Coach: Mack Brown (128-27 in 12 years)
2009 Record: 13-1 (8-0)
Division: Big 12 South
I'm not going to waste more than this sentence on the would've, could've and should've's of the Big 12 title game a year ago. New year, new time, new quarterback for the Longhorns. However, this game is much more than a game between two schools in the same conference. This game is Nebraska vs. the Big 12. For years the Cornhuskers have felt undervalued, underappreciated, and underfunded because of the likes of Texas and none of it has to do with the Big 12 Championship game.
Texas has taken pot-shots at Nebraska throughout the history of the short lived conference and this season's match-up is more about who leaves who on the floor and bleeding. Expect this game to be nasty and physical. Expect Lincoln to be in an uproar and electric and expect one of the most anticipated games of the year to fulfill your hopes and desires.
OFFENSE: Texas lost, Colt McCoy Jordan Shipley, Chris Hall, Charlie Tanner, and Adam Ulatoski from an offense that was as one deminsional as an offense could be a year ago. People rave about the loss of Suh, but Texas lost half of the offensive line that couldn't control Suh and better yet their starting quarterback will be coming off of the Red River Rivalry game, in which they most likely lose.
James Kirkendoll is Texas only sure bet coming back in 2010, even Tre' Newton is somewhat of an unknown and the offensive line is a big question mark once again. Sure Gilbert played okay in the second half of the national championship game, but he also lost Jordan Shipley to throw to. Make no mistake about it, Texas' offense will look very different in 2010.
Nebraska's defense has the horses to match up with Texas. First, Amukamara, Dennar, Gomes and Hagg will close down any real passing lanes for Gilbert and will most likely confuse the first year starter with a few zone blitz packages. Second, losing Suh doesn't mean much in the long run of this game because Texas lost three offensive linemen themselves and Nebraska is returning both Crick and Allen who proved to be studs last season. Gilbert will be rushed on often and put on his back and Newton will be lucky to get over 50 yards against Nebraska's defense in Lincoln.
DEFENSE: Texas lost their two biggest threats to Nebraska's running game, Sergio Kindell and Lamarr Houston, but don't expect a monumental drop off. In the front seven Sam Acho is turning into an NFL prospect and Keenan Robinson might be the best linebacker you never paid attention to. The loss of Earl Thomas will undoubtedly hurt this defense, but Curtis Brown and Aaron Williams are legit shutdown corners with an attitude. Blake Gideon is back with his nack to always be in the right place at the right time as well.
The match-up to watch in this game is Nebraska's veteran offensive line against Texas' rather inexperienced defensive line. If Nebraska can knock them off of the ball early and often creating holes for Helu and Burkhead the Huskers could prove a handful for the Longhorns. But if Texas forces Nebraska to throw the ball there will be a lot of Husker fans holding their collective breaths.
Ultimately I think experience, tenacity, anger, and scheming wins this one. And I think it goes Nebraska's way. Not just because Nebraska returns five more starters than Texas, but because of homefield advantage and a shift in momentum. If Texas is coming off of a loss against Oklahoma they will be pressing, and Nebraska can ride new starter Garrett Gilbert into the forth quarter with turnovers and tough defensive stops. Expect this game to be very similar to the Championship a year ago.
Projected Score: 16-13 (W)