Ok, Nebraska has had once chance to come back from a fairly humiliating loss,that of course being the fourth-quarter meltdown in Columbia. And, they came back in nice fashion against the Aggies, forcing a record-tying 8 turnovers. Now, to come back from the Texas game that wasn't a single-quarter demise, but one that lasted an entire game, Nebraska trampled, beaten and pummeled into submission by the more talented and physical Longhorns.
They aren't heading into the teeth of the lion as they get ready to face the Jayhawks, but Mark Mangino has made sure that this version of the Jayhawks is a team that the Huskers better take seriously, or NU could find itself questioning itself more than it already is.
It's been about new and better days for the Jayhawks this season. Sporting a winning record would surely be enough, but KU has managed to put up some pretty impressive stats at times as well. Passing being their forte', Kansas finds itself just outside the top 25 teams in the country in regards to passing offense for the season. Heck, even in rushing, they aren't doing too bad, putting up just over 160 yards on the ground per game.
This game though, it might be hard to figure those stats to be indicative of just what Nebraska will see as they are facing a young man that is only going to be starting his second game of the year. Freshman, Adam Barman debuted for the Jayhawks last week against Texas A&M and while KU didn't win the game, people got to see just a little of what NU will face today.
Against the Aggies, Barmann accumulated over 330 yards in total offense, the most in KU history by a freshman. 45 of that came by way of the rush and the rest through the air, Barmann hitting for 4 scores on the day, completing his passes almost 68% of the time. That's on over 30 attempts.
Consider again that Barmann is a freshman, and a true one at that.
What's good for the Huskers though is that he's not Brad Smith and he's not Vince Young, any future Heisman aspirations this young man might have more than likely would never come from the brilliance of his feet in the open-field nor his breakaway speed. The NU defense doesn't like those kind of quarterbacks. Point of fact, Nebraska's success against mobile signal-callers has had to come early like it did against the Aggies' Reggie McNeal or it usually doesn'tcome at all.With Barmann, he does offer good mobility, but nothing the likes NU has seen thus far this year.
What Barmann can do is carve you up if you give him some time, something I don't expect Bo Pelini will be willing to adhere to if he can help it at all. So, much like any game this year, you can expect a generous amount of blitzing and from any direction you can think of, typical of the blackshirts this year.
And, let's not forget that these are the blackshirts. Sure, they got undressed against the Horns, but KU has a very long ways to go before they can even whiff the amount of talent Texas has. In fact, I doubt that since the last time Kansas was ranked amongst the elite, way back in 1995, they have had as much talent from that time to now, combined as Texas has on it's team right now.
Does that mean this will be easy? No, because though you can expect the NU defense to show up angry, it's that offense you don't know a thing about. One game to the next, you are likely to get a different team each time. Nebraska got manhandled against the Horns, but the D-line of Kansas is actually not one of their strong suits. Point of fact, KU's defense has been their Achilles' heel this year, Kansas giving up over 400 yards a game. Those yards have translated to points, KU giving up almost 30 per contest.
With all that being said, it is in their house, it is in front of a rare sellout down in Lawrence and like everyone and their dog, you can almost expect that the best game Kansas will play all year will be today as they face off against NU.
Really and this is a broken record, just what kind of success Nebraska has today will be based on what that offense can do. If they can move the ball and control the clock, it will be cruise control for the Huskers and a long day for the Hawks. If Nebraska does struggle with the offense though, Kansas has an effective enough offense to make things pretty interesting.
Personally, I have come to expect less and less of the offense this year and that's actually for a few reasons.
One: While the big play has been there, it hasn't really translated into a lot of points for the offense and Nebraska still hasn't gotten the bugs worked out of the "let's find a way to beat ourselves" drives.
Two: If I didn't know better, I could swear head coach, Frank Solich is calling the plays this year as well. It hasn't been many times that NU has been in the lead, comfortably, but Barney Cotton is just as good at putting the brakes on as Solich was last season and really, during his entire career. It seems that since Osborne, someone has instilled an offense that absolutely must not score over a certain amount. For that reason, I always give the other team some chance, because since T.O., I've never seen a Nebraska team that tries to totally put an opponent into the dirt.
Three: It's not about opponents figuring NU out that NU has gotten offensively worse as the weeks have went along. It's because they are facing better teams. Because of that, I fully expect the NU offense to slug along, hitting here and there, but basically putting together an ugly game that ends up hopefully chewing up a whole lot of the clock. If that can happen, they'll score here and there and the defense might even add a few points themselves.
Ok, so yeah, I pick NU in this one, but it's not a cakewalk. The circumstances are such that I see this game another ugly one for the Huskers and a heartbreaker for KU. Close probably until the second half, but NU opening it up just a little, closing the game out at around 17-6.
When it's all said and done, I think NU will have some good yards, but most of it will be between the twenties and yes, that means I still think they will have problems knocking it in from the Red Zone and injuries on the O-line continue to hamper this unit from getting anything substantial done against Kansas.
It won't be pretty, but it will be a win and after the butt-kicking NU took in Austin, that is good enough.
Steve Ryan can be reached at email@example.com or 402-730-5619