A win is a win..................now

So many articles, so many ways to say the same thing: Nebraska's offense is going nowhere and the question is how long can the Nebraska defense carry the team until the lack of production from the West Coast version of the Huskers finally catches up. It won't be a great barometer, but you'll find out a lot about that answer in just under a week. The good news is, though, from now on, a win is definitely a win.

When Iowa State beat Iowa 23-3, it looked like Dan McCarney might end up having the best team he's ever fielded at Ames. Since that victory, though, Iowa has been exposed and Iowa State barely scraped by an unheralded Army team.

Nebraska's been doing plenty of scraping on their own, the "blackshirts" being the only reason Nebraska sits 3-0 instead of probably 1-2.

So, does this match up with Iowa State stand as the test to see just where Nebraska is at or is it more likely just another game that will be ugly most of the time, where it's going to be up to a defense to win?

You already know the answer to that question.

I know it sounds like I am being down on the offense. Well, ok, it sounds like that, because I am. What's there to be up about? What exactly has this offense done to lull anyone into thinking that they are one play away from breaking out, becoming even a marginally good team when it comes to sustaining drives, actually putting together a passing game and oh yeah, scoring points?

Not to go nutty with the numbers as that's been done ad nauseam, but you don't get a ranking of 87th in scoring offense, 107th in total offense, 108th in passing offense and 115th in passing efficiency, by doing a lot right.

Thank goodness for a defense that as low as the offense is ranked, the defense is ranked at the other end of the spectrum:

1st in scoring defense, 15th in pass defense, 6th in total defense and in pass efficiency, they are ranked 2nd overall.

That's great against Maine, Wake Forest and Pitt, but to Iowa State's credit, they are better than any of those, they have an apparently more consistent combination of quarterback and receiver and it's actually Iowa State's defense that should be given credit for at the very least, their biggest win of the year.

Now Iowa State won't be confused with Texas Tech anytime soon as they are 71st in the country in passing. And their running game won't be mistaken for the one in Golden Gopher land, the Cyclones actually ranking worse than Nebraska, ISU sitting at 88th, while Nebraska is at the prolific 62nd spot.

They do manage a top 50 rank (49th) in pass efficiency, but after that it drops off a bit, Iowa State ranked 58th in scoring and in total offense, they drop into the 90s.

But, there is one ranking Iowa State definitely holds over Nebraska and it's the biggest reason why Nebraska needs to win:

23rd

That is where they stand nationally, according to the Associated Press, amidst some of the better teams in the country, something Nebraska hasn't been considered for going on close to two years. While the players won't say they look at that and coaches would scoff at you for even insinuating that they do, that makes this game as important for that reason as the fact that this is a game with a northern division foe.

It's about respect

You know, respect; that thing that came with the territory if you were Nebraska not even a decade ago. Well, respect and a whole lot of fear. Teams had that and in bunches and now you have teams like Maine thinking that they can actually go into Memorial Stadium and compete, if not actually win.

Nebraska's back to having to earn that and while the defense is certainly turning heads, the offense is turning stomachs and until that side of the ball can at least try to become the equal to the other, respect is something that will be more fantasy than reality.

Will the Iowa State game bring them that respect? No, of course not. While you have to give head coach Dan McCarney credit for doing what he has done at Iowa State, they are not and will probably not be for some time (if ever) considered one of the more dangerous teams around.

They are the team to beat, though, plus they are ranked, they are undefeated and considering Nebraska's performances thus far, in this particular case, a win most definitely is a win.

That's the good news.

From this point forward, because this is conference play, it doesn't have to be pretty anymore. It doesn't have to be precise, nor does it have to have any jaws dropping at its efficiency and potency.

The non-conference slate was a tune-up to see where Nebraska was and considering the competition, maybe get some style points in as well. The style points didn't happen, so we'll concede the bathing suit competition to everyone else, but substance is what matters and thus far, Nebraska's is that they have yet to lose.

A few years ago Ohio State did something similar in that they relied on a great defense, an average offense at best, and they were still able to go out and win a national title. Each and every week up to that final game, the same was said for Ohio State as being said about the Huskers: You just can't win it all with a team that's so one dimensional.

That is true, of course, the very rare examples to the contrary being teams like that Buckeye squad and perhaps the Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams.

Nebraska won't be that Cinderella team, though. They aren't nearly as talented as that Ohio State team was and we haven't really gotten a good look at just how good this version of the blackshirts are.

Chances are we won't find out this weekend either, the real test waiting a week from that when Texas Tech comes to town, Nebraska looking to survive, if not avenge the most humiliating loss in Husker history, the Red Raiders beating the Huskers 70-10 in Lubbock last year.

And Iowa State is hardly even a tune up for that. Don't get me wrong, Iowa State is a good team, but there's no duplicating the offense of Tech, nor is there a way to think that anything you do defensively against a fairly straight forward attack like that of the Cyclones can prepare you for the cartoon-like offense you will see with the Red Raiders.

This game basically comes down to just winning and based on the recent past, doing it ugly.

Iowa State's offense is better than Nebraska's. Nebraska's defense is better than Iowa State's. Iowa State passes a little better than NU, while Nebraska runs a little better than ISU. But, when it comes to offense, neither is dominant by any definition of the word and at times, they are their own worst enemy.

If I had t-shirts made up for this game, the slogan would be simple: " Someone has to win"

It's not a flattering statement about the contest, but there's more than likely nothing about this game that will leave anyone in awe. It will be a grind, there's probably going to be a few turnovers and I'd say that you can expect quite a few penalties along the way.

Somewhere in there, though, I think you can expect opportunistic defenses and the one that makes the most opportunities for its offense and perhaps scores directly off of turnovers, that's the team that will win.

For both Nebraska and Iowa State, there is a lot riding on this particular game: The continuation of an unblemished record, starting off conference play with a win and a leg up, at least on one team for that now coveted Northern Division title.

So, it will probably be horrendous at times to watch. Heck, it could be ugly throughout. But, the team that comes out on top is going to have a lot of momentum and that team that doesn't………….won't.

For Nebraska, they need all the momentum they can get. For the fan base of the Huskers, they are actually waiting for some type of momentum to build. For years, all of them never thought of a win being a win, but the last couple of years have been slowly reminding of that fact.

It was about style, it was about margin of victory and it was about dominating a team once the fourth quarter arrived.

If you can see when those days are going to be back, you have better vision than me, because whether it's Maine, Wake Forest, Pitt, Iowa State or whoever, none of that matters anymore.

A win is most definitely a win.

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