Texas at Nebraska
Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, NE
2:30 PM on ABC
Line: Nebraska by 9.5
I’m going to begin this post the same way I finished the last one.
Nebraska has been waiting 316 days for one measly second. This game means a lot to both programs. Nebraska is trying to climb back to the elite status they once held, while Texas’s annual membership is suddenly in doubt.
There are two ways the game can go on Saturday. Nebraska could let out years of frustration against an overmatched Texas team and win by two scores or more. Or Texas plays this game like their season is on the line, because in some ways it is, and forces every member of the demonstrative crowd to sweat it out.
Lets examine the potential factors contributing to either outcome….
Why will Nebraska win big over Texas?
Motivation should not be an issue for the Huskers entering this game. This day has been circled on the map for anyone attending the school, living in the state, or just happening to be wearing red. The players have all been sporting red bracelets that simply read “1 second,” keeping last year’s tragic ending in the Big 12 Championship fresh in their minds at all times. Additionally, the Huskers promotional video from the summer ended with this message for anyone willing to listen: Wear red. Be loud. Beat Texas.
We’ll leave it to Mack Brown to describe the difference between last year’s Nebraska team and this year’s squad…
This is not the same Nebraska offense we played 6 months ago, not even close.
Despite Mack’s inaccurate calendar, he makes a good point. Nebraska’s rushing attack ranks 2nd in the nation and is a full yard ahead of all other teams in yards per carry, averaging 7.7 yards per tote. The big difference maker is obviously Taylor Martinez, who leads the nation in both rushing touchdowns (12) and yards per carry (10.8).
The Texas defense struggled against the only read-option team they’ve faced, who posted 264 rushing yards, led by QB Kevin Prince. How are they going to handle the much stronger signal of T-Mobile?
The Longhorns will struggle to score points on the #1 pass defense in the country. Their run game hasn’t produced to this point, and Garrett Gilbert hasn’t lived up to the expectations lauded his way from tossing a few touchdowns against Alabama’s prevent defense in last year’s National Championship.
This could be Nebraska’s year, and it certainly isn’t the Longhorns’ year. Combine that with what should be a borderline insane home crowd, and the Huskers should prove too much for Texas on Saturday.
Why will the game be close?
I’m not buying the fact that Texas is suddenly void of superior talent, nor that there’s even much of a talent advantage for the Big Red in this game.
Sure this is new territory for Texas (they’ve won at least 10 games the last 9 seasons), but they could relish being in the role of underdogs for once.
Evaluating their season to date, it’s they’ve really only played one bad game. It was just a really bad game (34-12 L to UCLA). They also have a 24-14 road victory over a pretty good Texas Tech team to their credit.
Statistically speaking, Texas has been pretty stout against the run thus far, ranking 20th in the nation, allowing only 2.6 yards per carry. This will be the first run defense Nebraska has faced that doesn’t have a path to the end zone already marked out for the Huskers. What happens if Nebraska is forced to pass in order to win the game?
Nobody knows. T-Monster hasn’t been forced into that role yet this season. A comfortable lead has accompanied him in every game thus far, a luxury that won’t last the entire season.
The biggest advantage the Longhorns have on the Huskers is their dominating recent history. And the game being played in Lincoln might actually favor the Longhorns. Follow me here….
The crowd is out for blood. They have seen the struggles of the Longhorns this year. What’s going to be their mindset if the game is close going into the 4th quarter? Sometimes a crowd’s anxiety can be transferred over to a team’s players. A sort of here-we-go-again feeling.
After all, this is Texas, and you don’t mess with them. Especially if you’re Nebraska.
What will actually happen?
This game extends well beyond the normal rivalry between these two schools. Feelings were hurt in the offseason, and pride has come into play. This one is personal.
I fully expect Texas to play up to the names on the front of their jerseys. They’ve heard all the negative talk these last two weeks, and they will play this game with nothing to lose.
An early lead by Nebraska could squash all confidence the young Longhorns team has, making the 1st quarter vital. With all the talk centered around T-Martini this week, keep an eye out for an early zone-read playaction pass over the top.
I expect this game to go down to the wire, and have the fear of Texas in my heart. However, I also have faith in the Big Red to gut out a victory when need be. They’ll need everything they have for this one.
Nebraska 16, Texas 13