Irony that you can cut with a knife is an understatement when it comes to this up-coming contest. The Texas Longhorns have been a thorn in the side of NU since the Big XII was created. Either knocking them out of national title contention or busting home streaks, the Horns at times, have had NU's number.
NU managed to get some payback in the 1999 Big XII title game, beating Texas 22-6, but it was little consolation as Texas took NU out of the title hunt by beating NU earlier that year.
So, is it payback again or will the lightning strike twice, Texas taking another nation-leading streak away from the Huskers?
This year is oh-so different than in ‘98 though, or is it?
In 1998, NU was ranked, Texas wasn't. Texas was just trying to get better while NU was trying for their 4th national title in 6 years. NU had just one blemish on their record, that to Texas A&M at College Station. Things were looking good.
But, a Texas team led by Major Applewhite and Ricky Williams edged NU, breaking the 47 game home-winning streak.
This year, it's Texas that is ranked and NU that isn't. NU is just trying to get better while Texas is still trying for a national title. Like NU, Texas has only one blemish on their record, a loss to Oklahoma on the road. Also, just to throw in a little more irony, Texas is ranked 7th, the exact ranking of Nebraska when UT came to town in and beat the Huskers.
Instead of Applewhite, there's Simms. Instead of Williams, there's Benson. Instead of Qavil, McGarity and White, Texas brings a receiving core absolutely loaded with future NFL talent, again.
With all that being said, this pretty much means that Texas should blow NU out, right?
If Texas can beat NU when they are amongst the elite and Texas isn't even ranked, well this is a game that shouldn't even matter and should be a mere speed bump on the way back up the charts.
Hell, just listen to what some of the Nebraska players and coaches say about this loaded Longhorn team.
"I think he's a great quarterback." Linebacker, Scott Shanle said of Chris Simms. "If you let him sit back there with the receivers that he has, he can pick anybody apart."
"They are probably one of the better in the country if not the best." Rover, Philip Bland said of UT's receiving core.
"They've got talent every which way you look." Coach Frank Solich said of the entire Texas team.
If that doesn't spell a Texas victory, I don't know what does.
Yep, call the game, tell Texas not to fly up, it's all over but the crying. No reason to even play the game.
I doubt that you could have convinced the Texas players, coaches and fans of that very prospect in ‘98 when they were facing a similar challenge.
What to do, what to do, what to do
Take all the irony away though, this game does come down to simple philosophies on both sides.
For Texas, it's starting with the run, trying to establish the line of scrimmage. Chris Simms for all his talent has not proven himself in big games and rankings aside, this is a very big game for both. If Texas loses, any national title aspirations they have are right out the window and if Nebraska wins, it's just another step back as close as they can come to where they were just a year ago.
For Nebraska, they to must have a similar philosophy, but at NU, running isn't a philosophy, it's a living. The kind of diversity you saw the Huskers utilize against the Aggies, must be what they do against the Horns as well. Going against a four man front that might as well be five and at times, just figure anywhere from 8-9 in the box, Texas will load up and try to stop NU in it's tracks.
NU has to pass just enough to keep Texas honest and let the linemen take over. Prior to the Texas A&M game, you wouldn't have thought that possible, but now, this O-line beams with confidence that it can take even the mighty Horns off their feet if given a long enough time.
Personally though, I think it comes down to NU's defense taking Chris Simms out of the picture. No, not take him out of the game, but get to him fast and often. Don't expect the rush ends to be that force as early on in games, (Texas A&M included), it's the blitz and not the rush of the line that has done the most damage.
NU can get away with it though as Texas has not been overly productive with their tight ends, or at least, they haven't used them as much as some. Nebraska always runs the risk of letting the TE go free when in man coverage, but from man coverage is where NU can do most of it's damage defensively.
Yes, you will see the zone blitz, but this game is not going to be any one thing, but how well Craig Bohl can not only mix it up, but guess right at times.
Can the defense stop Cedric Benson? Yes. The interior D line has been very good at sealing up running lanes as the season has gone on. The danger here is Benson bouncing it out and that's where rush ends collapsing the pocket and keeping both Benson and Simms contained make the difference.
You can expect Fabian Washington to again, see a ton of action. He's young and very talented, but he's aggressive and has also been a huge target for opposing offenses, keying on his inexperience. Help from the safety position will be key to making sure that even when Fabian gets beat, NU doesn't get burnt.
The biggest success NU has had on defense is when coach Bohl lets the players simply play. Demorrio is everywhere, Philip Bland hits anything that moves and blitzes come more out of opportunity than desperation. That's when it flows for NU and that's exactly what they are going to need.
Make no mistake about this game, Texas is a very good team. All that talent can find a way to not only win, but to dominate.
Unlike last week, this is definitely not an instance where NU can get behind and bank on some well-timed heroism to bring them back. Nope, it's get on top and stay there.
With all that NU seemingly has to do to win, it could possibly come down to something as easy as holding onto the ball. You see, Nebraska has amazed one and all by how they just love to shoot themselves in the foot, one game after another. The turnovers, the penalties, all at seemingly the worst times of the game or the worst parts of the field.
Nebraska can't beat Texas and Nebraska in the same game. Not even at home.
A few years ago, one could have taken "mistake free football", added in a little "controlling the line of scrimmage" and thrown in a healthy dose of "chew up the clock" and you would have said that the sum of that is most simply stated as typical Nebraska football.
Times have changed.
Expectations turn into hope. Confidence turns into cautious optimism and being comfortable knowing that NU will put together 60 minutes of good football has been replaced with perspiration, grinding teeth and more than a few eyes turned upward praying for nothing unfortunate to happen, hoping for that one "clean" game.
This Saturday, Husker prayers will be answered and the Booster Gods can at least for this week, take Bill Byrne's number off speed-dial. It's NU's time get back and pay back, not necessarily in that order and for once, actually keep a streak intact. Nebraska beats Texas in a game not of the big play, but of the team that can string the most plays together. It's time for some "typical" Nebraska football.
Our prediction for this game:
Players of the game:
Offense: Dahrran Diedrick