Yeah, I know. I just wrote a couple days ago that this game probably didn't mean anything to anyone except possibly the players. I'm not changing that, but this is game day. The actual day of the game brings out a little difference in emotions.
You get excited, you get anxious and even some game like Utah State can have butterflies churning in your stomach. It's a Nebraska home game and there's nothing that isn't special when the Big Red play in their house.
Since the beginning of the decade prior to this one, you can count the number of losses the Huskers have had at home on one hand. That's not a home-field advantage, that's insanity. That kind of dominance in their own house makes today's game all that much more interesting, because let's face it, if this game were in Boulder, Nebraska would be at least double-digit dogs. That's just the kind of season they have had.
But, it's not in Boulder and like most other schools, the Buffs haven't enjoyed a victory in Lincoln since at least 10 years before this, and counting.
Rumor has it though that there is going to be a sea of black and gold in Memorial this year. The season, the holiday and last year's result are all supposed to make for an opportunity for Buff fans to do what nobody has ever done in Memorial since..........well, since far before I was ever born.
Many fans with teams on the rise or moving steadily along all say that they are going to infiltrate Lincoln. They are going to take away some of the luster of the most loyal fans in the country. They are going to do what Husker fans do to everyone else on repeated occasion. They are going to make the Husker home theirs. Anyone want to put any money on that?
Fans aside though, this has the makings of a great game. Two teams dedicated to smashmouth football that won't wow you with their passing prowess, but have the potential to punish you with their running game. Chris Brown(if he plays) vs. Dahrran Diedrick. Bobby Purify vs. David Horne and the "Pipeline" vs. Colorado's group of big uglies.
And CU's O-line has bragging rights coming into this game to be sure. They treated the blackshirts' defense last year like Ike treated Tina.
So, what can the NU defense do this year to stop an offense last year that made them and their defensive coordinator look like it was a pop warner school taking on Concord De LaSalle?
The key will be the linebackers for NU, most notably the middle linebacker, Barrett Ruud. I think that Jamie Burrow can attest to his significance or lack thereof that gave CU's "counter" play more room than a custom fitted chair for Oprah. If Ruud finds himself out of position even half as much as Burrow was last year, start playing taps for NU's defense and the team, because this will get ugly once again.
NU should be ready though. Right?
After what happened last year, if defensive coordinator, Craig Bohl should be prepared for any one thing, it should be the counter. Lord knows Colorado ran it enough, Bohl should have it ingrained into his brain just where his players should and shouldn't be. And Colorado isn't like other teams that have beaten NU in that they have a QB that can throw, but not like a Zach Mills or a Chris Simms.
If NU can stop the run, NU will win this game.
For NU's offense, it's easy enough to say that they have to do a little better than the rushing performance they had against Kansas State. Ok, they have to do a lot better. Going against an ultra-aggressive defense like CU's though, Nebraska should have some big-play opportunities. The question here will be Jammal Lord.
Will he be the only offense for Nebraska? If so, not even another record-setting performance will get NU a win in this game. He's going to need some help. Dahrran Diedrick stated this week that he is going to run as hard as he has ran this year, possibly harder than he has in his entire career. If he does that, Nebraska should be in good shape for this game. Diedrick's physical type play, complimented by freshman I-back, David Horne's finesse has the potential to be a potent combination.
Speaking of potent combinations, Colorado probably has one of the best. Yeah, the "untouchables" at Blacksburg have been getting a lot of pub this year, but they have proven lately that they can be touched. What CU has is one of if not the best back in the country, Chris Brown who's got a very capable back-up in Bobby Purify. Chris is the head-liner here but Purify has shown that he can just as easily light you up if you take him for granted, even just for a second. One with the full package, and one with almost all of it, plus speed to burn.
With two capable running attacks, this has the potential to be the fastest game ever. They both like to chew up the clock. They both like to go on 8 to 12 play drives and they both live off of beating the other guy into a bloody pulp and this season, the scarlet hue on the Huskers' jerseys and pants isn't the only thing that has been red this year.
They have to step up.
Smashmouth football at it's best. One of the best individual ground games vs one of the best team ground games. If Nebraska hasn't had such a horrible season this year, ESPN Gameday might be here. Hell, Keith Jackson might be calling the game. Ok, maybe not, but this game would have a lot more meaning than it does. For Colorado, it's a speed bump on the way to the Big XII conference title game against Oklahoma and for Nebraska, it's the last game to one of the worst seasons NU has had since before Bob Devaney arrived.
It's a chance though for Nebraska to try and build momentum, not for the mediocre bowl game they will be attending this year, but for the full season following that.
That doesn't mean this isn't a big game though. It is. Not because of implications to anything that will matter for this year, but for implications to one of many streaks the Huskers look still to keep. No, not the 9 wins, but the fact that Nebraska hasn't lost two home games in one year since 1961.
That's 40+ years of a "This is My House" attitude that makes teams come in hopeful and leave like most everyone else.
This game wasn't all that special a couple of days ago, but hey, today it's game time and it's in NU's house.
This game is big.
Steve Ryan can be reached at email@example.com or 402-730-5619