But despite losing to Colorado 62-36 in their regular season finale and not winning the Big 12 Conference, the Cornhuskers are ready to prove they belong in college football's biggest game.
Nebraska starting quarterback Eric Crouch, the Heisman Trophy winner, said that although the rest of the country doesn't believe the Cornhuskers should be playing for the national title he isn't worried about what is being said. Crouch added that the Cornhuskers would be even motivated by comments being directed at the program.
The senior quarterback won't bother with the way the Hurricanes approach the game, concerned with if Nebraska belongs in the game or not.
"I'm not too concerned if they want to approach the game that way. I just want to make sure that this team comes out and plays good football. I think there are going to be a lot of things said out there that are going to motivate our program to go out and be the best," said Crouch. "We have to prove to the nation that we are one of the best teams, if not the best."
Crouch also commented that getting a second chance after the loss at Colorado is something that will help the Cornhuskers. Crouch can't wait for the opportunity of playing in the Rose Bowl.
"When I found out we were playing in this game, that's how I felt and I'm sure the rest of the team felt that way. We have another opportunity," said Crouch. "When you get a second chance, you normally go out there and do everything you can. You play harder. Coming off a loss and the way that ended up, there is no question in my mind that we're out to prove something."
Being the subject of doubters isn't the only motivating tool the Cornhuskers are using these days. Nebraska also realizes that they are 9 1/2 point underdogs in the game.
"I don't think people are giving us any respect," said Nebraska defensive back Keyuo Craver. "There are so many things being thrown at us right now that will only make us closer and stronger as a team."
A FEW OPTIONS
Although the Hurricanes defense has faced teams that have tried running the option on them, none has a variety of them like the Cornhuskers, said Crouch.
"We can go a few different ways with the option. That's our offense-option, power game, play-action pass, so I think it will be different for them," said Crouch.
Avoiding long yardage situations and being able to maintain a consistent ground game will be critical against the Hurricanes, according to Crouch. Nebraska will alsohave the serves of senior tight end Tracy Winstrom, who has been hobbled all season with ankle and knee problems.
"I think he is going to go out there and make big plays for us and be a big help," Crouch said about having Winstrom in the game. "I don't think you can look at it any other way. He's determined to go out and help us win a football game."
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