The consensus of opinion seems to be that Nebraska-Oklahoma lacks the game's traditional excitement because neither team has a national ranking for the first time since, when, 1961? National significance or not, however, the old excitement will be there for me (and I would guess many from my generation) when I see those maroon Oklahoma helmets, gumballs they look like, with the OU on the sides. Nebraska-Oklahoma represents the best in college football for me, just as Ohio State-Michigan probably represents it for folks in Michigan and Ohio. It doesn't get any better than Nebraska-Oklahoma, regardless of what the Big 12 has done to the series. Having said that, I'm surprised that consensus among those with whom I come in daily contact seems to be that the Cornhuskers will win, without question, a confidence that makes me wonder as the game approaches. Certainly, Oklahoma has dropped dramatically given preseason expectations. But the Sooners' decline doesn't diminish the fact that they have had highly ranked recruiting classes, which means they should have talent. Also, their three losses are hardly disgraceful. Texas and UCLA, of course, are undefeated, and TCU is hardly a pushover -- plus, that was the opening game, when uncertainty at quarterback can be a real problem. In addition, the fact that Oklahoma had to play overtime to beat Baylor at home can be countered by the fact that Nebraska had to play overtime to beat Iowa State at home. And Iowa State hasn't exactly met expectations this season. Also, when Nebraska played Baylor, everyone agreed that the Bears had improved, so why wouldn't that improvement apply in the Oklahoma game as well? Is there such a thing as selective improvement? Not that I'm aware of. A healthy Adrian Peterson would make a big difference probably, and though he could play, he probably won't be full speed. But we still don't know what would happen if a team tried to line up and run at Nebraska in an attempt to nullify the speed at linebacker and take advantage of their size. Rhett Bomar is no doubt improving at quarterback and though he hasn't run a lot (and averages less than a yard and a half per carry because of the losses), he has the speed to do so. Nebraska has the advantage of playing at home, but I'm hard-pressed to sell Oklahoma short. I've been conditioned to think that way probably by all those seasons when Barry Switzer was the coach. Tom Osborne's record against Oklahoma during Switzer's time was 5-12, and 8-1 after. That's my frame of reference. A week ago, I would have picked Nebraska, regardless of what happened at Missouri. But the more I look at it and the closer it gets, the more that seems optimistic.
Posted by Mike Babcock
@ Friday, October 28, 2005 || 1
Nebraska got untracked offensively against Iowa State, sort of. Zac Taylor certainly passed efficiently, and as Bill Callahan said afterward, he took a physical pounding without flinching. So Taylor provided a glimpse of what the offense can do. But to think, as some apparently do, that there won't be glitches from here on out is a bit naive. Plus, to have 400 yards passing in regulation and only 13 points on the board shouldn't be described as "untracked." Instead of leaving yards on the field, the Cornhuskers left points, a greater concern. Still, what Taylor did after only three games was enouraging, if not remarkable. He needs time to be comfortable. And the offense needs to be able to run the ball better than it did against Iowa State to provide him with some physical comfort. However, I suggested that Nebraska would be inclined and able to run against Iowa State. So what do I know? Maybe it doesn't need to run. But it does need to translate all those yards into points.
Posted by Mike Babcock
@ Friday, October 07, 2005 || 8