Nebraska Football: Previewing the Cornhuskers' Game Against Oklahoma
For Nebraska fans watching the Big XII Championship Game against Oklahoma (December 04, 7:00 p.m. central, Cowboys Stadium, Dallas, TX, ABC)
YOU'LL BE HAPPY IF ...
- OU HAS A MURRAY WORRY: While the Sooners have a number of offensive weapons, DeMarco Murray is the one that matches up best against Nebraska's defense. Murray was injured in Bedlam against Oklahoma State and is listed as questionable for Saturday. Of course, Niles Paul is listed as day-to-day, and he's got a broken foot; take those listings for what they're worth. If Murray can't go, or isn't effective, the Blackshirts will have a much easier time against the spread, rhythm offense they were built to stop.
- WATSON PICKS A LANE: Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini has gone to great lengths to make sure people know that quarterback Taylor Martinez playing on Saturday is a game-time decision. But Nebraska has struggled when Martinez has been a maybe. Against Colorado, it was clear a game plan was built around Cody Green, and the offense was far more effective. If Martinez is healthy enough to be T-Magic, obviously he should play. But if not, giving Green the reins against an OU defense that's a shadow of its' former self gives NU the best chance to win.
- LANDRY GETS HEATED UP: Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones has been prone to mistakes, throwing three interceptions in Bedlam last week and five against Nebraska last year in Lincoln. If the Blackshirts are able to get pressure on Jones (particularly if a Murray-less OU running attack is not a threat), NU may be able to force turnovers from the Sooners and give NU's struggling offense a boost.
YOU'LL BE SAD IF ...
- THE SOONERS START SWINGING: Oklahoma still has been very effective with the swing pass, getting their running backs into the flat and using it as an extension of the running game. Even if Murray isn't able to go, OU has two capable backups in Roy Finch and Mossis Madu that can give the Blackshirts headaches in space, particularly with linebackers like LaVonte David and Will Compton struggling in coverage at times.
- SPEED KILLS: Oklahoma plays in an almost-perpetual hurry-up mode and has run more offensive plays than any other team in college football. In spurts, a hurry-up mode has given the Blackshirts fits by preventing them substitutions and making the last-second line calls harder to pull off. If NU can't get ready for what they know is coming, they could struggle.
- NEBRASKA IS HOME-RUN-LESS: For most of the year, Nebraska has relied on the big play to score. Oklahoma is one of the best teams in the country in stopping the big play, keeping things in front of them and making teams drive the field to score. Seems like a bad combination for an NU offense that has found offense hard to come by in the second half of the season.
THE BIG PICTURE
This game shapes up to be a weird mix of venom and nostalgia, with the fondness for the NU-OU rivalry mixed together with the mutual contempt Nebraska and the Big XII honchos share for each other. Oklahoma is on a nice three-game winning streak after losing in College Station, while Nebraska had a solid bounce-back performance against Colorado after a jarring loss to the Aggies. While both teams are facing injuries on offense, the loss of an effective Martinez and wide receiver Niles Paul puts NU in a "game management" situation and places a lot of pressure on the defense to keep the score close. Given OU's ability to run a massive amount of plays, and the amount of pressure the Blackshirts will be under given an under-performing offensive unit, the stage is set for the Sooners to deny us all the world's most awkward trophy awarding ceremony.
FEARLESS FORECAST: Oklahoma 16, Nebraska 13
SHAMELESS PLUG! I will be live-blogging the Big XII Championship Game here on Bleacher Report. Please join me!
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