The Week That Will Be (10.16.2010)

Last Week: 2-4 ATS 3-3 SU
For the Year: 14-18-4 (.438) ($-580) ATS 26-10 (.) SU

What we learned last week:

We learned to slow down on the Denard Robinson for Heisman campaign, as he threw 3 interceptions, two of them in the red zone as Michigan once again lost to State…

We learned that you might as well just enjoy the absurdity of Les Miles, because it won’t be around forever…

We learned that South Carolina can play a perfect game, sack Greg McElroy 7 times and yes, Stephen Garcia does have some talent…

We learned that Tommy Tuberville had better give up the surprise onside kick, because at this point it is only a surprise if the other team doesn’t score on it…

We learned that we need an open ballot on those that voted Jerrod Johnson the Big 12 offensive player of the year this pre-season, because they need to be excluded from voting for any major award ever again…

And finally we learned that the Bill Snyder Era Take 2 is a far cry from the first installment, but I’m sure they’re saving it all for Texas.

Anyhow…

”Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord…” Jeremiah 17:7

Where were you when it happened?

Which time?

In 2009 I was in the upper deck of the Death Star, thinking about how in the hell I’m going to use my American Airlines voucher that I’m going to need when I cancel my flight to Orange County for January 6th. Screaming obscenities that will not be found anywhere in Jeremiah 17:7, I saw with my own eyes the second that was left on the clock when Colt McCoy’s errant pass fell incomplete, and had complete confidence that the officiating crew would see the same upstairs.

They did.

But, even though I had confidence in Hunter Lawrence, you never know what pressure will do to the soul of a human being. Jordan Shipley, being the consummate leader, whispered in his ear the above bible verse and Lawrence kicked the ball through the uprights and sent Texas to their second national title game in five years.

In 2006 I sat in the lower deck at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska and watched as the snow flakes started to fall, coinciding with a 49 yard touchdown pass from Zac Taylor to Brandon Jackson, and the snow started falling even harder when Marlon Lucky threw a 25 yard halfback pass to Nate Swift as Nebraska took their first lead of the second half, 20-19.

I remember looking up at the falling snow against the gray Nebraskan sky, the stadium literally shaking to its core as the blood-thirsty faithful Red finally felt that destiny was theirs, and remember thinking that Colt McCoy probably had never seen snow in his life but now had to lead his team down the field in the most hostile territory he would ever see.

And then it got worse.

A sack on 2nd and 8 forced the Longhorns into 3rd and long, which they did not convert, and Nebraska got the ball on their own 29, with 2:58 left in the game, get a first down and the ballgame is over.

And they did. But Aaron Ross put his helmet on the ball caught by Terrence Nunn, and UT was back in business, 1st and 10 at the Nebraska 44 yard line.

The snow stopped falling. Two pass plays to Quan Cosby got the Horns down to the 22 yard line. A Selvin Young rush got them down the 10 yard line. A couple of plays later, the drive stalled, and out trotted walk-on freshman Ryan Bailey to attempt a 22 yard field goal to win the game?

Who? “Who the F is Bailey?” I asked my buddy sitting next to me.

After the kick was good, it was Ryan F’ing Bailey.

I’m not going to regale you with tales of where I was during every Texas/Nebraska game of the Big 12 era, but suffice it to say that I can remember where I was for every one of them (in Lincoln in 2002 to see Nathan Vasher pick off Jamal Lord, in DKR when Mike Jones and Matthew McConaughey danced on the sidelines in 1999), when I would have to struggle to tell you where I was for every Texas/Missouri game, or every Texas/Kansas State game.

Saturday’s game between Texas and Nebraska is indeed the end of an era, one that I am sad to see go.

And it didn’t have to be this way.

Nebraska was the blue collar, still clinging to the option way of football when the Big 12 was formed in time for the 1996 season. And why not? The Huskers won three national championships in four years running that offense, but still were bothered by the wealth and arrogance (don’t you just love those two words together in Texas lore), displayed by the flashy Longhorns who were instrumental in the formation of the Big 12.

The Huskers would have been just fine beating up on Iowa State and Kansas each and every week, thank you, and didn’t need Texas coming into their conference and telling them how to run things and getting rid of their partial qualifiers.

I guarantee you if you get Representative Tom Osborne in a room without tape recorders, he’d have some choice words about Texas.

And why not? Texas beat the Huskers in the inaugural Big 12 Championship Game (another reason Osborne hated Texas, he wanted no part of conference championship games) as a three touchdown underdog rolled over the Cornhuskers, ending their hopes of a national title game berth. In 1998 Texas went up to Lincoln and was a 16.5 point underdog, but ended Nebraska’s 47 game home winning streak with a 20-16 victory led by Major Applewhite. In 2002 that win ended Nebraska’s 26 game home winning streak.

Texas cost them multiple shots at national championship runs, while they thought that they had dashed the hopes of the Longhorns last season, only for the refs to “correctly” put one second back on the clock so that Texas could kick a field goal in the Big 12 Championship game. Look long and hard over the Nebraska plains, but you won’t find that “correctly” anywhere in the news articles from this week.

So what does Nebraska do? Do they stick with it, knowing that the tide will turn at some point, that Texas’s “luck” will run out, that the league that has been around for 14 years is starting to mature?

Nope, they take their ball and go home.

Without even the decency to visit Austin one last time.

The Cornhuskers came into this conference with a chip on their shoulder, and will leave at the end of this academic year with a larger chip on their shoulder, fueled by their inability to defeat Texas but once in the sport they care about up there, football.

Nebraska came into this conference well respected behind the leadership and teachings of Osborne, the envy of a nation that saw that N on the helmets and was legitimately intimidated.

Nebraska leaves the conference by selling t-shirts with :01 on the back and an upside down Longhorn on the front, promoting a “RED OUT” months in advance (I saw plenty of red up there in my trips in 2002 and 2006) and other mockeries of their historical relevance usually reserved for teams wearing maroon and humping it out.

Even though Texas limps into this game with a two game losing streak, the city of Lincoln is obsessed with one thing and one thing only this week, and have been since December of last year.

Beat Texas.

To the Longhorns, this game shouldn’t be about getting a win over Nebraska to improve their record to 4-2 and get things back on track. That is a nice benefit as well, but the goal of the Longhorns this week should be to stick in Nebraska’s eye one last time.

Goodbye, and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Due to their early season struggles, Texas is in an unusual position – an underdog. And an overwhelming one at that.

In Vegas, 75-77% of the money is coming in on Nebraska to beat Texas by two scores or more.

When you get up on Saturday morning and turn on College Gameday to ogle Erin Andrews and cuss Lee Corso, prepare yourselves. Desmond Howard will make some outlandish statement about how Texas doesn’t belong on the same field as Nebraska. Kirk Herbstreit will throw out Taylor Martinez’s stats and predict Nebraska to make a statement to the rest of the country. Corso will say it will be closer than the experts think, but Nebraska will still win.

Every pundit on every broadcast signal from here to Saskatchewan will pick the Huskers to roll, that they will finally get over on Texas.

If we weren’t so arrogant, we’d start to get a complex about this.

The national pundits, and even most local pundits, might blow up Nebraska to be the best team in the country with their stud first year quarterback and hard hitting defense.

But the Longhorns don’t have to be the best team in the world on Saturday. From what we’ve seen so far this year, they aren’t in the same stratosphere of that title.

All they have to be is the best team on Saturday.

The post-game quotes in the UCLA and Oklahoma losses were rife with regret, saying that we should have done this, or should have done this sooner, or if we’d only cut down on those mistakes, we would have won the ballgame.

Leave it all on the field.

Saturday isn’t about this year. It is about taking pride in this program’s past and looking at that name across the front of your chest and knowing what those before you did, knowing that there is a privilege to wearing that uniform.

It is knowing that the team in the other locker room would like nothing more to embarrass you and taking that anger and channeling it into the right path.

This team has been tested. It is time to respond.

To borrow from the great Herb Brooks, great moments are made from great opportunities. Ryan Bailey, Derek Lewis, James Brown, Mike Jones, Major Applewhite, Brian White and Wane McGarity all took advantage of those opportunities.

Every play.

This day.

On to the games...

Arkansas @ Auburn -3.5:

This is a game of contrasting styles as Auburn brings the nation’s 8th best rushing attack while Arkansas brings the nation’s 3rd best passing game.

Auburn has struggled against the pass this year, giving up 239 yards per game in the air. They gave up 300 yard passing games to Arkansas State and South Carolina already this year. Mallett will feast here.

Arkansas 37 Auburn 31
ATS – Arkansas
SU – Arkansas

Iowa -3 @ Michigan:

Michigan struggled against Michigan State last week for long stretches of time. It doesn’t get any easier this week as Iowa brings the nation’s 2nd best rush defense.

Ricky Stanzi is quietly having a very good year, as he is third in the country in passing efficiency. A great defense and a smart quarterback that keeps the ball on his side of the field will win you a lot of games.

Iowa 27 Michigan 21
ATS – Iowa
SU – Iowa

Ohio State -4 @ Wisconsin:

A game of trends: Wisconsin is 25-3 in night home games since 1995…but Ohio State is 8-0 on the road against Top 25 teams recent years. Wisconsin hasn’t beaten Ohio State since 2004, and hasn’t beaten them at Camp Randall since 2003.

I look at a Wisconsin team that is living on name only, as they’ve struggled at home against teams they shouldn’t have (San Jose State, Arizona State) and let Minnesota move the ball last week.

With the nation’s #117 ranked schedule, Jim Tressel has probably been preparing for this game for weeks.

Ohio State 24 Wisconsin 16
ATS – Ohio State
SU – Ohio State

Oklahoma State @ Texas Tech -3.5:

The home team has won every game in this series since Tech won 49-30 in Stillwater in 2001. Which Oklahoma State team shows up here? The one that has feasted on weak defenses at home, or the one that continuously struggles on the road?

The Cowboys are giving up 290 yards per game through the air, and it doesn’t figure to get better in Lubbock against a Texas Tech team that is starting to find its offensive identity.

Texas Tech 41 Oklahoma State 34
ATS – Texas Tech
SU – Texas Tech

Missouri @ Texas A&M -3.5:

It is a tale of ships passing in opposite directions, as Texas A&M has lost two in a row in ugly fashion, while Missouri stomped Colorado 26-0 last week to improve to 5-0.

But how impressive has Missouri been? Their best win is over 3-2 Illinois, and I’m not comfortable calling any win over a Ron Zook coached team an impressive win.

Jerrod Johnson already has more interceptions to this point than he had all of last season, but when he is on, he’s on. Missouri gets exposed as a, ahem, paper tiger.

Texas A&M 37 Missouri 28
ATS – Texas A&M
SU – Texas A&M

Texas @ Nebraska -9.5:

Oddly enough, I’m worried more about how the Texas defense handles the Nebraska offense than I am what the Texas offense does on Saturday afternoon.

If Texas is able to control Taylor Martinez and the rest of the Nebraska rushing attack, Texas can steal one here by doing just enough on offense and hoping for a game changing play on defense or special teams.

But that, of course, is easier said than done, as Nebraska is 2nd in the country in rushing offense, with Martinez averaging 147 yards per game on the ground himself.

But are those empty numbers?

Don’t get me wrong, Martinez has been impressive, as has the whole Nebraska attack, but let’s take a look at their opponents. Here are the rushing defenses that Nebraska has faced this year:

Western Kentucky # 111
Idaho # 63
Washington # 106
South Dakota State # 107 (in FCS)
Kansas State # 116

If you’re like me, you watched last Thursday’s beat down of Kansas State and was mortified of Martinez running untouched through KSU, knowing that KSU always has a solid defense…until this year.

They gave up 252 yards rushing to UCF. 171 to Iowa State. 166 to Missouri State. 193 to ...UCLA.

So yes, let us give all the respect that is due to Nebraska and their rushing attack, but they will face by far their best defense of the year this Saturday…if Texas has learned from the missed assignments and missed tackles that they suffered against UCLA.

We’ll see.

On offense, all, okay some, of the indications are that Texas plans to open things up, which we will all believe when we see it, but that is indeed good news if true.

Nebraska’s defense isn’t quite the dominating unit that it was last season, when it was 9th in total defense and 2nd in scoring defense, giving up 285 yards and 11 yards per game. But it is close.

This year they have been a bit more lenient, giving up 180 yards on the ground to Kansas State, 175 rushing yards to Washington and 179 to Western Kentucky.

Their sack numbers and tackles for loss are also down. They do feature the nation’s best pass defense statistically, with a secondary that will be the best Texas has seen or will see all year.

Greg Davis mentioned this week that the Cornhuskers only blitz about 16% of the time, so they’re a patient defense that will wait for you to make a mistake rather than one that will sell out and give up a big play.

This one all depends on which Texas team shows up. Will it be the one that didn’t give a damn against UCLA and let them run all over them? Will it be the conservative bunch that opened it up too late against Oklahoma? Or will it be the “nothing to lose” bunch that we all hope we see?

I expect Texas to play their best game of the year here. If that will be enough, I don’t know, but Nebraska has yet to be tested this year, and we’ll see what Taylor Martinez is all about right here.

I’m a homer, but you can’t write an article like this and then pick Nebraska to win, right?

Texas 24 Nebraska 21
ATS – Texas
SU – Texas

For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for the Texas Buy Off the Officials Fund.

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