Over on the Husker mailing list, several posters have commented on a seeming apathy for the Cotton Bowl matchup with Auburn. Certainly not a lot of buzz about the matchup as I scan various Husker message boards, and Nebraska still has tickets left to sell from their allotment. Scalpers are dumping tickets for as little as $12. KMTV-channel 3 reported this evening that merchants are already marking down Cotton Bowl apparel due to lack of sales.
So what gives? Some folks think the Cotton Bowl is a inferior bowl, though I'm not sure I get the logic here. It's Nebraska's first New Year's Day bowl game since the 24-17 Orange Bowl victory over Miami 12 years ago. Fox is packaging this game as the kickoff to their BCS Bowl Blitz, and the legendary Pat Summerall will be calling play-by-play. (Yes, Summerall has seen better days, but if his work with ESPN 2 years ago is any indication, he's still more coherent than the Husker Information Minister.) Yes, the Cotton Bowl stadium isn't the greatest, but dumpy stadiums never stopped Husker fans from travelling to Baylor or Kansas State.
Is it a hangover from the Oklahoma game in Kansas City? After the game, the number of visitors here looking for unkind words about Bill Callahan increased dramatically. Or is it just that Husker fans spent their money on scalped tickets in Kansas City and Los Angeles? Or maybe the cold sapped the strength of fans?
Is the matchup against #10 Auburn a yawner? I wouldn't think so. Earlier this season, Auburn was near the top of the ratings until coach Tommy Tuberville started whining about the BCS and then promptly lost at home to Arkansas. A victory over the Tigers certainly would give Nebraska another boost in confidence, much like last year's Alamo Bowl victory.
Certainly Vegas seems to like the Huskers chances; they are only 2 point underdogs to the Tigers. The Huskers seem to match up very well against the Tigers. Auburn is 4th in the SEC in rushing, but 10th in the SEC in passing, which bodes well for the Blackshirts which have had much more luck stopping the run than the pass this season. Conversely, Nebraska's strength at pounding the rock would seem to be ideal against a smaller Auburn defense that is ranked 48th nationally at stopping the run.
One problem with pounding the rock in the Cotton Bowl is the Huskers' rash of injuries at I-back. Brandon Jackson's cast is off, but will play with a splint. Cody Glenn and Kenny Wilson look doubtful to play, and Marlon Lucky isn't recovered from his sore back either. Let's hope that Jackson is able to take the brunt of the load next Monday morning; Auburn's speed on defense would seem to neutralize Lucky's abilities.