The Eternal Optimist: Why Nebraska Has a Shot Against Texas

Josh KleinCorrespondent INovember 30, 2009

There have been a myriad of articles and fan-posts stating the absolute impossibility of Nebraska beating Texas in the Big 12 championship game.

However, I'm forced to remind the so-called "realists" what that word actually means. A realist notices all possibilities. In fact, the very definition of a realist is: "One who is inclined to literal truth and pragmatism." 

Practically speaking, it seems unlikely that Nebraska can pull off this momentous upset, but not impossible, as so many people seem to think.

You see, a realist would notice that the probability of a loss grows with each game played. That's why it is so hard to go 16-0 in the NFL and why it is so hard for teams to stay undefeated in the NCAA. The facts and the data state that it simply isn't normal.

Not that Texas is normal, but bear with me for a second.

For so-called "realists" that are supposedly supporting their team by calling them out in the most negative ways, there are just a few things to consider:

Who gave Appalachian State a shot to beat Michigan? 

Who gave East Carolina a chance to pull of the upset against Virginia Tech? 

Or better yet, who gave those 1996 Texas Longhorns a chance, even a shot, at beating the much more talented Nebraska Cornhuskers?

Any takers?

Didn't think so.

The real kicker is that this game would be less of an upset than any three of those previously mentioned games.

In 1996 the Nebraska Cornhuskers came into the Big 12 championship game ranked third in the nation with a shot at playing in the NCAA Championship game if they could get past an unranked Texas team in St. Louis.

The Cornhuskers were heavily favored, but a fateful play on a 4th-and-2 changed everything that day. Behind a backbreaking, unthinkable 66-yard pass and an outstanding effort by Priest Holmes, the Longhorns scored the final 14 points and iced a 37-27 shocking upset over the bowl-bound Huskers.

The good thing for the Huskers is that the game is played on the field, not on paper. 

There are a few factors that work in Nebraska's favor going into this weekend, and even though they may not be glaring advantages, they should not be underestimated.

For those who like statistics, consider this: Nebraska has allowed teams to score only 31 percent of the time when entering Husker territory. Not red zone scoring, but only when teams get across the 50-yard line. 

That means Nebraska surrenders 1.58 points on average every time a team crosses the 50-yard line. Oklahoma crossed the 50-yard line 11 times against the Huskers and scored only three points.

While Colt McCoy is no Landry Jones, this statistic should not be underrated. It's a defensive mindset, and as many teams know, that is half the battle.

There have also been rumblings of Nebraska's lack of depth in the defensive backfield, and the fact that they can't shut down a good passing team. However, Nebraska has faced some of the top offenses in the Big 12 this season, and is still ranked fourth in the nation in pass efficiency defense.

Again, to put the statistic in perspective, Nebraska's defense has faced Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Kansas, and Missouri in Big 12 play. Those four teams all rank in the top 20 nationally in passing offense: Texas Tech (2), Kansas (7), Missouri (15), and Oklahoma (16).

There's a statistical advantage for Nebraska in pass defense. By the way, Texas is ranked 13th nationally in passing offense, that's worse than two Nebraska opponents this season, one of which Nebraska beat.

Obviously Texas' defense is better than Kansas'. In fact, Texas has the No. 1 ranked rushing defense in the nation, and the fifth ranked total defense, something Nebraska hasn't seen this year.

However, this article isn't about the impossibilities of a Husker win, but the possibilities. The defense of Nebraska is the possibility for this Husker squad.

Nebraska is the 11th ranked total defense in the nation, while Texas is the 11th ranked total offense. 

The statistics show that Nebraska may not be as far off as some may think in making this a game.

Strength of schedule has been an argument delivered by some Husker-naysayers, and that is a question. Nebraska is ranked 51st in strength of schedule, and the Longhorns hold the 31st spot. However, did you know that only .033 points separate the Huskers from the Longhorns in this statistic?

Enough of the tangible stuff. Enough of the statistics that obviously mean nothing once a team is on the field, which goes twice for SOS statistics.

There is something besides statistics that gives Nebraska a chance in this one. Some place where paper meets physicality and mental toughness meets resiliency. I'm talking about the intangibles of this team.

Sure it hasn't been pretty at times. Any Husker fan will point to the 9-7 loss to Iowa State and agree. But it has been successful. There's really no arguing that.

Nebraska goes into the Big 12 championship game having already reached their preset goal of winning the Big 12 North. No one expected them to win the Big 12, and certainly no one expected them to go to a BCS bowl.

There is no pressure for Nebraska to win this game; there are no strings attached or coaching jobs hanging in the balance.

Believe it or not, there is no winning or losing of a Heisman trophy for the Huskers in this game or surviving yet another physical game in their grueling gauntlet.

The only pressure on this team is the pride of winning one more game. This team wasn't given a chance to even win the North after the epic collapse against Texas Tech and Iowa State, but they succeeded in that. Why then, is it impossible for the Huskers to win the Big 12 championship?

Besides the opportunity to go into the Big 12 championship game with no strings attached or expectations, Nebraska also boasts a variety of players that have been either rejected or otherwise simply not pursued by the Longhorns in recruiting.

Nebraska fans saw what this sort of chip on the shoulder can do if it is handled in the right way, like earlier this season in the game against Iowa State. Iowa knows how it feels too, as they almost experienced a season-crippling loss to the University of Northern Iowa earlier in the year.

Some people may see this as a bad thing.

However, with this type of talent in the right hands, that aspect can make a team like Nebraska downright dangerous and inspired for football games such as this.

In the end though, it's finished on the field. But hold fast Husker nation, lest we forget the unpredictability of college football. There is a chance, and it is held in the belief that we can survive the battle and come away with a win.

Have faith Husker Nation, it can be done.