For All The Marbles: Nebraska Takes on Kansas State for North Supremacy

Josh KleinCorrespondent INovember 20, 2009

Most Nebraska players and fans knew that the Big 12 North would come down to this.

All of us figured at the beginning of the season that a match-up between a Kansas school and Nebraska would decide the Big 12 North.

Just not this Kansas School.

Last weekend was supposed to be the deciding factor in the Big 12 North race, at least that's what all the preview magazines decided prior to the start of the season.

It just goes to so how little even the talking heads know at the beginning of the season.

This weekend at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska the Big 12 North race will be decided.  Around the same time, the Big 12 South will be decided as Texas takes on the supposed favorites at the beginning of the year, the Kansas Jayhawks.

If Texas wins they lock up the Big 12 North. 

No matter who wins the game between Nebraska and Kansas State, one thing is for sure, the winner will be taking on Texas in the Big 12 Championship game.

Some prize.

But it is a prize none-the-less, and it is one that Husker fans are actually salivating for.

The game on Saturday has all the stigma of a championship match-up, but none of the fear.

Nebraska fans see this game as an easy must win game that should be over in the fourth quarter if the team plays like they did against Oklahoma and Kansas.

Why are Husker fans so confident?  Well, they have taken a look at the body of work done by Snyder and company this season.  Six wins is impressive, but two of those came against FCS foes UMass and Tennessee Tech.  In fact UMass had an opportunity to win the game near the end.

My advice for Husker fans is to hold on with that quick dismissal.  Sure Kansas State has been on of the only foes that the Huskers have easily dispatched in the past two years.

Since the last loss to the Wildcats in 2004, the Huskers have had a lop-sided four game winning streak against Kansas State.  Beating them by a combined score of 177-87 in the past four meetings.

But do you know who the coach was in 2004 that put the beat down on this Husker squad?  None other than coach Bill Snyder.  And he's back with a vengeance.

He has done what Ron Prince failed to do.  He has won with Junior College players and transfers.

Hold on to those reigns Husker fans, don't put the cart before the horse.  Because Snyder has the ability to beat these Huskers with his power running game, senior quarterback and markedly better defensive play.  After all, we saw a similar team, the Iowa State Cyclones, come into Lincoln and shock Husker nation.

Am I saying Nebraska will lose?  No.  Am I saying there's a chance?  Yes.

What I'm really saying is this.  If Nebraska comes out like they did against Iowa State, Daniel Thomas, Bill Snyder and Grant Gregory will take advantage of every situation.

Kansas State (6-5 [4-3 in Big 12]), comes in with a chance to complete a total turn around from a year ago.  Ask any K-State fan what they expected this year, I would be willing to bet that none of them had counted on a bowl or a shot at the Big 12 North crown.

They can obtain both on Saturday.

Because of the fact that two of those six wins were against FCS opponents Kansas State is playing for all the marbles on Saturday. 

If they lose, they gain no bowl bid and no trip to the Big 12 Championship game in Texas.

If they win, they attain both.

Nebraska comes in under similar pressures, but not as unexpected.  To the fans and the Media, Nebraska was supposed to win the Big 12 North this year.

Nebraska finds itself with the actual, tangible ability to reach the goal they set out for at the beginning of the year.  It's no surprise, it's not really some great story line of inspiration like Kansas State's is.  It was expected.

And it should have been.

There will be no rushing the field on Saturday if Nebraska wins, there will be no momentous celebration, except to honor the seniors.  It is expected that they be in this position, even if they have gotten here in less than traditional fashion.

Nebraska may be playing their best overall football of the year right now.  Zac Lee looks confident, Niles Paul looks like a game breaker, and Roy Helu looks primed to shine in the spot light.

Shawn Watson seems to finally have found an offensive gameplan that fits his personnel and the defense is as good as ever.

Sure we may say the defense slacked a bit last week against Kansas.  However, I have to chuckle to myself to think of the expectations.  Just two years ago holding Kansas to seventeen points would be seen as a great defensive performance, this year though it was disappointing. 

And the players on defense took note of it.

This game comes down to one thing for each team:  The running game.

If Nebraska chorales Daniel Thomas and forces Gregory to throw his way back into a game you can pretty much pencil  in a win for the Huskers.

If Nebraska's Roy Helu gets going and Zac Lee plays the play action like he did against Kansas last week this will be a long day for Wildcat fans everywhere. 

The return of Rex Burkhead is important to notice as well.

In the end it will come down to defense in this one.  And while I said that Kansas State can win this game, I don't think they will.

Nebraska has more talent and more depth than the Wildcats.  And two more wins against FBS quality opponents.

6-6 may not get you bowl eligible Kansas State, but it sure does put you in the record books for most impressive turn-around in a season.

But while you have turned it around you have only one win this season against an FBS opponent with a winning record and that was against Iowa State.

Believe it or not I think Nebraska probably hits the ground running in this one.  Roy Helu probably amasses over one hundred yards again and Niles Paul burns the Wildcat defense deep a few times.

Nebraska inherits a match-up with Texas this weekend after a 34-13 win against the Wildcats of Kansas State.  At least that's what I think.  Take it or leave it.

This one, unwittingly enough, is for all the Big 12 North marbles.


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