Let’s face it: When Oklahoma and Nebraska collide, there are usually major national title implications at hand.
This weekend the Sooners and Cornhuskers face off in what very well could be the game of the year, considering that the newly released BCS polls have the teams ranked at No. 1 and No. 2 in the country, respectively.
This matchup marks the 18th time in series history that both teams come into the game boasting top-10 rankings and the 45th time that at least one team is ranked in the top 10.
The same held true last season in Norman, Okla., when Nebraska held the No. 1 BCS ranking, while Oklahoma sat at No. 2. The Huskers jumped out to the early 14-0 lead. But soon, Oklahoma’s defense smothered any sort of passing attack Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch could muster up and rolled to a 31-14 victory.
Though the team who loses this year will fall in the BCS rankings, it should not be a major detriment to their respective seasons. A loss would drop both the Sooners and the Cornhuskers to no worse than a first-place tie in their Big XII divisions. If they continue to win the rest of their games after this one, Oklahoma and Nebraska will meet again in the Big XII championship game on Dec. 1.
Nonetheless, something has to give in this contest. Will it be Oklahoma’s 20-game winning streak or Nebraska’s nation longest 19-game winning streak at Memorial Stadium? Here are the keys to each team’s success this weekend.
Why Nebraska will win:
Oklahoma’s spread offense is surprising nobody these days. Quentin Griffin is the center of attention, and if the Cornhuskers can be big up front and prevent the Sooner running back from breaking out big runs, Nebraska will be in business.
Also, OU quarterback Jason White is starting only his second game of his collegiate career. If the Cornhuskers can get to him early, White’s confidence may be rattled.
Everyone knows about Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch, who is having a phenomenal season running the football. Already he has amassed 777 yards rushing, averaging 5.7 yards per carry.
Throwing the football, Crouch has been much more effective than he was last season, completing passes for nearly 1,000 yards through the first half of the season. Not only will this game play a major role in Crouch’s Heisman campaign, but his production is necessary for a Cornhusker win.
Nebraska needs to have a big scoring game. A low-scoring contest heavily favors Oklahoma.
Key Player: Nebraska senior cornerback Keyou Craver has broken up 11 passes this season and picked off two. If he effectively shuts down his side of the field, he will help prevent the Sooner big play.
Why Oklahoma will win:
Nebraska’s defensive unit has been shaky through periods of the season, especially last week. Texas Tech put up 31 points against the Cornhuskers, and Red Raider quarterback Kliff Kingsbury threw for 353 yards. If it wasn’t for Crouch’s heroics, Nebraska would likely have a blemish on its record.
To make matters worse, Nebraska saw five of its starters go down with an injury in last week’s contest. The pride of Nebraska has been its outstanding O-line, but two of the five injured starters were offensive tackles. Dan Waldrop has a right ankle sprain and Dave Volk has sore right shoulder. Each of the five players' status is uncertain for Saturday’s contest.
Oklahoma also boasts one of the toughest defenses in the nation with two of the country’s best players — linebacker Rocky Calmus and safety Roy Williams.
The Cornhuskers’ second-string offensive tackles will have to be sure to watch out for these two, who are often sent on blitzes.
Key Player: Oklahoma punter Jeff Ferguson is first in the Big XII in punting and seventh nationally with a 45-yard average. Field position will definitely be one of the main issues on Saturday, and Ferguson’s performance may turn the game in favor of the Sooners.