I've never been a big believer in "signature victories" or whatever other monikers people are so quick to put on games against big-time opponents. For the four years of the Callahan era, Husker fans waited for the day Callahan would get over the hump and beat a top program, a signal that the program was relevant and powerful again. Of course, that day never came, which is why Callahan is coaching the offensive line for the New York Jets right now.
While beating a #14-ranked Virginia Tech team would hardly qualify as a signature victory, it would go a long way in re-establishing the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the nation's football-following consciousness. For years now, it's been a skeptical eye that looks Lincoln's way whenever the Huskers have a marquee game. Which is understandable after the debacles against USC, the inability close against Texas, and the fact we've won exactly zero-that's right, zero- conference championships this decade.
A win in Blacksburg is no easy feat, as Lane Stadium's 66,000 fans are much louder than Nebraska's 85,000 in Lincoln. Whereas Memorial Stadium is beautiful atmosphere on gameday, Lane is an intimidating one, which will test a young Huskers team that hasn't had to work on audibles or adjustments away from home yet.
A few things that will have to happen for the Huskers if they are going to come home with a win:
- Roy Helu has to re-establish himself after a sub-par game against Arkansas State. The Huskers can't depend on Zac Lee to drop another 300 yard game with 4 touchdowns, especially in light of the fact that there's a good chance that rain could show up on Saturday. Nebraska needs to be able to run the ball and wear down the defense, otherwise it's going to be a long game.
- Stop Tyrod Taylor. Obviously any 4th grader could have told you this, but it has to be said. Taylor had one of his best passing games against the Huskers last year, and NU has to be able to keep him in the pocket and prevent him from making plays with his feet. Force Taylor to become a real quarterback, and NU can blitz and force him into some bad throws.
- Tackle better. The Huskers looked shoddy at times last week, with too many arm tackles. Against Taylor and freshmen standout Ryan Williams, NU will need to fix those problems or it could get extremely ugly.
While I predicted that Nebraska would lose this game in my season preview column, I also have 20 dollars on the Huskers going into Oklahoma undefeated, so you can see that I've struggled to temper my enthusiasm for NU's potential this year with the realization that we are sending an extremely green team to Blacksburg. Despite their youth though, Nebraska has the ability and coaching staff to win this ball game, and it's a win that both the Huskers (and after last week, the entire Big 12) needs right now.