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Big 12 Title Preview - Oklahoma vs. Nebraska

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Nov 29, 2006


2006 Big 12 Championship Game - Nebraska vs. Oklahoma Preview and Prediction


Big 12
North Colorado | Iowa St | Kansas | Kansas State | Missouri | Nebraska
South Baylor | Oklahoma | Oklahoma State | Texas | Texas A&M | Texas Tech
Past Big 12 Predictions: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7
Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Week 12 | Week 1
3

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How'd we do so far? 59-19 straight up, 29-42-1 ATS 

Oklahoma (10-2) vs. Nebraska (9-3)

Dec. 2, 8:00 p.m. ET, ABC

Twenty years ago, this was the biggest and best rivalry in college football. Now that the Big 12 has split things up, the national buzz and excitement over what was the yearly Nebraska-Oklahoma game has turned more to Notre Dame-USC and Michigan-Ohio State. Even so, just the sound of the matchup ... Oklahoma vs. Nebraska ... gets the juices flowing for the older college football fans, and those who get into ESPN Classic.

National Rankings
Oklahoma Nebraska
Total Offense
39th  370.67 ypg 9th  434 ypg
Total Defense
14th  273.08 ypg 71st  346.75 ypg
Scoring Offense
23rd  30.08 ppg 9th  33.92 ppg
Scoring Defense
18th  16 ppg 30th  18.17 ppg
Run Offense
 14th  188.67 ypg 18th  183.25 ypg
Run Defense
19th  99 ypg 48th  126.92 ypg
Pass Offense
80th  182 ypg 18th  250.75 ypg
Pass Defense
27th  174.08 ypg 84th  219.83 ypg
Turnover Margin
79th  -0.33 38th  0.33
Oklahoma
UAB W 24-17
Washington W 37-20
at Oregon L 34-33
MTSU W 59-0
vs. Texas L 28-10
Iowa State
W 34-9
Colorado W 24-3
at Missouri W 26-10
at Tex A&M
W 17-16
Texas Tech W 34-24
at Baylor
W 36-10
at Okla St W 27-21
Nebraska
La Tech W 49-10
Nicholls St W 56-7
at USC L 28-10
Troy
W 56-0
Kansas W 39-32 OT
at Iowa St W 28-14
at Kansas St
W 21-3
Texas L 22-20
at Okla St
L 41-29
Missouri W 34-20
at Tex A&M W 28-27
Colorado W 37-14
Position Ratings
relative to each other
O 5 highest
1 lowest
N
4 Quarterbacks 4.5
4.5 RBs 4
3.5 Receivers 4
4 O Line 3.5
4 D Line 4
4 Linebackers 3.5
4 Secondary 3
4 Spec Teams 3.5
5 Coaching 4

Younger fans might not truly realize how big these two used to be. Back in the days of the Big 8, this was the game at the end of the season that everyone waited for since it always determined the conference title and, more often than not, had a say in the national title race. It wasn't November until the fans of the winning team rained oranges on the field, signifying the team's prize of a spot in the Orange Bowl.

Now these two are playing for corn chips with the Big 12's champion going to the Fiesta Bowl to likely face Boise State. This is the first time in the eleven year history of the Big 12 championship that these two superpowers have met in the title game.

Everyone had Texas pegged for the trip to Kansas City with Mack Brown's club needing to win just one of its final two games against Kansas State and Texas A&M to be in. The Longhorns lost both, Oklahoma closed out the year with seven straight wins, and now Bob Stoops' club has a shot to win its second title in three years and third in five seasons.

Wake Forest had more injury problems than Oklahoma and Louisville knows what it's like to lose a NFL-star-in-waiting running back and still press on, but no one has had to overcome adversity like the Sooners. From former starting quarterback Rhett Bomar getting nailed for taking some coin from a car dealership to the fiasco and the aftermath of the loss to Oregon to the loss of Adrian Peterson to a broken collarbone, OU has earned its way to this game; it didn't back in.

For Nebraska, this game represents the next big step in the master plan of changing the program from an outdated, but effective, program to a new-age team with a completely different look as it shoots for its first Big 12 title since 1999. After all the controversy surrounding the firing of Frank Solich, the hiring of Bill Callahan, and the switch from the option to the spread, winning the Big 12 North and playing for the title has Nebraska close to returning to elite superpower status. To get there, it needs to come up with its first really big win of the season.

Oh sure, beating Missouri was nice, and stopping Texas A&M was big, but the Huskers came up short in the two big spotlight games showing no offensive creativity in the 28-10 loss to USC and failing to hold on late in a 22-20 loss to Texas.

Oklahoma also lost to the Longhorns getting stomped 28-10, but the only other loss, the controversial 34-33 battle with Oregon, is still being disputed by many after officials botched the call on a late onside kick attempt. While the Sooners aren't blowing anyone away, they've turned ultra-effective, ultra-efficient, and very dangerous becoming one of the most confident teams around.

No, this isn't the 1971 Game of the Century, and it isn't even the 1987 battle of one vs. two, but for the first time in a few years, the Big 12 title game is a toss up. It should be a good one.

Players to watch: No player has represented the shift in Nebraska's philosophy more than senior QB Zac Taylor, who was just named to the first-team All-Big 12 squad. No Husker quarterback has ever gotten to throw like the former JUCO transfer has, and he came through this year with a brilliant 24 touchdown, four interception season. No longer just the bomber he was when he first started last year. he's making better and better decisions while doing a much better job of getting the ball to his receivers in places where they can do something with it.

It also helps for Taylor to have one of the best receiving corps Nebraska has ever had. It's an unsung group since no one player stands out, but junior Maurice Purify is as close as the team has to being a number one, crunch-time, go-to target with fellow junior Terrence Nunn serving as a steady No. 1A receiver. Throw Nate Swift and Frantz Hardy into the mix, and the Huskers have enough weapons to spread it around.

Oklahoma's offense has been all about ball control and a grinding running game with production not dropping off at all since losing Adrian Peterson. Junior Allen Patrick has rushed for 603 yards in the four games he's started, while missing two with an ankle injury, cranking out a solid 163 yards on 23 carries last week against Oklahoma State. Freshman Chris Brown has been just as effective when getting the call forming a speedy 1-2 punch that has to be effective for the Sooners to win.

Oklahoma will win if... the secondary plays like it has over the last several weeks. Lendy Holmes, Reggie Smith, Darien Williams, Nic Harris and Marcus Walker have come into their own forming a fantastic young secondary that not only held its own against passing teams like Texas Tech and Baylor, it's been downright dominant at times. It struggled a bit last week against Oklahoma State's talented receivers and was picked apart for the first time since the Oregon loss. Taylor will complete his short to midrange passes, but as long as the secondary limits the yards after the catch, OU will be fine.

Nebraska will win if... it forces Paul Thompson to be Peyton Manning. The Sooner quarterback has done a terrific, efficient job of managing games, tempo, and the clock keeping the chains moving time and again when needed, but for the most part, his job has been to hand off, hand off, hand off, and don't turn the ball over. While he was excellent in the win over Texas Tech, he's not the type of passer who'll win a shootout with Taylor. The veteran Husker D line has to force third and long situations over and over again, while the suspect secondary has to do its part and not give up too many big plays. If Thompson is able to stretch the defense, it's over.

What will happen: Do you like the Big 12's most efficient passing game or the league's most efficient pass defense? Each team will get what it needs to on the ground, so it's mostly up to which team's weakness is exposed the most. Can Nebraska handle the speedy Oklahoma receivers on the deep routes? Can Thompson effectively throw the home run ball? Maybe, and yes. Sooner turnovers will keep this from being a rout, but everything else will work for OU's offense.

Line: Oklahoma -4 ... CFN Prediction: Oklahoma 27 ...
Nebraska 21  

2005 Big 12 Championship
Texas 70 ... Colorado 3

Texas made it a laugher in a hurry with a 14-0 first quarter lead and answering a 25-yard field goal from Colorado's Mason Crosby with 56 unanswered points helped by 35 points in the second half. Vince Young threw three touchdown passes and ran for a two-yard score before being pulled early in the second half. Jamaal Charles ran for three touchdowns and Henry Melton both started and finished the scoring with one-yard touchdown runs.
Player of the game: Texas QB Vince Young completed 14 of 17 passes for 193 yards and three touchdowns with an interception and ran eight times for 57 yards and a score.
Stat Leaders: Texas - Passing: Vince Young, 14-17, 193 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Jamaal Charles, 7-62, 2 TD. Receiving: Limas Sweed, 5-102, 1 TD
Colorado - Passing: Joel Klatt, 14-24, 100 yds, 1 INT
Rushing:
Hugh Charles, 12-36. Receiving: Joel Klopfenstein, 4-23