The changing of the guard in the Big 12

The changing of the guard in the north might be considered a bit premature. There are a lot of good teams in the Big 12 North. One thing about it, though, Nebraska's mythical hold (if there ever was one) on the Division title is all but vanished in plum of Tiger-orange dust.

As the clock ticked down to just under three minutes to go in the third quarter, Nebraska let out one last gasp, going for it on fourth and one on the Missouri 33 yard line. At this point it was already a game seemingly well out of hand, the Tigers leading 34-6. But as the fourth down attempt failed, the Tigers getting it back on downs, it was basically official:

The real Nebraska just stood up

Until you play a game like this, it's really hard to know just what kind of team you are going to see.

We remember what seems like eons ago, a Nebraska team seemingly unstoppable on offense and staunch on defense, leveling Nevada 52-10. That was a good season-opener, the news was all good, and even though things weren't perfect, it wasn't a bad way to start off the year.

Next came Wake Forest, and sure, it wasn't a real pretty game, and Nebraska had to come from behind to win, but this was a road-game, and this was the defending champion of the "mighty" ACC.

Next we come to the Game of the Century IV, as USC came into Lincoln, the first non-conference team to ever come into Lincoln ranked number one, and Nebraska gave them the game of their life.

Well, maybe on PS3. Point of fact, Nebraska did do a good job against USC in the first half, the Huskers actually led, 10-7, early on in the game. But USC is USC, well, at least at that point of the season, and Nebraska is…well, we are learning a little more and more about that, aren't we?

Even the homebred Husker fan shook their head a bit after Ball State walked out of Memorial Stadium. Yes, they lost, but not after taking the Huskers to the wire, Sam Keller needing to engineer yet another comeback win, after the "Blackshirt" defense gave up over 600 yards in total offense to the Cardinals and a sophomore QB.

It was an aberration, and Nebraska was going to prove it against an Iowa State team, which had a new coach, but there seemed to be this almost urgent need for there to be some sort of justification for any kind of win the Huskers might get.

Well, it was a win, and the sadness probably comes from Husker fans actually being relieved they could beat an Iowa State team, 35-17, which lost to Toledo, Northern Iowa and Kent State.

That relief has been all but spent, replaced with the anguish which comes from the reality which hit home hard as Nebraska was soundly thumped in Columbia, 41-6.

This isn't news. The two times prior to this, Nebraska gave up 41 points each time. That seems to be the magical number for the Tigers when they host the harrowing Huskers. But unlike the previous two debacles, Nebraska was really never in this game. Nebraska can't say that a turnover here or a missed assignment there, was the difference between a win and a loss.

This was a loss, but between the timing of it and the sheer alarming convincingness of the drubbing, the hum which has steadily been building in its intensity over the year, now has become as loud as the Howitzer Mizzou set off each time they scored.

I'm deaf they shot it off so much last night.

Here's the reality, folks, and it's one which can't be coached away, at least right now. And it's one where all the wonderful youthful talent they have right now and all those coming in, can't fix, at least right now. What we saw Saturday night was a changing of the guard.

And no, it's not Missouri supplanting Nebraska at the top spot, the Huskers sliding to number two.

That would be too easy, and it wouldn't even be close to accurate.

Colorado beat Oklahoma last week. Kansas State beat Texas for the second year in a row. Sure, the Wildcats dropped a game to Kansas yesterday, but none of those teams got absolutely pounded by the Tigers, 41-6.

If you were an outside looking in, you'd say that Nebraska not only slipped, but plummeted. The North Division, which has enjoyed a better reputation over the last couple of weeks, is indeed considered stronger, except for a couple of teams.

Guess what one of those teams is.

If you look at the entire conference, you could make a good argument that Nebraska is better than Baylor, because pretty much anyone else can during any given year. And they already beat Iowa State, so Nebraska can't be put down as the third worst team in the Big 12 right now.

Can you say they are clearly better than Kansas State right now though? Can you say without hesitation that they would beat Oklahoma State, Texas A&M or Texas Tech?

With the increasing number of Big 12 offenses now running almost the identical offense to what Missouri used to humiliate the Huskers Saturday night, I don't think you can say there's a "gimmee" left on the schedule.

Not for the Huskers. Not anymore.

What we saw in Columbia shouldn't really be a surprise, though, I have to admit that I actually picked the Huskers to win. I thought that this was the time they could and would finally get off the snide and reinstate their authority on the reinvigorated Big 12 North. Granted, beating Missouri wouldn't have meant wins over Kansas and Kansas State. If they could just beat the Tigers, though, momentum would be clearly on their side.

It's not. It's actually so far from the big red, it's as if it's turned and is now pushing them the other way.

I can't say that changing coaches would fix this. And I can say that they have some impressive players already here and coming in, who are certain to make a difference. But what happened in Columbia is more than just one coach or one recruiting class away from getting fixed. Something has to be completely rethought out.

Nebraska Athletic Director Steve Pederson said he didn't want Nebraska to gravitate toward mediocrity.

Take a big whiff, because Nebraska has gone there with a bullet.

Now someone needs to step up and get Nebraska going back the other way.

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