LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -Bo Pelini's first Nebraska-Colorado game as Cornhuskers coach won't affect the Big 12 North standings. It will have an effect on the bowl season.
Nebraska is looking to play in one on New Year's Day.
Colorado is just looking to play in one.
The Cornhuskers (7-4, 4-3) have won four of five to move into position for a Gator Bowl bid if they can beat the Buffaloes.
``If that happens, great. I'd love to get to a New Year's Day bowl game,'' Pelini said. ``If it's not a New Year's Day bowl game, I know this: If we win the football game we'll have more options than if we don't.''
Injury-depleted Colorado has lost six of eight after a 3-0 start and needs a win over the Huskers to become bowl-eligible. The Insight, Independence and Texas bowls would be possibilities.
aska a bowl bid and marking the end of the Bill Callahan era.
``There's a lot on it,'' CU coach Dan Hawkins said. ``It's the last game, and you always want to finish. It's Nebraska. That means a lot. Like I told our guys, 'All the chips are in the middle. You're all in. There's no reason not to be.'''
Recent Colorado-Nebraska games have not packed the punch of the meetings from the mid-1980s through the early 2000s. This will be the third time in four years, but only the fourth time since 1988, that neither team is in the Top 25 when they've met.
But remnants of the rivalry were apparent early in the week when Nebraska players spoke of the joy they would derive from keeping Colorado out of a bowl game.
Pelini prefers to keep his focus on remaking the Nebraska program and improving its bowl position.
Nebraska has been playing some of its best football since an embarrassing 62-28 loss at Oklahoma on Nov. 1. The Huskers followed a solid win over Kansas with a 56-28 victory at Kansas State two weeks ago. The Joe Ganz-led offense is rolling up 463 yards a game, a figure that ranks just sixth in the prolific Big 12 but ninth nationally.
Other than obvious breakdowns against Missouri and Oklahoma, the Huskers' defense has done about as well as anyone else in the Big 12.
y like Oklahoma did Saturday night, I'd be pretty fired up,'' a smiling Pelini said, referring to the Sooners' 65-21 rout of Texas Tech.
``I think we've come a long way, I really do. I see improvement, a lot of guys individually. I've seen a lot of guys develop. Is this program where I want it to be? No, not yet.''
But playing Georgia Tech or Florida State in the Gator Bowl would be a fantastic finish for Pelini's first season at Nebraska. He took over a program that arguably was worse than its 5-7 record last year indicated and, with the exception of the Missouri and Oklahoma games, put a competitive product on the field.
``Three weeks ago, after that Oklahoma game, I said this is a three-game season. Myself, the players, we committed to going undefeated in that three-game season,'' Pelini said. ``We'll worry about the bowl game, whatever happens there, when that comes. We need to win this football game. There is a sense of urgency for me, the staff and the players to get it done and make sure we keep this ship heading in the right direction and getting some momentum for this program.''
But defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said it's a great sign that the Huskers are even in the New Year's bowl conversation.
``Obviously, we're on our way, getting back to where we're supposed to be - always being in a bowl game and being in a good one,'' Suh said.
uined by injuries. Eleven players have been lost for the season.
``To lose this many guys permanently is pretty amazing really,'' Hawkins said.
Hawkins is 13-23 in three seasons at Colorado, and the injuries have stunted his program's progress. Highly regarded freshman tailback Darrell Scott missed the 30-17 loss to Oklahoma State on Nov. 15 because of an ankle injury and is questionable for Friday. So is free safety Ryan Walters, who sprained an ankle early against OSU.
Then there's been the spotty quarterback play. Cody Hawkins went the distance against OSU, but he split time with Tyler Hansen the previous four games.
``This whole venture has been a challenging thing for coach Hawk, but a good one. That's why I came,'' Dan Hawkins said. ``I knew it wasn't going to be easy.''

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