Holiday, Poinsettia Bowl lineups set

Arizona and Nebraska will square off in the 32nd annual Pacific Life Holiday Bowl , while Cal will play Utah in the fifth annual Poinsettia Bowl, organizers announced Sunday.

The Dec. 30 Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium pits the 8-4 Wildcats, who finished tied for second in the Pacific-10 with a 6-3 mark, and the 9-4 Cornhuskers, who won the Big 12 North division before losing a heartbreaker to No. 2 ranked Texas in the conference championship game.

Arizona downed USC 21-17 Saturday to finish the season tied in the Pac- 10 standings with Stanford and Oregon State, but the Wildcats defeated both of those teams in high-scoring games earlier this season, giving it the nod for the Holiday Bowl.

“We’re thrilled to earn the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl bid the way we did in the last couple weeks, and excited to be in San Diego,” said Arizona head coach Mike Stoops. “Our players have worked hard all season for a reward like this, and will work hard to show what Arizona and the Pac-10 Conference are all about in the game itself.’'

Holiday Bowl officials reportedly favored the easy accessibility of San Diego to Arizona’s fans over Stanford’s attraction of Heisman Trophy candidate Toby Gerhart, as well as locally popular head coach Jim Harbaugh. Oregon State also was would have been an interesting choice, as the Beavers are quarterbacked by Carlsbad High School alumnus Sean Canfield and coached by popular former Chargers boss Mike Riley.

Arizona fielded perhaps its best team ever in 1998, and the Wildcats came back from a third quarter deficit to defeat the ‘huskers 23-20.

This year’s Wildcats have played a number of shootouts. With the exception of routs over weak Washington State and UCLA, their margin of success or failure in conference games a just a little over four points per game.

Nebraska is a traditional powerhouse with several national titles under its belt, but the program has been recovering from recent tough times.

“We have a lot of players in our program from California and I know they will enjoy

playing in their home state,’' said Cornhuskers head coach Bo Pelini. “I’m sure our Nebraska fans will also travel in full force to San Diego.”

The Cornhuskers led undefeated Texas late in the Big 12 championship game until the Longhorns kicked a 49-yard field goal with one second left on the clock.

“We’re very pleased with this matchup,’' said bowl President Barbara Warden. “Arizona and Nebraska met here 11 years ago and to date, it’s still one of the most successful games in our bowl’s history. We look forward to welcoming the thousands of fans from these two premier institutions back to our great city.’'

In San Diego’s other post-season college football contest, the Dec. 23 Poinsettia Bowl, also at Qualcomm, the California Golden Bears (8-4 overall, 5- 4 in the Pac-10) will play the Utah Utes (9-3 overall, 6-2 in the Mountain West Conference).

The Poinsettia Bowl matches the sixth-place team from the Pacific-10 and with the second choice from the MWC — conference champ Texas Christian (12-0 and ranked No. 3) will play Boise State (13-0 and ranked No. 6) in a matchup of undefeateds in the Fiesta Bowl.

Cal will be the first Pacific-10 Conference team to play in the game.

“We’ve had great experiences in bowl games in San Diego in the past,’' said Cal head coach Jeff Tedford. We’ve always been treated very well, and the hospitality has been outstanding. We are looking forward to playing a quality opponent from the Mountain West Conference.’'

Utah will be playing in the game for the second time in three years.

“We have around 25 players on our roster from Southern California, and we hope for a big turnout from our fans, as is typical anytime we play in Qualcomm Stadium,” said Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham. “Cal is a formidable opponent and one we look forward to playing.”