The Big 12 Championship this year features a classic matchup of Nebraska and Texas. Both are historically dominate programs, with multiple national championships to their credit. At one point this game would have had the potential to have as much hype as the SEC Title Game.
Not this year, however, as while Texas has been dominate in the 2000’s, Nebraska has fallen on hard times. Second year Head Coach Bo Peleni is trying to right the ship and bring back the pride to Lincoln, Nebraska. His Huskers are on their way back too, going 9-3 in the regular season this year, winning the Big Twelve North since 2006.
Texas on the other hand is enjoying the success that Nebraska once had. While not as dominate as the Husker team was in the '90s, with a tough South Division rival Oklahoma right with them, Texas has been playing lights out this decade. Mack Brown has managed to lead this team to ten strait ten win or more seasons!
Looking at Nebraska’s schedule their three losses came when they struggled to put up points on offense. Their defense has been solid, ranking 11th in the nation, which has led them to their successful season.
Texas is obviously coming into this game undefeated, and looking to play for a national title. With number one and number two in the BCS’s facing each other in the SEC-Title Game, this will allow Texas to face the winner of that game if they can get past Nebraska.
The first thing to look at for both teams are key injures.
Nebraska comes into this came fairly healthy with only four players listed out, and none within the last month. The four players listed out are Quentin Castille, Rickey Thenarse, Black Lawrence, and Jace Dean. All are listed out for the season. Castille was dismissed from the team.
For Texas the story is a little grimmer with 13 players out for injury or other reasons. Calvin Howell, John Chiles, DJ Monroe, Mason Walters, and Ben Wells are all listed as questionable for the game against Nebraska, with Deon Beasley being doubtful. They also recently lost Eryon Barnett for the season; the other players had been out for over a month.
First let’s take a look at the Nebraska a passing attack vs. the Longhorn secondary.
Nebraska is led by junior Quarterback Zac Lee. Lee has been an efficient quarterback completing 60 percent of his passes with a 13-7 touchdown to interception rate. Zac’s main target is junior wide receiver Niles Paul, who has had the lion’s share of the catches with 35 for 669 yards and three touchdowns.
Curenski Gilleylen, Mike Mcneil, and running back Roy Helu Jr. have also contributed heavily in the passing attack. It is a passing attack the ranks just 93rd in the nation, however, as this Nebraska team has returned to its roots in that it is more of a running the passing team.
The efficient, but not high scoring passing attack is going up against and strong pass defense from Texas. The Longhorn secondary is a little banged up right now with the aforementioned Deon Beasley being questionable, and cornerback Aaron Williams being slowed due to a knee injury. Still it is a solid passing defense, and Nebraska is not the most dynamic passing offense this Texas team has faced.
Texas will try to force Nebraska to beat them through the air, as their strength is run defense, which also happens to be Nebraska’s offensive focus.
The Longhorns come into this game with a much more dynamic passing attack than their foes from Lincoln. Ranking 13th in the nation at 287 yards a game, Colt Mccoy and the Texas passing attack are a big time threat.
Mccoy is a Heisman front runner with impressive stats; A 71 percent completion percentage throwing for 3328 yards with 27 touchdowns to only 9 interceptions. His favorite target, by far, is Jordan Shipley, who has caught 99 passes for 1292 yards and 11 touchdowns. Mccoy does have other threats as Malcolm Williams, James Kirkendoll, Dan Buckner, John Chiles, and Marquise Goodwin have all contributed more than 200 yards.
Going up against this potent passing attack is Nebraska’s 25th ranked passing defense. Nebraska’s strength is on the line with outstanding defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. If the Nebraska line is able to get pressure on Mccoy it could be a long day for the Texas offense, but if given time Mccoy will have a chance to shred the Nebraska secondary.
Next we take a look at Nebraska’s rushing attack vs. the Longhorns rush Defense.
During their glory years Nebraska was known for having a powerful running game, and Coach Peleni understands that more than anything. While their rushing attack isn’t much more highly rated than their passing attack, and is only putting up 147 yards a game on the ground, the offensive focus is on the ground game. The Cornhuskers have rushed 429 times compared to throwing it 191.
Nebraska’s main threat on the ground is junior Roy Helu Jr. who is averaging 92.5 yards a game on the ground. He has produced 1111 yards on the ground at a 5.4 yards per carry average. Next on the list is Rex Burhkhead who has contributed 235 yards at 5.0 yards a clip.
While the focus is there for running the ball, it is going to be a long day trying to establish the run against Texas.
Texas comes into this game with the number one rushing defense in the nation. They are only giving up 61 yards a game on the ground. While A&M was successful moving the ball on them, this Nebraska rushing attack is not similar to A&M’s.
This will be a huge key to the game as Texas will try to force Nebraska to beat them through the air, and Nebraska will want to run right at them. While Texas’s defense laps against A&M may give Cornhuskers hope, their best chance in this game is their own solid defense. They will not be able to spread Longhorn defense out the way A&M did, and will have a tough time trying to run over them.
The last couple areas to look at are turnover margin and special teams. Texas is ranked 8th in the nation with a 1.0 turnover ratio, while Nebraska is 41st with a .33.
On special teams Nebraska is ranked 37th and 38th in punt returns and kickoff returns respectively. Their net punting, however, comes in at 80th at only a 34 yard average.
Texas on the other hand is 15th and 3rd in punt returns and kickoff returns respectively. They also struggle with punting the ball as they come in 99th averaging only 33.6 yards a punt.
While this game is greatly overshadowed by the #1 vs. #2 event that is the SEC Title game, this has the potential to be a heck of a match up in its own right.
Nebraska will win if they are able to establish a strong running game, not putting the game into Zac Lee’s hands. Their defense, which has been solid all year, will have to keep them in this game and slow down the number 3 scoring offense in the nation in Texas. If their defense can keep Texas out of the end zone, and they can pound the ball with success, Nebraska can pull off the upset.
Texas will win if they play to their strengths. While Nebraska has a strong defense, no one has been able to corral the Longhorns dynamic offense. With Mccoy a threat to run and throw, and a rushing attack good enough to maintain balance, this Texas team is tough to stop.
With the number one rushing defense in the nation playing right into Nebraska’s run first mentality, Texas just needs to play their game and they are playing for a National Title.
Texas 35, Nebraska 21.