2010 Big 12 Championship
Nebraska vs. OU, Part 2
Big 12 Championship: Part
One. The Overview
Players to Watch: It could be this simple. Either Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez
is playing, and effective, or this could be an ugly
blowout. The Huskers simply don't have the firepower
to keep up in a firefight with Cody Green under center, but they might not have a choice. A burgeoning Heisman candidate early on this year with three straight 100-yard rushing games to open the season, and a scintillating 241-yard, four touchdown evening on the ground against Kansas State, Martinez
got dinged up and was never quite right ever since. He had one phenomenal performance against Oklahoma State, throwing for 323 yards and five touchdowns while running for 112, but he hasn't scored a rushing touchdown since the win over the Wildcats, a span of seven games, he was awful against Texas, and he has been limited against everyone else. Gimpy at very best with a bum ankle, and having injury problems throughout the second half of the year,
it'll be a bonus if he gives the Huskers anything.
While Martinez is questionable, Oklahoma star running back DeMarco Murray is expected to play
after suffering a knee injury against Oklahoma State. While it's not a 100% lock the senior will play, the coaching staff appears to be optimistic. Murray is winding up an interesting career with 3,524 rushing yards, 1,512 receiving yards, and 64 total touchdowns, but he has never been able to stay healthy. After missing the 2007 Big 12 title game with an injured knee, and getting hurt on the opening kickoff of the 2008 championship, this is his chance to finally make his mark on the biggest conference stage. OU is
13-0 over the last four years when he runs for 100 yards or more.
Both teams will send plenty of players to the pros, but the matchup all the scouts will be watching will be Thorpe Award finalist, Nebraska's Prince Amukamara, when he lines up on Bilitnikoff finalist, Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles. Amukamara is 6-1 and 205 pounds with great size, phenomenal speed, great recovery skills and excellent ball hawking ability,
and while he hasn't picked off a pass this year, he has broken up a whopping 13 passes to go along with a solid 50 tackles. If LSU's Patrick Peterson isn't the first corner taken in the draft, it'll be Amukamara. Broyles isn't nearly the same sort of NFL prospect, he's not big enough, but he has yet to be stopped
this season. The nation's leading receiver is OU's first 100-catch player with 115 grabs for 1,391 yards and 13 touchdowns. Held to 74 yards on eight catches against the Huskers in last year's 10-3 loss, he has been on a tear ever since with 18 touchdowns in his last 16 games.
Nebraska will win if ... the defense channels its 2009 self. There isn't a Ndamukong Suh on the Husker defensive front who can use OU QB Landry Jones as a throw pillow, like Suh did with Colt McCoy last year,
but the pass defense is second in the nation while the run defense has allowed just 147 yards per game. Week after week, star quarterbacks like Washington's Jake Locker, Missouri's Blaine Gabbert, and Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill, have been shut down cold by the Husker D, and Jones might be in for the same fate. The Huskers might not generate too many sacks, but they have a way of making high-powered passing teams sputter
by swarming around every short pass and not allowing
Offensively, Nebraska has to get the running backs going. Even if Martinez is able to play, the team can't rely on him for a full sixty minutes so it'll be up to Red Burkhead and Roy Helu, Jr. to control the clock and the game. It's a simple stat: if Nebraska doesn't run for 200 yards, it loses, and this year, when it doesn't run for at least 250 yards, it struggles. In the two losses, the Huskers ran for just 125 yards against Texas and 142 against A&M, while supposed layups against South Dakota State (205 yards), Iowa State (235 yards), and Kansas (230 yards), and the battle with Oklahoma State (217 yards), were all too close for comfort. Oklahoma gives up 152 rushing yards per game and has allowed more than 200 in just three games, all wins.
Oklahoma will win if ... it gets up early and Nebraska has to throw to come back. It's not that the Huskers can't throw, the quarterbacks combined to complete 15-of-19 passes for 142 yards and touchdowns against Colorado last week, but it's not the preferred mode of transportation ranking last in the Big 12 in passing. This isn't a team built for comebacks, and it hasn't been able to do so. The only two times the offense had to rally were in the two losses, and it didn't work out so hot. Even though Nebraska's defense is phenomenal against the pass, OU's balanced offense has the ability to simply outbomb the Huskers. The Sooners have the ability to hang 35 on the board in this game if everything clicks for a stretch, while Nebraska doesn't.
OU also has the ability and the potential to negate a normally huge Nebraska advantage: the punt return game. Field position is at a premium for a Nebraska offense that might not have the punch to put up yards in chunks, but with star return man Niles Paul out with a foot injury, OU should be able keep the game on the other end of the field if Tress Way, who's averaging 44 yards per kick, has a big game. Nebraska's Alex Henery is a special placekicker, and he also came up with a fantastic game against Colorado putting three of his four kicks inside the 20. However, Broyles, who averaged 17 yards per
punt return in last year's game against the Huskers, should be a difference maker if he gets the chance.
What will happen: Nebraska won't have the horses. The gameplan will be to turn the defense loose, pound away with the ground game, and hope for the OU mistakes to come, and while Landry Jones and the attack won't go wild, it'll be a balanced, patient game that takes advantage of every opportunity. Oklahoma might have plenty of three-and-outs, but it won't give up enough big turnovers for Nebraska to ever take control. The active Sooner defensive line will outplay the Nebraska offensive front, but not enough to make this a blowout. It's Oklahoma outside of its state's borders; it's going to be close.
CFN Prediction: Oklahoma 26 … Nebraska 20 ... Line: Oklahoma -4
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Big 12 Championship: Part
One. The Overview