Nebraska Cornhuskers Football: In Control of Their Own Destiny

Kraig LundbergAnalyst IIIOctober 3, 2010

LINCOLN, NEBRASKA - SEPTEMBER 25: Nebraska Cornhuskers linebacker Lavonte David #4, linebacker Eric Martin #46, safety Rickey Thenarse #3, defensive back DeJon Gomes #7 bring down South Dakota State Jackrabbits running back Kyle Minett #30 during first half action of their game at Memorial Stadium on September 25, 2010 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska Defeated South Dakota State 17-3. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images

A week off probably did the Huskers some good.

After a dishearteningly weak win over South Dakota State, the Cornhuskers learned a valuable lesson: stay humble, even in victory. 

After a 56-21 beatdown of Washington two weeks ago, which is looking gorgeous after a 32-31 Huskies win over 18th-ranked USC at USC, the Huskers got overconfident and lost their focus against a severely over-matched opponent. 

Now, the Huskers enter the October gauntlet.  The past two seasons, the Huskers sputtered and stumbled during the 10th month, and with the way the schedule is aligned, this season has the ability to play out the same way.

The Huskers face Kansas State in Manhattan this Thursday, and will get a serious test from one of the best running backs in the nation in Daniel Thomas.  Nebraska has been leaky at times against the run this season, and KSU is very well coached. 

This game will set the pace for Nebraska's season.  If they can beat Kansas State, and stay humble, they have a shot at an undefeated regular season.  Lose at KSU, and hopes of a BCS game are all but dashed. 

The next Saturday, the Huskers host the stumbling Texas Longhorns in a matchup that was supposed to be a possible preview of the Big 12 title game.  Instead, UT will be coming off a two-game losing streak and will do all it can to take down Nebraska. 

Texas will have a tough time generating any offense against Nebraska, but the same might be said about Nebraska's offense against the Longhorns.  It all depends on which Texas defense shows up: the one that stopped Texas Tech cold, or the one that got run over by UCLA.  My bet is on the former.

A week after that, the Huskers must travel to Stillwater to take on the Cowboys of Oklahoma State, a surprisingly good team with a ton of offensive firepower that will provide a stiff test for the Husker defense. 

OSU's defense isn't incredible, but it is definitely better than, say, Washington's.  This matchup has all the makings of a trap game.  The Huskers have not won in Stillwater since 1995, and Nebraska may be vulnerable after an emotional game against Texas the prior week.

This stretch will be much more difficult than each of the opponents' rankings suggest.  To get through October unscathed, the Huskers will have to hang onto their humility and will have to show a consistency that they have not yet shown under Bo Pelini. 

Nebraska needs to sustain the level of play they found against Washington throughout the Big 12 schedule.  And that will be extremely difficult.  The Huskers have a shot, however.  Here is my take on how some of their opponents, and other teams, performed this past weekend.

Oklahoma State 38, Texas A&M 35

The Cowboys inserted themselves into the Top 25 with a big win in a shootout with the Aggies.  Kendall Hunter and Justin Blackmon were both brilliant, and Brandon Weeden did just enough to complement OSU's two best players.  Hunter and Blackmon both have NFL careers in their future, but Weeden needs to cut down on the mistakes. 

Texas A&M's standouts were Jeff Fuller and Christine Michael, who also both have NFL careers in their future.  Jerrod Johnson threw for five touchdowns, but also threw four picks and had several other ugly throws.  Johnson now has eight picks in his past two games, and he is severely overrated in my opinion. 

Weeden and Johnson combined for six interceptions on the day, which bodes well for Nebraska, whose secondary thrives on turnovers.  I saw several incomplete passes from both quarterbacks that would likely have been picked off by a secondary the caliber of Nebraska's.

Baylor 55, Kansas 7

I'm a big fan of Turner Gill and I think he has a good future with Kansas, but he has very little to work with this year.  As a result, Gill will take a lot of heat for embarrassing losses. 

Robert Griffin had a field day against the Jayhawks, racking up 444 total yards.  The Bears don't win in this fashion very often, so they better enjoy it.  The Jayhawks should be an easy win for Nebraska this year, but still, they had better not overlook anybody else this season, no matter what.  I don't think they will.

Oklahoma 28, Texas 20

The Longhorns are now 3-2, which is very disappointing.  An unranked Texas limping into Lincoln draws a lot less national attention than an unbeaten, fourth-ranked Texas rolling into Lincoln. 

The last time a Texas team came into Lincoln after Nebraska's Thursday night Big 12 opener, the Texas Tech Red Raiders put a whooping on the Cornhuskers 31-10. 

Nebraska might have three trap games in a row in October.  Not a comforting thought given Nebraska's past October troubles.

UT's defense played much better this game, but if Nebraska's offense is clicking on October 16th, they should be able to score a few points.  Texas' offense resembles Nebraska's 2009 offense, although, maybe not quite that bad.  But they just can't really do anything. 

DeMarco Murray rushed for over 100 yards as well, which is a good sign for Nebraska's run-based offense.  Martinez will have to hit some passes though.

Michigan 42, Indiana 35

I'll keep this short and sweet.  Denard Robinson is a freak of nature and a legit Heisman candidate, but until the Wolverines can find something resembling a defense, they have no place being in the Top 25.  Once they face a halfway decent defense that can hold Robinson under 200 yards rushing, the defense won't be able to keep the Wolverines in the game.  As it is, Michigan is overrated.

UCLA 42, Washington State 28

This game makes Texas look much worse.  One of the worst teams in the nation stuck with UCLA until the fourth quarter.  UCLA is not a good team.  Texas played horribly and badly overlooked the Bruins, obviously.

LSU 16, Tennessee 14

LSU is also not a good team.  They got extremely lucky against a Vols team that got smashed by Oregon.  The Tigers are definitely not a top-15 team, and I think they'll get beat several times this year.

Colorado 29, Georgia 27

How does Georgia let this happen?  They are a very uninspired team if they can't pull out a win over a very mediocre Colorado team.  The Buffs can play well at times, and you can bet they will bring their A-game against their most hated opponent, Big (Brother) Red.

Iowa State 52, Texas Tech 38

Eeww.  Now Texas really looks bad.

Washington 32, USC 31

I love it!  The Huskies make Nebraska look much better while knocking off a USC team that I have argued was overrated since the beginning of the season.  Jake Locker reestablished himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the nation as well.  I don't think anybody who really knew how good Nebraska's secondary was ever doubted the kid, even after the Husker game.

Oregon 52, Stanford 31

The Ducks are unstoppable!  Well, their offense is.  The defense is good enough that they deserve to be the third-ranked team in the nation.  The Ducks offense will have to be countered with speed.  I would love to see Nebraska's defensive speed matched up against the lighting fast LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner, and Darron Thomas.

Alabama 31, Florida 6

The Tide proved that they're the best team in the nation with a huge win over the Gators.  Alabama now has a legitimate shot at winning a second consecutive national title.

I said it before, and I'll reiterate it for emphasis: Nebraska controls its own destiny, and must be able to find consistency while balancing humility with dominance.  That is the only way the Huskers have a chance at the national title game.  The road gets very tough from here.  It will take a championship team to navigate it.


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