BCS Rankings 2010: Breaking Down the Nebraska Cornhuskers

Brandon CavanaughCorrespondent IOctober 17, 2010

BCS Rankings 2010: Breaking Down the Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    The first BCS rankings of 2010 are finally out, so it’s official: Skynet is online and we’ve reached the midseason point.

    After a flurry of activity in the past two weeks, could “Collegiate Catastrophe” be setting in? For the second time in two weeks, the No. 1 team in the land has fallen. Boise State and TCU fans are ecstatic with the possibility of perhaps seeing their teams meet for the BCS National Championship.

    Before the Broncos and Horned Frogs get too excited, the BCS has proven to be a fickle mistress and has broken the dreams of undefeated teams in the past.

    Many of the undefeated are truly in control of their own destinies. What of Nebraska? Just Saturday the Cornhuskers penciled in their first loss. Are they truly out of the hunt?

How They Got to This Point

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    The Nebraska Cornhuskers opened the season at No. 8 before taking on the hapless Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in freshman Taylor Martinez’s first career start.

    After peeling apart Nathan Enderle’s Idaho Vandals and collaring Jake Locker’s Washington Huskies, Nebraska was shocked with a wake-up call. A 17-3 dogfight against South Dakota State provided the Cornhuskers with a critical warning: don’t let down your guard.

    The Cornhuskers responded with a 48-13 shellacking of Kansas State on the road that vaulted them as high as No. 4 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll. Unfortunately for Nebaraska, the Luck of the Longhorns struck again in Lincoln as Texas won 20-13, dropping the Cornhuskers out of the top 10 in both human polls.

Best Win

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    Nebraska has put together some impressive outings during 2010, but so far the pick of the litter has to be the rout on the road of the Kansas State Wildcats.

    Quarterback Taylor Martinez rushed for 242 yards and four touchdowns, showing the country that the Cornhuskers’ dual-threat performance at Washington’s Husky Stadium wasn’t a fluke.

    Martinez also broke the team record for rushing yards by a quarterback and tied the Nebraska record for rushing TDs by a quarterback in a single game.

    Much like the Washington game, the Nebraska Cornhuskers’ defense effectively stuffed the Heisman hopes of its opponent’s brightest star. Kansas State running back Daniel Thomas was held to 63 yards on 22 carries.

    After 587 yards of total offense, Nebraska ended the series much in the same way it began: with a blowout.

BCS Ranking

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    The Cornhuskers totaled 2,090 points in the BCS rankings, putting them at No. 16. That is one spot ahead of Florida State with 1,732 points and one spot behind Iowa with 2,296.

    The Florida State Seminoles are ranked No. 17 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll while the Iowa Hawkeyes are ranked No. 12.

    Nebraska dropped to No. 13 after Saturday’s gut-wrenching loss to Texas.

    As a reminder, the coaches, not the AP writers, are the only humans that matter in the final BCS equation. The Harris Poll is also part of the final BCS numbers along with various computer rankings.

Too High? Too Low?

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    No. 16 sounds a bit low for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, but is understandable given the loss to Texas and their current 5-1 record.

    Nebraska hasn’t played anyone especially eye-catching to the computers, save the Longhorns.

    To the human polls, however, road victories against Kansas State and Washington were impressive specifically due to redshirt freshman Taylor Martinez’s starts.

    Martinez isn’t likely to see a defense that will challenge him to the level that the Longhorns did aside from the Big 12 Championship game and the eventual bowl game.

    By that point, he may be ready to show a true dual-threat capability against some more serious adversity and perhaps add some style points for the computers to crunch.

Remaining Schedule

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    Oct. 23 - @ Oklahoma State

    Oct. 30 - Missouri

    Nov. 06 - @ Iowa State

    Nov. 13 - Kansas

    Nov. 20 - @ Texas A&M

    Nov. 26 - Colorado

    Dec. 4 - Big 12 Championship Game

Potential Pitfall

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    There’s no rest for the weary. Nebraska doesn’t have time to lick their wounds following the loss to Texas. The Cornhuskers travel to Stillwater this weekend to take on an Oklahoma State squad that has plenty of offensive firepower.

    The good news for Nebraska is that Oklahoma State doesn’t have anywhere near the talent, in quality or quantity, as the Longhorns. Kendall Hunter will likely be used to test the Blackshirts’ front four and to see just how well vaunted linebacker Lavonte David can spring back mentally.  

    Look for quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Justin Blackmon to attempt to hook up, but the Longhorns couldn’t even find success through the air against the Nebraska’s secondary.

    For Oklahoma State to have a chance to force a second Cornhusker loss in two weeks, it needs to utilize much of the same game plan as Texas and hope for some turnovers.

Intangibles

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    Nebraska’s biggest intangible will soon be sporting a grey sweatshirt as he paces up and down the Cornhuskers’ sidelines.

    Bo Pelini has done an excellent job of circling the wagons and regrouping. While 15-7 in games on or prior to Halloween after Saturday’s Texas loss, he’s 10-2 after games on Nov. 1. A win in Stillwater this upcoming weekend will be crucial.

    If Pelini’s charges can force the Cowboys to stick with running back Kendall Hunter and stuff him a la KSU and Daniel Thomas, Blaine Gabbert and the Missouri Tigers will likely be dropping off the Missouri-Nebraska Bell for the last time as the Cornhuskers head off to the Big 10.

    The Cornhuskers believe in the head man. He’s ready to show the nation why.

BCS Analysis

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    Nebraska has every opportunity to move up in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll if it dusts itself off and begin picking off its remaining schedule, starting with the Cowboys of Oklahoma State.

    The remainder of the Big 12 North doesn’t appear to threaten Nebraska much. An added game to the Cornhuskers’ schedule in a Big 12 Championship berth does give them another opportunity for a loss, but it allows them the opportunity for an important win.

    Nebraska isn’t quite out of the national championship picture yet, but they’re going to need a lot of help. Does anyone remember 2001?

Bowl Projection

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    Is there a more welcome sight to Cornhusker fans come the new year than Tempe, Arizona? Besides the National Championship game, that is. Should Nebraska indeed win out, the Cornhuskers could easily find themselves in the Fiesta Bowl.

    Arizona has a very large Cornhuskers contingent already living within its borders and, as popular locations such as San Diego and San Antonio have discovered over the years, not only do Nebraska fans like to travel to take in the game, they also spend, spend, spend.

    If Nebraska can find their mojo, they’ll likely move on to the Big 12 Championship, where perhaps they can avenge its home loss to Texas or enjoy a final conference tilt with Oklahoma and wrap up its season with a win in Tempe.

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