Friday, December 01, 2006

Big Eight Championship: Nebraska vs. Oklahoma

Just the way it's supposed to be... Oklahoma meets Nebraska for the conference championship. Wilkinson and Devaney may have passed on, Osborne and Switzer may be retired, the Big XII may put this game on hiatus, but this matchup still resonates.

CornNation has a nice little comparison of the matchup which shows the two teams are fairly well matched. Oklahoma has certainly played well this season especially after losing both their quarterback to NCAA violations and Adrian Peterson to a shoulder injury. Bob Stoops has certainly earned his coach of the year award (unless it turns out Stoops knew more about Rhett Bomar's high-paying "job" at an Oklahoma City car dealership) this season.

I think this matchup boils down to two questions:
  • How balanced will the Husker offense be?
  • How will the Huskers tackle on defense?
Offensively, Marlon Lucky has a sore back and Cody Glenn is injured. Game time temperatures in the teens will hamper both teams offenses. While it will make it more difficult to throw the ball, Nebraska simply cannot slip into a shell like they did against USC. Nebraska's offense is at it's best when it's being balanced, especially like in the 2nd half against Tejas. Brandon Jackson will be a key to this game, but BJax cannot win the game if he's the only offense on first down. Nebraska must mix it up.

Defensively, Nebraska must play fundamentally sound football as Oklahoma is going to try to run at and over the Huskers. If they continue to show shoddy fundamentals and allow the Sooners to gain big yardage, they will lose. Nebraska can't "hope" tackling improves, they need to do it.

And what is the motivation of this Husker team? All season long, after a bad game, we've heard that "our goals are still in front of us", pointing towards making it to Kansas City. Mission Accomplished? Perhaps to some. But I doubt that 60,000 Husker fans are making this trip just because they like the balmy breezes coming off the Plaza. Certainly just showing up in Kansas City isn't going to be enough for Nebraska's athletic director.

So what's my prediction? Most of the talking heads don't give the Huskers much of a chance, automatically slotting the Sooners in the Fiesta Bowl. Well, I think it's going to be closer than that. But, I still am a little unsure of this game. Is it the cold? Is it the matchup? Is it Sooner Magic? A little of it all, I'm afraid. But this is a classic matchup, so I'll pull up a classic score: Oklahoma 17, Nebraska 14.

Hope I'm wrong.

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