I have been thinking of the upcoming game between Nebraska and Missouri in a similar context. Nebraska confronts Missouri, coming to Lincoln, to win their first game in Lincoln in 30 years. ‘Thirty years! Thirty years.' ‘We haven't been able to win in Lincoln. Columbia is another story. We are double-digit favorites'.
The tables have definitely turned and while, quietly, some are hopeful of seeing a good game on Saturday night there are also those that are scared to think about how badly this game might go and to see yet another Nebraska streak ended. Here are some things to watch for on Saturday night.
Going for Nebraska: Thirty years! The last time that Missouri won in Lincoln was when "I'm a soldier!"'s daddy came in and beat Nebraska. That is pretty remarkable considering Nebraska hasn't kept a lot of their winning streaks alive through the days of Solich and Callahan to have still something like this hanging over a team. There still might be some magic in that stadium that makes it at least 32 after Saturday night.
Going for Missouri: Are you kidding? Missouri is loaded on offense. The quarterback that many thought was too short to play college football has thrived in Columbia. There is also Jeremy Maclin and Chase Coffman that are legitimately top players at their positions nationally. That three headed monster is scary and is the #2 rated offense going into Saturday night's showdown.
Going against Nebraska: This is a statement game for Missouri. This is the chance to end a streak and really standout among the nation's elite teams. The Huskers must find a way to limit yards after the catch with Maclin, keep tabs on Coffman and at the same time get pressure on Chase Daniel. That is easier said than done considering he has only been sacked once this season. Nebraska also needs to get some turnovers and Missouri has only turned over the ball five times this season.
Going against Missouri: If there is a chip in the armor then it's on defense. Missouri is last in the Big 12 in total defense and is #79 nationally. That Jekyll and Hyde type of discrepancy between the defense and the offense this year for Missouri is awfully similar to last year's team for Husker fans. If Nebraska wants to win, they will need to score points when they need to, keep their offense on the field and Missouri's off and also sustain drives without falling apart.
Offensive player of interest for Nebraska: Why not Joe Ganz? Ganz is due for a big game and why not Saturday night against Missouri? The defense that Missouri brings to the table will provide Nebraska some opportunities to make plays and score some points. Ganz, when he is on, is surgical at reading what the defense gives him and taking what he can. There will be a need for help from players like Marlon Lucky and Mike McNeill in the passing game if Nebraska has any shot of winning.
Offensive player of interest for Missouri: I can't just say all of them, so I will take Coffman. Nebraska hasn't been too good guarding tight ends this year. All you have to do is go back to the game against Virginia Tech and there you will find two tight ends having success against Nebraska and their linebackers and safeties. It seems like the play action pass against Nebraska's defense was holding Nebraska's linebackers and safeties long enough for the tight ends to get behind them. Coffman runs like a wide receiver and if that happens, look out.
Defensive player of interest for Nebraska: It's hard to narrow the scope here. You could say Phillip Dillard or Cody Glenn from the linebackers who arguably didn't have great games on Saturday night. You can also say the cornerbacks for Nebraska when it comes to guarding Maclin and Danario Alexander who at 6-foot-5 will give Nebraska problems to cover. I am going to say Ricky Thenarse though who has missed a lot of the season due to injury who now needs to step up and play for an injured Larry Asante. There is a chance to make some plays from his safety position this weekend.
Defensive player of interest for Missouri: It's hard to argue about a pick of Sean Weatherspoon here. Weatherspoon has been doing a little of this and a little of this for the Tigers who are in desperate need of someone to lead by example and keep their defense going. Weatherspoon is leading the Tigers in tackles (48, the second most has 27), tackles for loss (eight, the second most has five and a half), interceptions (three, the second most is one) and is second in sacks with 2.5 on the season (the leader has three). Nebraska should be on the look out for #12 all night.
Determining factors: "Thirty years!" will be the battle cry of the Huskers on Saturday night as they attempt to protect this house against Missouri. I remember back to 2002 when I had a lot of fear of what Brad Smith might do in Lincoln only to have the Nebraska Blackshirts rise to the occasion and hold the Tigers from Missouri to some very low offensive numbers.
Then there have been the games in Columbia recently. Those are some that Nebraska fans don't want to remember. However, if they do want to try and gain some sort of competitive advantage they might throw up the video of Chase Daniel two years ago on the sideline in Lincoln tasting whatever was on the end of his finger. Bleah!
That won't be enough though. I think that Nebraska can keep this close, but this is Missouri's year. It's their year to end this streak and it's their year to try and win the Big 12 crown. Huskers fall at home.
I'll say…Missouri 45 and Nebraska 35.