SAN ANTONIO — Michigan coach Lloyd Carr does not consider the Alamo Bowl a comedown for a program with Rose Bowl appearances the last two years and nine straight New Year's Day berths.
Instead, he thinks about the opposition - Nebraska.
"You look back at the last 30 years, and they've won more national championships than anybody in the country," Carr said. "We have a history with Nebraska going back to the (1986) Fiesta Bowl and, of course, the '97 co-national championship."
He thinks those factors have been a genuine asset for the Wolverines as they approach tonight's game. Motivation has been an issue for 20th-ranked Michigan (7-4), as high as No. 3 before losses to Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Minnesota dropped the Wolverines to 3-3.
A 25-21 regular-season-
ending defeat to Ohio State left Michigan with four losses by a total of 17 points.
Quarterback Chad Henne said he and his teammates were out to make the best of a season that went awry.
"It's a difference," he said of being in San Antonio. "But to be up against a great opponent like Nebraska has got to spike our eyes up because they have so much tradition and pride in their program."
These aren't the Cornhuskers most college football fans envision when they think of Nebraska, which has won or shared five national titles since 1970, including three in the '90s.
The Huskers (7-4) still are trying to find their way back to national prominence under Bill Callahan.
Nebraska is 12-10 since Callahan replaced Frank Solich, 10-10 against Division I-A opponents.
Last year's 5-6 finish ended an NCAA-record bowl streak that dated to 1969, and this season their bowl eligibility was in jeopardy after losses in four of five games. They beat Kansas State and Colorado to reach the Alamo.
Callahan, who has played 29 freshmen or sophomores this season, said the Michigan matchup was a warmup for next year's games against the two teams vying for this season's national championship, Southern California and Texas.
"This will be a great learning experience," Callahan said.
Though it's a matchup of 7-4 teams, Michigan and Nebraska are giants of college football, with the Wolverines first in all-time wins (849) and the Huskers fourth (793).
With Nebraska missing the postseason last year, Michigan now has the longest active bowl streak at 31.