A realistic run out to the regular season?

You have to think that a 5-1 Nebraska this year after a 5-6 Nebraska last year, is indeed a markedly better Nebraska. Well, yeah, of course, but now that they have reached the amount of wins they posted all last season, what can the Huskers do to make sure that the last half is as successful as the first? It's not that hard, because you've seen why it works when it does. It is as they say, just a matter of execution.

The first three games were basically a fiasco. Not defensively, but when you face a Maine, a struggling Wake Forest and a Wandstedt-ruined Pitt team, your expectations should be decidedly higher than what Husker fans saw on the field.

The next two games, though, those were probably the teams the fans of the big red thought or were hoping they would see.

Coaches say that after the first three games you have a good idea of where your team is at. Yet, the first three games indicated nothing about where this Husker team is at right now.

Since the defense has been relatively consistent, we'll stick with the offense so you can see the dramatic improvement from the first three weeks to the next three weeks:

In the first three weeks, Nebraska amassed 814 yards in total offense, averaging 271.33 yards per game

In the second three weeks, Nebraska amassed 1175 yards in total offense, averaging 391.66 yards per game

The passing attack or at least, Nebraska's version of it in the three weeks, netted 399 yards. The version in the next three weeks netted 828.

Time of possession, often very key in keeping defenses fresh and in giving your offense the most opportunities to score, was also drastically different from week 1-3 versus weeks 4-6.

Average time of possession for the Huskers in the first three games: 28:45 Average time of possession for the Huskers in the last three games: 31:45

Obviously what you do with that extra time is important, so let's look at one of the most valuable stats; points per game

First three weeks: 21 points per game Last three weeks: 27 points per game

Oh, and the first three games Nebraska faced a division 1-AA team and two teams that didn't even have a win to their name coming into their contest with the Huskers.

The opponents in the last three weeks were decidedly better, Iowa State ranked in the top 25 and undefeated when they faced off against Nebraska, Texas Tech undefeated and ranked amongst the top 15 teams in the country and Baylor sporting a 4-1 record and this game was in their house.

Yeah, this team got better.

Actually, a lot better.

Ok, so what does that mean down the road?

You have Missouri coming up and honestly, they aren't a very good team. Brad Smith (my pre season favorite for best QB in the Big 12) has been inconsistent and seems to almost be reverting to his old ways of last year. Chase Daniel, who has looked good for a freshman when he's substituted for Smith is still just a freshman.

The game is in Columbia, though, and I don't need to remind Husker fans how bad Nebraska was beating Missouri for three quarters and how their ultimate collapse in the fourth was even worse.

You follow that up with Oklahoma at home and before this season began, I still looked at this as a loss waiting to happen, but oh how things have changed in Sooner land.

As much as Nebraska's offense has improved from last year to this, OU's has gone a decidedly different direction. You still can't count out the Sooners, because they are still loaded, are fast and talented, but there's no question that the circumstances behind this meeting are going to be very different than last year's and based on how Nebraska does against Missouri, you could see a team that throttled the Huskers last year come into Lincoln as much as a three point dog.

Then it's off to Kansas, where the Jayhawks have been riding their defense more than Nebraska has been riding theirs. Unlike the Huskers, the offense of Kansas hasn't gotten decidedly better. Actually, it's a dreadful offense, ranked 88th in rushing, 95th in passing and 107th overall. Plus, when it comes to scoring, as you would expect, it's not any better, Kansas ranking 91st in division 1-A.

As bad as their offense is, their defense is as good, the Huskers probably meeting the one team in the division that has a defense that can come close to theirs. From the defensive line to the secondary, the Jayhawks have a very versatile group and they are always a group you have to take seriously.

However, the mediocrity of their offense has lost them games their defense tried to keep them in.

Kansas State being the perfect example.

Speaking of the Wildcats, that's who Nebraska plays next, this time in Memorial and I am sure there are going to be a lot of players and maybe even a coach or two that has this one burned into their brain.

From a humiliation standpoint, this had to be one of the worst, because the coaches and players even admitted that Kansas State did on offense exactly what they expected.

The tackles missed in that game and the stunned looks on Husker players on the sidelines was pronounced at the beginning as K. State jumped out to an early lead and the Wildcats just poured it on after that.

It was an embarrassment, perhaps the worst one of the entire season, even including the 70-10 loss to Tech. This game wasn't lost from turnovers, short fields or a funky offense to defend. This was a loss, where a team basically folded up their tents before the game was even half done.

There's no loss worse for anyone, player or fan than that.

Kansas State isn't that team, though, that team wasn't all that good. This team, however, is even worse. Their offense doesn't have a real punch, their defense doesn't have a strong core and their depth is almost non-existent. In a battle of attrition, there aren't many teams in the conference they could outlast.

The overall talent, speed and just about everything else is down for Snyder's group and they have been winning (when they do win) on grit, guts and a little luck.

After Kansas State comes the season finale' and it will go against the reigning Big 12 North division champion.

Ok, I have to say for a second year, that even printing that as if it really means something is from my standpoint, absurd. Yes, I know it does mean something, but to win the north division, regardless of how good it might be, maybe I still have some of my own old expectations inside, but this contest should never be about the division, but the conference.

Either way, this is a much improved Colorado team, despite the butt kicking they took at the hands of Texas and Miami. As if you didn't know, the Canes are usually pretty good and as for Texas, I honestly don't know who can beat them.

Colorado QB Joel Klatt has been solid most of the year, sporting a decent completion percentage and doing enough smart things on offense not to hurt his team and he's helped them most of the time.

On defense is where Colorado can take control of a game, though. While I don't believe their defense is the equal of Nebraska's or Kansas', it's fast, physical and they know how to make plays. Like many Big 12 teams, they are downright stingy against the run, ranking as one of the top ten schools in the country at stopping the other team's ground game.

Kansas is fourth in that category, by the way and as for Nebraska, they are number one.

Neither Colorado or Nebraska has a great pass defense, but what they both do well is while they may give up some yards in that area, they don't end up giving up a lot of points. Even with the prolific pounding the Buffs took from Texas, they still rank as one of the top 25 teams in the country in keeping the other team from scoring points.

Nebraska is ranked seventh.

The biggest problem about the Colorado game is the fact that it is in Colorado. And if Bill Callahan thinks the fans at Norman are hillbillies, I can't wait to see what kind of description he can come up with for the barely loyal, but always emotional Colorado fan.

When comparing Oklahoma fans to Colorado fans when it comes to simple etiquette, the Oklahoma fans would be Miss Manners in comparison to those in Colorado and those in Colorado in comparison with everyone else would be………………….hmmm, did you ever see the movie "Bad Santa"?

If you have never been to a game in Boulder when Nebraska is playing there, you probably don't know what I am talking about. Maybe Colorado State fans might get the idea.

It's hostile.

However you want to look at the rest of Nebraska's schedule, there's no doubt in the world that there isn't a single game left that the Huskers can't win. There is not a team the remains in the regular season that the big red can't look on paper and say that they can't beat.

They should have been run out of the building by Tech, but it was a late fumble that ultimately sealed the fate of the big red.

That's the great thing about this Nebraska team is that whatever you say they can't do, that's what they try to do, only more convincingly the other direction.

If you are a homer, you honestly believe that Nebraska will run out the schedule and meet Texas in Houston for the conference title. If you are a little more down to earth, you SEE every game as winnable, but know that every game is just as easily lost.

I guess you can call it, controlling your own destiny, something I sincerely detest as it seems every time someone utters that about a team, that team chokes and destiny turns into a year thinking of what could have been.

Nebraska does have that destiny, though, one they can make or break for themselves. There isn't a game on the schedule that it can be said they will undoubtedly lose.

So, come December, it wouldn't be out of the realm of reality to think that it will be Nebraska down in Houston, facing Texas for the conference title.

And as for Texas?

You don't have to be a homer to think Nebraska can beat them.

You have to be insane.

After a 5-6 year, though, I think Husker fans would take it. If they can't and making it there and ultimately losing to Texas just won't do………well, they are ALREADY insane, so arguing would be a moot point.

For those that still delve into the realm of reality, take heart, have hope and know that for the rest of the regular season, you could see even more nail biters in the future. Games that go down to the wire, possibly the last drive or even the last play.

That's ok, because that alone has been one major difference in this team from last year's in that you didn't know if they had what it took to win a game like that or even have a game like that, against the opponents that really mattered.

This team does have that and then some, so regardless of the ranking, regardless of the national opinion that Nebraska hasn't found even a spark of its former self, you can know that coaches of teams facing Nebraska can't think the same way.

You could have taken advantage of the Huskers last year and gotten away with it. Not this year. If they take it easy, they are taking the loss.

I'd think that as a Husker fan, that's all you ever wanted to say:

This team may not win, but they will give everyone a game and if that team doesn't take Nebraska seriously, yes, even the mighty Longhorns, they could easily walk out with a loss.

It's sometimes just as good to know you are always going to be in the game as it is knowing you can win every game by fifty.

And for fans, it's a helluva lot more fun.

Big Red Report Top Stories