Nebraska Will Beat OU with Defense, Running Game
Nebraska vs. Oklahoma — even to this day the matchup has a certain ring to it.
Many believe this rivalry came to an end in 1997 with the formation of the Big 12 conference. That may be true since the two teams haven’t regularly met since the conference started.
In the hearts of fans, though, nothing much has changed.
I think I speak for many fans who were hoping Nebraska would get another shot at Oklahoma, as a send-off to the Big Ten. And it could be the last Big 12 title game for some time, as the NCAA requires conferences to have at least 12 teams to play a conference championship game.
It adds that little something extra to this game.
So does this mean the stars are perfectly aligned for NU to walk off into the sunset with the conference trophy?
Well, that’s what many fans thought about the prospects of getting revenge on Texas in Lincoln this season after last year’s championship game heartbreak.
No, that didn’t work out. Things aren’t always as they seem.
Nebraska proved that all of those other factors outside of football really matter little.
Will the 13-12 loss to Texas in Dallas last year help motivate Nebraska at all against Oklahoma? Yeah, to a point Nebraska probably has an emotional edge going into this game, believing it left something on the field that night. But NU will need a lot to fall in place to walk away with a trophy.
In many ways Oklahoma’s strengths play right into Nebraska’s hands.
Landry Jones will throw the ball some 50 times — perfect for a Blackshirt secondary that is the best in college football. For this secondary to make big plays Nebraska’s front four will have to consistently get pressure on Jones. That’s a tall task considering OU runs this offense at a blistering pace. Conditioning will be at a premium.
Oklahoma’s defense has been susceptible to the run this season — Nebraska’s offense likely will resort to pounding the ball right up the middle of that defense, as even if Taylor Martinez plays he’ll be limited by injury.
Still, there’s no reason to mistake this OU defense for the Colorado defense that Nebraska ran through like butter. OU will provide a much stiffer challenge to the Nebraska run game, meaning NU will have to find ways to help Cody Green find some success in the passing game.
There’s no way Nebraska’s offense can trade touchdowns — back and forth — with the Oklahoma offense.
The Nebraska defense will need to turn in a performance similar to last year’s 10-3 Nebraska win in Lincoln. In that game Nebraska picked off Jones five times. Clearly Jones is making much better decisions than he did a year ago, so NU will be fortunate to get two picks in this game Saturday — I say they get three.
ESPN reported Friday that injured OU running back Demarco Murray will play against Nebraska. Nebraska coaches are keeping it close to the vest as to who will start at quarterback. Right now it appears that Green will get the nod as Martinez has been seen leaving practice all week wearing a protective walking boot.
Now, this can cut both ways.
Bo Pelini has made remarks this week that Martinez has performed well in practice. This is a mixed signal — I think — intended to keep OU guessing. If I was a betting man I’d say Martinez will start. Whether he’ll be able to finish is very much in doubt, as he continues to battle what can be a debilitating turf toe injury.
Simply put, the Nebraska defense will have to keep OU out of the end zone. It will be much more difficult for Rex Burkhead in the wildcat to carry the offense this week.
There are a couple more keys in this game. Oklahoma is the best third-down team in the country and one of the least penalized teams in college football.
We know Nebraska will commit penalties, maybe seven or eight if the law of averages hold. Somehow, someway NU has to play hard and play through the penalties.
Without a fully healthy Martinez Nebraska will have to make this a defensive battle, scoring two touchdowns and three Alex Henery field goals, as Nebraska makes it a hard night for Landry Jones.
Defense and a good running game wins championships.
Nebraska 23, Oklahoma 14.