TDs). Running back Paul Perkins had another great year as well, racking up 1,275 yards and 13 touchdowns on the year.

Defensive tackle Kenny Clark leads the way defensively for the Bruins while Aaron Wallace and Takkarist McKinley both had solid seasons coming off the edge.

That defensive line could give Nebraska all sorts of issues. The Huskers’ running game is nothing special and Tommy Armstrong is a classic dual-threat quarterback, but is susceptible to turnovers (16 interceptions).

If Armstrong can avoid giving the ball away, the Huskers should have a decent shot to hang around in this one. They could have the edge on the outside with wideouts Jordan Westerkamp and Brandon Reilly, so look for Armstrong to take a few shots down the field early on.

Picks

Graham: Nebraska’s porous secondary is going to doom it in this contest. Look for Josh “Hot Tub” Rosen to pick the Huskers apart and set up success for the ground game. UCLA 31, Nebraska 17.

Nick: UCLA is the better team, though Nebraska is going to make this game really fun to watch. What will the Huskers screw up? UCLA 41, Nebraska 24.

Sam: Nebraska played a lot better in its final three games but still cannot matchup with the talent UCLA presents. The Bruins probably won't be too motivated to play this one, but they'll get the job done. UCLA 34, Nebraska 24. 

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Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!