Tag:Big XII
Posted on: November 16, 2009 6:15 am
Edited on: November 16, 2009 6:17 am
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KU KO'ed: Nebraska 31, Kansas 17

It's been a running joke all season. So much so that the television announcers who called Saturday's game between the Nebraska Cornhuskers and the Kansas Jayhawks referenced it multiple times during their broadcast.

For several weeks, it's seemed that no one wanted to win the Big XII North Division Title.

And despite knowing otherwise, that oft-repeated "joke" has contained more than an element of truth during this topsy-turvy season.

It's not difficult to see why. Visit almost any college football message board or blog, and you'll quickly see a pattern. Scores of cynical fans repeatedly asking the same question.

Why would any team want to be offered up as a sacrifice to the undefeated Texas Longhorns in the Big XII Championship?

While I don't agree with that sentiment, and believe that Nebraska has the best chance out of the North to compete against Texas, it's understandable why some people might feel that way.

First off, let's look at the Longhorns.

Their offense is ranked second nationally in points scored at 41.6 pts/game. Aside from the Oklahoma game, which Texas won by three, the Longhorns' average margin of victory has been 10 points or more. However, most times it's been more. Much more. Texas Tech was the only other team that managed to keep within 10 points of the 'Horns when the final gun sounded. Texas defeated its eight other opponents by an average of 34.6 points, including this past Saturday as they pasted Baylor, 47-14.

Defensively, Texas is the No. 1 team in the nation, allowing an average of 232 yds/gm. In fact, the only things that Texas doesn't do exceptionally well (i.e. rank in the Top 25 in the country) is rush the ball (55th), punt (84th) and prevent sacks (48th).

Meanwhile, in the Big XII North, it's been a bumpy ride for most teams.

Colorado and Kansas have been downright awful. After winning five in a row, Kansas has now lost five in a row, the latest being a 31-17 defeat at the hands of the Huskers. Not even the fact that it was Senior Day for Todd Reesing, Kerry Meier, Darrell Stuckey and Max Onyegbule, among others, or the fact that the Jayhawks were playing for bowl eligibility could propel them to a win.

It probably wouldn't be too presumptuous to pencil in that sixth loss in a row; Kansas travels to Austin next week, though the Jayhawks still have their neutral site game against Mizzou on the horizon.

The Tigers, who have failed to find a consistent identity under Blaine Gabbert, did the Huskers a favor and beat the Wildcats, 38-12 in the battle of Big XII feline football. Coupled with the Nebraska win, that gives the Huskers a half-game lead over Kansas State.

It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that the Big XII North title will be decided next week in Lincoln when K-State comes-a-callin’.

And after Saturday, it appears that the Big Red wants it more. Either that or they have the talent to get the job done. Maybe both. 

Nebraska has had their fair share of key injuries, so it's a negative on depth.

Aside from the Kansas offensive line doing a fine job containing the Nebraska front four for most of the game, there was improvement in other key areas, which should be an encouraging sign for the Huskers going into their own Senior Day with the North title on the line.

Nebraska was much-improved on offense, piling up over 400 total yards, their highest output since the Louisiana-Lafayette game. Roy Helu, Jr. backed up his 100+ yard effort a week ago with 156 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.

In fact, it was the Big Red offense’s turn to answer the opposition for a change instead of forcing the defense to make a game-winning play, though Dejon Gomes’ third-quarter strip of Meier as he headed to the end zone certainly helped. Besides, after the Huskers’ eight turnovers against Iowa State (several in the red zone), it somehow felt fitting, as if the earth started spinning properly around its axis once more.

In the fourth quarter, Reesing, looking like the Todd Reesing of old, drove the Jayhawks 89 yards down the field (their longest scoring drive of the season) and punctuated the effort with a sweet 21–yard strike to Dezmon Briscoe to take a 17-16 lead. 

However, following Niles Paul's hefty return of a KU pooch kick, the Huskers who had scored only four offensive touchdowns in as many games were not the same Huskers to take the field. Aided by a facemask call on KU cornerback Justin Thornton, Helu bolted for 20 yards and a score.

And unlike past games when the Huskers were unable to run significant time off the clock, the Nebraska offense managed to get the ball back with 5:15 to play and cap the game with another Helu rushing touchdown.

Nebraska still made mistakes, though not as many as last week. Asante’s late hit on Reesing could have easily earned him an ejection and will most likely be reviewed by conference officials in the coming week. Likewise, Keith Williams’ tripping penalty deep in Jayhawk territory most likely caused the Huskers to settle for a field goal instead of a touchdown.

Overall, things could have been much worse for the Huskers, but they made some plays when it mattered, got some lucky breaks, cut down on penalties and managed to find the end zone more than once.

Instead, they could have had Danario Alexander compile 200 receiving yards against their defense, lose any momentum they might have had going into the game to decide the division and add another chapter to the comedy of errors also known as the 2009 Big XII North.

But on November 21st in Lincoln, when the Huskers and Wildcats face off, he who laughs last, will laugh best.

Until they face Texas.

With a chance to make history.

Posted on: September 14, 2009 2:30 am
Edited on: September 14, 2009 2:31 am
 

Nebraska 38, Arkansas State 9

It wasn't the Roy Helu Jr. Show again this week.  Instead, It was Zac Lee's time to shine.

Meanwhile the Blackshirts played better in some aspects, worse in others.

Not to oversimplify things, but having watched the game twice and knowing that many of you watched it also and/or read recaps and commentaries of the game, I'm going to break the game down into what I think are the salient points.

Note-I never read any media reports on the week's game until after I write my blog, so as not to color my perception.  I only check stats.

Before I examine the forensics of Nebraska's latest win, I have an admission to make: I hardly knew anything about Arkansas State.  I  know that they shocked the Aggies in College Station last year and that they beat Mississippi Valley State, 61-0, in the first week of this season.  And yes, Mississippi Valley State is what we would have formerly called a Division I-AA school.  However, despite the disparity in talent, anytime a team shuts out another by sixty-one points that's saying something.  So to reiterate, I didn't know what to expect from the Red Wolves, but I still expected a comfortable win by the Huskers.  And that's what we got.

Comfortable, but not particularly impressive.

Even though the Huskers punched in their first score in just over three minutes and jumped out to a 21-0 lead (which should have been 28-0, see below), Coach Pelini, ever the perfectionist, thought his team could play better.

Especially considering that the Huskers have a date in Blacksburg in less than a week, and while the Hokies lost in week one to Alabama, they more than took care of business against Marshall, albeit a Marshall team that squeaked out a three-point victory a week before against Southern Illinois.

So what do we really know?  Practically nothing.  I don't think it's any big secret that Pelini and his OC, Shawn Watson, haven't shown their team's full potential against two decidedly inferior opponents.  We do know that Alabama left a blueprint on how to beat Tech, but we don't know if the Huskers have the talent to execute it.

Besides, all of this is a topic for another day, a day very soon.

So, here are my observations of the Arkansas State Game:

Zac Lee looked quite comfortable as he threw for four touchdowns and over 300 yards, which was good considering that Arkansas State's defense seemed to have an answer for Roy Helu, Jr.  Helu had sixty yards rushing and another forty-four receiving.  While Helu's production was diminished, Watson stuck with his gameplan, mixing equal parts of running and passing plays well into the second half when it became clear that Nebraska's fortunes were to be gained through the air.  What was more impressive than Lee's stats was his ball distribution.  Fourteen Huskers caught passes (eleven from Lee), and the touchdowns were scored by Mike McNeill (twice), Niles Paul and Tyler Legate.  Niles Paul could have had a third score (his other TD came on a reverse), but Lee's beautiful 70-yard strike to Paul was called back after a holding penalty.

Which brings me to a second point.  While the Huskers had only four penalties, the aforementioned holding call and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty following a kickoff were big ones and are the type of mistakes that the Huskers can ill afford to make against the Hokies or any of their upper-echelon Big XII foes.

Another thing that should give Husker fans pause was the play of the defense.  This week, Carl Pelini's squad managed to get pressure on the opposing quarterback and tally four sacks.  They also held the Red Wolves to ninety-eight net passing yards.  However, they allowed 174 yards on the ground and gave up sizable chunks of yardage on first and second downs.  Once again, this will not do when Nebraska faces more talented offenses.  They cannot continually give their opponents the advantage of second-and-short or third-and short.  And while Nebraska was able to exploit personnel mismatches, most notably their taller receivers against ASU's 5'11" DB, Cordarious Mingo, Pelini remarked after the game that the Huskers have had too many missed tackles and blown assignments in their first two contests.

So, in a week in which there were perhaps more questions than answers, will Nebraska have time to sharpen its game before their big date in Blacksburg?  And, just what is this team capable of accomplishing?

Husker Nation will have to wait for the answers.

Posted on: September 8, 2009 2:07 am
Edited on: September 8, 2009 2:19 am
 

Musings After Week One of College Football

We live in a sports world in which everyone is trying to offer up bold predictions and issue ominous statements in order to get a soundbite.  I prefer to think that you can't tell anything after one week of football and that pre-season polls are useless.

The reason that I open with this is that I'm tired of hearing how Oklahoma's title hopes are irreparably damaged, as greviously wounded as Sam Bradford's shoulder.  News Flash: A team doesn't have to finish an undefeated season to hoist the crystal football, though it helps,  Didn't Florida lose to Ole Miss last season?  Weren't the LSU Tigers beaten twice in their 2007 Championship campaign?

Yes, the majority of BCS National Champions were undefeated, but my point is that one game does not a season make.  Besides, recent reports have announced that Bradford has already begun his rehab and should be back in plenty of time for the Sooners' date against the Longhorns in October.  On a side note, props to Texas' Colt McCoy who had the class to send a "get well" text to Bradford.

So members of the media (including those in the employ of CBS), let's tap the brake a little, shall we?

I think that perhaps a more interesting question might be: Is Bob Stoops overrated as a "big game" football coach?

Sure, his 2000 squad came out of nowhere and won the title, but since then, his teams have been embarrassed on a national stage more times than he would care to be reminded.  Three losses in the BCS title game (to LSU, USC and Florida, respectively), this year's loss to BYU as well as a season-opener against TCU in 2005, and of course, the infamous Fiesta Bowl against Boise State, which many college football fans regard as one of the best games ever played.

OU fans, if you're reading this, please don't get upset.  I'm not saying Stoops is a bad coach.  Also, I respect your team.  I'm just saying that, in some very notable games in which his troops should have been prepared and passionate to play, they've just looked bad.  If you can name me one game of consequence since their most recent national championship (other than a couple of Red River Rivalries or Big XII title games against overmatched opponents) that OU has won, I'll reconsider my opinion of Stoops.  And Missouri and Texas Tech do not count; it's my contention that both were overrated when they had the national spotlight cast upon them, then promptly stumbled out of its glow.

Next up, Erin Andrews, ESPN's "It Girl".  On September 11th, she's going to tell you, and Oprah, and an audience of millions, what a "nightmare" it's been since that nude video of her popped up on the Internet.  Really?  A nightmare, huh?  That's why you're going to relate the story in front of the biggest audience you could find?  Hmm, interesting.  The lady doth protest too much, methinks.  Sounds more like someone trying to squeeze as much mileage from said "nightmare" than someone truly scarred by the event.

Florida State and Miami proved that the ACC could put on a good show after the majority of the conference laid an egg.  At least Virgina Tech lost to Alabama.  Respectable.  As was Maryland's fall to Cal, Wake's loss to Baylor and NC State's defeat by the Gamecocks.  But Virgina losing to William and Mary?  Duke losing to Richmond?  I have a question for both Al Groh and David Cutcliffe, a question made famous by a series of Southwest Airlines commercials, "Wanna get away?"

Which is the same question I'd pose Colorado Buffaloes' head coach, Dan Hawkins who boldy predicted a 10-win season this year after only managing to cobble together thirteen wins in his first three seasons.  It's true that, according to the "experts", Colorado has put together some good recruiting classes under Hawkins, but his prediction sounded more like a man's desperate plea to save his job than a guarantee.  If his team continues its current ways, no "prediction" will change Hawkins' fate.

It appears that the SI cover jinx may be weakening.  On the magazine's college football preview issue, they featured four different covers for different regions.  Oklahoma State was on the one in my mailbox.  Sure enough, the Cowboys tamed the Bulldogs.  I guess all that money from T. Boone Pickens made a difference after all.  But seriously, I kid.  Oklahoma State is picked to be this year's "Texas Tech".  I hope not.  Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see OSU break the OU/UT logjam atop the Big XII's South Division.  It's just that we all saw how the Red Raiders went out with a whimper once everyone had drank the Kool-Aid.  Incidentally, there still may be some validity to that ol' jinx after all; Oregon was on one of the alternate covers, and we all know what happened to them.

Finally, nobody saw it unless they bought the pay-per-view, but the much heralded Nebraska recruit, Cody Green came into the Huskers' season opener in the second half to spell Zac Lee and get some valuable playing time.  He promptly ripped off a 49-yard run in which he almost scored, causing echoes of the great Tommie Frazier to reverberate throughout Memorial Stadium.  Bo Pelini is slowly and quietly building a winner in the Land of the Corn.  Yes, I know.  Like I said above, it's only one game.  But it's also MY blog.  And there's a reason it's named...

...Husker's Take.
Posted on: December 1, 2008 1:30 am
Edited on: September 20, 2009 2:01 am
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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com