Nebraska capable of beating Texas, defiling BCS

BY Peter Schrager • November 9, 2009

Two years ago this month, the Nebraska Cornhuskers surrendered 76 points in a loss at Kansas. Three weeks later, the 'Huskers gave up 65 points in a nationally televised, season-ending defeat in Boulder.

With Saturday night's 10-3 win over Oklahoma, the 'Huskers have now given up an average of seven points in their past three games. They've held the opposition to 10 points or less six times in nine games.

Rest assured, folks — the Blackshirts are back.

And if you're a fan of the burnt orange down in Austin, that fact probably shouldn't go unnoticed.

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Yes, though the offense looks more like a middle school starting 11 than a college one these days, the Nebraska Cornhuskers — still unranked and under the radar — have emerged as one of the few teams in the nation still capable of throwing a wrench in the assumed plan for the BCS Championship Game.

With another week of Florida, Alabama and Texas wins now in the books, it appears as though the pundits have all but put the snooze button on until Jan. 7. The sentiment is as follows: The winner of Dec. 5's SEC Championship Game between likely unbeatens Alabama and Florida will play Texas for the BCS title.

Alabama continues to find ways to win each week, Florida's defense seems to only be getting better and Texas is finally putting it all together on a consistent basis. For all those pushing for a playoff system or a "plus-one" scenario, the 2009 BCS chase has shaped up to pretty much provide just that. On one side of a fictional bracket is your SEC champion and on the other is Texas.

Done and done. No controversies. No antitrust lawyers required. No need to worry, right?

Not quite.

TCU and Cincinnati fans may be quite pleased to hear that Nebraska — yes, downright ugly Nebraska — could very well be the squad to throw the whole picture-perfect setup into a frenzy.

The 'Huskers, 6-3 and winners of two straight, have the defense to put the clamps on a Texas Big 12 Championship Game aerial show. A half-game behind Kansas State in the Big 12 North, Nebraska controls its divisional race. With wins over Kansas, Kansas State and Colorado (teams with a collective record of 14-14) to close out the season, Nebraska would be Texas' last opponent before their assumed entry into the BCS Championship Game.

In Saturday night's nationally televised win, the Blackshirts hurried Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones from start to finish and intercepted him five times. The loss marked the first time an Oklahoma offense failed to reach the end zone since 1998.

The Sooners had 325 total yards — becoming the first team to put up more than 300 yards on Nebraska this season — but moved inside the Nebraska 20 just once, turned over the ball three times on downs, missed two field-goal tries and had another one blocked.

Bo Pelini's defense is more than just carrying this Nebraska team on its back. It's carrying Nebraska on its back, manning the canteen, holding the compass and doing just about everything needed for the climb. In truth, the defense is not only beating Nebraska's opponents in these games, but also willing NU to wins despite an anemic offense.

How good is the NU defense? The Blackshirts are second in the nation in scoring defense, second in passing defense and 11th in total defense.

How bad is the 'Huskers offense? Nebraska is eighth in the Big 12 in scoring, second-to-last in yards per game and dead last in first downs per game. On Saturday night, the Cornhuskers won despite getting just seven first downs and 180 total yards. They picked up 1 yard when they needed it, though. After Prince Amukamara returned an interception to the Oklahoma 1 in the second quarter, Zac Lee threw to Ryan Hill for Nebraska's fourth offensive TD in its past four games.

"That game could have gone a lot of different ways, and we just found a way to hang in there and hang in there, and we made enough plays to win the football game," Pelini said. What he likely meant was, "Thank you, defense. Again."

If Nebraska can somehow find an offense — or if one of its two quarterbacks manages to play the position even somewhat competently — over the 'Huskers' next three games, Texas' sleepwalk to Pasadena can be thrown for a loop in the Big 12 Championship Game.

In Ndamukong Suh, the likely overall No. 1 pick in the 2010 NFL draft, and sophomore sensation Jared Crick, Nebraska features two of the college game's top interior defensive lineman. Suh is the subject of legitimate Heisman buzz, while Crick had his national coming-out party in a five-sack, 13-tackle performance against Baylor two weeks ago. With Crick, Suh and a well-rounded back seven, the Blackshirts could be just the defense to destroy Texas' national title — and Colt McCoy's Heisman — dreams.