Nebraska Football: Look for the Huskers to Run the Table to Finish the Season
Nebraska's sitting pretty at 7-2 right now, although its more important record at the moment is 4-1, which is good enough to have the Huskers atop the Legends Division. Sure, they might have gotten a liiiittle help along the way from a horrific pass-interference call that set them up for an easy score and the win last week against Michigan State, but past that the season's going remarkably well.
7-2's good. You know what's even better than that? 12-2, and that's the direction in which Nebraska looks headed as it sets its sights on Pasadena.
Nebraska's tied with Michigan for the lead in the Legends Division, but the Huskers' 23-9 win over the Wolverines two weeks ago will give Nebraska the crucial tiebreaker should the teams end up tied in the conference standings at the end of the regular season.
How many wins will Nebraska end up with this season?
Moreover, Nebraska may not even need the tiebreaker, as its only loss has come against Ohio State, a team Michigan still has yet to play and will probably be a substantial underdog to. So there's probably going to be some wiggle room for the Huskers by the end of the season.
It's unlikely Nebraska will need that room, though.
The end of the regular season isn't likely to give Nebraska many headaches. Penn State comes to town this week and is capable of hanging with the Huskers, but Ohio State proved that you can run on the Nittany Lions—and that's exactly what Nebraska's planning on. Nebraska's rightfully favored in this game.
After that, it's another home game, this time with division cellar-dweller Minnesota. The Gophers are feisty enough to make that one a game for a while—but only for a while. Last is a trip to Iowa, and all Nebraska would have to do is score, oh, four points and that one's a win.
Going 10-2 in the regular season would be fun enough. But fortunately, the postseason sets up very well for Nebraska too, so the ever-familiar four-loss season should finally be a thing of the past for Bo Pelini and his team.
The Big Ten Championship is going to be against either Wisconsin or Indiana, and odds are that it'll be Wisconsin. Nebraska's already got a win over the Badgers under its belt, one in which the Huskers overcame a 21-point deficit.
More ominously for Wisconsin, that close game was with the services of QB Joel Stave, who's out for the year with a collarbone injury. Danny O'Brien is back in at QB, and there's no evidence yet that that'll work out great for the Badgers, seeing as how it led to two disappointing non-conference performances before he was benched and the evaporation of Wisconsin's lead against Michigan State after Stave went out.
That gets Nebraska to 11-2—and to Pasadena. Now, nobody in their right mind would pick Nebraska to beat Oregon. It's just that Oregon's probably not going to the Rose Bowl; the Ducks are BCS Championship material and should get a chance to aim their high-powered offense at Alabama's vaunted defense.
And then it gets tricky.
Right now, the best Pac-12 team behind Oregon is Oregon State, who comes in at No. 11 in the BCS and would likely get an at-large BCS bid even if Oregon were out of the BCS Championship. That's due largely to the SEC's glut of teams in the BCS top 10—five in total, only two of which are allowed to be in BCS bowls thanks to conference maximums.
It's just that Oregon State's not extremely likely to stay at No. 11. A trip to No. 14 Stanford looms this week, and two weeks after that Oregon comes to town. Stanford could (and should) pick up that win...but then it faces Oregon and No. 18 UCLA on the road to finish the year.
So then a Rose Bowl at-large berth would fall to UCLA, which would have a fine opportunity to rise up in the BCS standings...especially since it faces a faltering USC team at home the week prior.
UCLA...against Nebraska...at the Rose Bowl...yeah. We've already seen how that one ends.
Or have we? This wouldn't be the same game. Rex Burkhead would likely be healthy for Nebraska. The Husker defense would have a better sense of what's coming this time from the Bruin offense. And that's an offense that racked up 653 yards the first time around and still only won the game by six points.
Also, think about the ever-present X-factor of bowl games: motivation. Who do you think wants to see a rematch more, the team that lost the first game or the team that was hoping for a different opponent?
So by and large this is shaping up to be a hell of a finish for Bo Pelini and his Huskers. It should erase any lingering questions as to whether Nebraska can succeed on an elite level A) in the Big Ten and B) with Pelini in charge.
And let's face it, it'll just be nice to see one Big Ten team do well in a big bowl game.
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