Originally Published: Dec 4, 2010 10:11 AM CDT
GAME DAY AGAINST NEBRASKA IN GAME FULL OF QUESTIONS
Just got done doing an interview with the radio show Huskers Illustrated. I’ve worked with these guys a dozen or so times in the past several years. Serious football 101. Refreshing in today’s era of journalism shifting to attempted comedy. They speak more as a mouthpiece of the football program but still maintain a sense of objectivity.
They agree with me on how this Big 12 Championship game shapes up. One, the effectiveness of NU QB Taylor Martinez. Two, the effectiveness of OU RB DeMarco Murray. Those two guys have been instrumental in the success of their offenses. Without them, the defenses don’t have to be on pins and needles ready for one of them to hit a crease and be off.
The Nebraska freshman is intriguing. He’s got sprinter’s speed that scares Bob Stoops as much as any individual player I’ve seen in years. But he’s got one bum ankle and a more troublesome turf toe on the other foot. My thinking is that it will be tough for him to be as good as he will probably need to be for the entire sixty minutes. Now he might pop enough plays early to get NU out front enough to make it so uncomfortable for the OU offense that the Sooners won’t catch up. But I had sprained ankles throughout my career and turf toe a couple of times. It’s very difficult to fight through. He’s been in a boot for the better part of two weeks and he’ll get a numbing shot that will help. But still, accelerating through holes and sprinting will be challenging.
Can you envision Tom Osborne shouting at Tommie Frazier and poking him in the chest for something my money says Martinez did to raise the ire of the volatile Pelini? No. Make that NO! But this is not the 90’s. Maybe things have changed enough for that to be acceptable. This guy has a father described to me as being a “helicopter” dad: hovering around his kid and the coaching staff. Nothing worse for coaches. For the kid. And for teammates. I guess if he makes the plays to win it’ll be acceptable tonight. But trust me; it’s not the Nebraska norm. Selfishness is not teammates want to see from a QB. He’d better be special to have a chance to be their guy long-term.
But what about tonight? Don’t know. That’s why they play the game, right?
It was a surprise that Bo Pelini is playing the status of his QB so close to the vest while Stoops has turned into a coach who is pretty much up front about injuries. Murray being the latest example. But Bo’s thinking has to be that even though OU says it doesn’t matter who plays in terms of prep, it does. Sophomore Cody Green was solid in the CU win, but he wasn’t Martinez good. A better thrower and adequate runner, I don’t think he would be a difference maker tonight. Former starter Zac Lee is healthy but OU will stop NU if he plays much. The versatile Rex Burkhead will be leaned upon and will be a challenge for the Sooners if he’s called upon to shift from full-time RB to running the Wildcat formation where he can run and threw for 2 TDs last season.
Martinez gives NU the best chance at an oddsmakers’ upset (OU 6 fave). He whooped OSU putting up 51 and running and throwing at will. He ran for 241 yards against KSU. If you’ve not seen him much, he’s every bit good enough to have warranted the early season Heisman talk he received. And before you say OU shut down OSU’s run game and Kendall Hunter and things will be all right because Brent Venables pulled out the “Okie” defense, you need to realize that that scheme is not a factor tonight.
You’ll see the OU defensive alignment you’ve seen all year, except that they’ll load nine or ten players within four yards of the LOS and will have to watch out for play-action deep balls. But the dysfunction he brings is baffling. Especially for a Husker program steeped in the tradition Tom Osborne principles (the exception being a couple of running backs).
OU has a history of shutting down one-dimensional teams. If Nebraska is not successful enough in throwing to set up the run, yes throwing to set up the run, they’ll have trouble scoring over 21. Can OU score over 21? Will the up-tempo offense be a factor? They can’t get in that ridiculous mode of having 27 third downs this game like last week. They must find a way to get some run a way to get some run game going. Problematic. Receivers will have to get off the talented and physical DBs to get enough separation for Landry Jones to hit some intermediate routes. Ryan Broyles has a good chance of doing that coming out of a slot where he’ll be harder to jam.
Stoops will earn a bonus of $214K if he wins today. Barry Switzer made around $12 mill in his early days as an OU assistant in the late sixties.
Stoops has to feel good for some of those closest to him. He’s in his eighth title game. Close friend Bo in his first at powerhouse Nebraska. Friends Jim Tressel at OSU and Mark Dantonio at MSU. Brother Mark in the ACC Championship game. But his heart is broken over brother Mike’s late-season slide at Arizona. Especially losing to in-state rival ASU because of you know what: a bad PK.
I don’t buy Kevin Wilson is likely to become the Indiana coach. At least not right now. Just doubt he’s been in enough contact with them right now to immediately be named coach. Wilson would inherit uniforms almost identical to that of his Sooners. But he would inherit players not close to being identical to Sooners. Odds of big success at IU? 20:1 against. Who’d be next OC if Wilson finally gets a head job? Josh Heupel; Mark Mangino; Jim Traber.
In the words of Bob Stoops, “at the end,” I’m taking OU 27-21. OU has momentum and chemistry and great vibes of winning championships than what appears to be a dysfunctional Nebraska team that is uncommonly held hostage by one player. The player that will determine the outcome.