When it comes to matching the teams up you'd be hard pressed to disagree.
Oklahoma has legitimate All-Conference candidates on the offensive and defensive lines, at quarterback and in the linebacking corps. They also have standout athelticism and speed at just about every other spot on the field.
As for Nebraska, while there are a certain amount of players described as solid, the match-up comparison is decidedly one-sided. "We can't afford some of the dumb mistkes we've been making against this football team," Pelini said. "We need to play better and cleaner, and I have been saying it forever; our best football is out there to go play. There's a lot of improvement that needs to be made, that can be made – we've just got to continue down the same road."
As the head coach will tell you, Nebraska has been its own worst enemy this year, from leading the conference in penalties, to ranking dead last in the conference in turnover margin. Some of those mistakes aren't seemingly big at the time they occur, but he said that they have all added up to where they are right now. "If we wouldn't have made those mistakes, we'd probably sitting here seven and one right now, but we're not, because we didn't play clean enough against Texas Tech, we didn't play clean enough against Virginia Tech. We got beat against Missouri. We didn't play well.
"But we have to take care of our business to give ourselves the best chance to win the football game."
One of those chances could come in the return game, one of Oklahoma's few obvious weaknesses coming in defending kickoffs, the Sooners ranking 109th, giving up 25.11 yards per kickoff return. Sophomore wide receiver Niles Paul ranks 34th in the country in that category, averaging just under that, going for 25 yards per return.
Any coach will tell you that special teams, like any other unit, is a vital part of their plan, because where the ball starts on the field often determines where it ends up. "Obviously special teams and field position are going to play a big part in it, and Niles has been a guy who has stepped up for us and we need that to happen again," Pelini said.
A couple of negatives for the Huskers is that they would be undermanned as it is against one of the best teams in the country, but they will be without two key starters as they trip down to Norman for the night time game, which will be aired on ESPN. Starting linebacker Phillip Dillard, Nebraska's lone member from the Sooner state and junior wide receiver Menelik Holt, will both miss this game due to injuries suffered against Baylor last weekend.
Holt ranks third on the team in receptions with 25 this year, one going in for a score. Dillard ranks fourth on the team in tackles with 38, including two for loss.
Holt didn't start for the Huskers, but players like Paul mentioned above and sophomore running back Marcus Mendoza might be counted on to fill the void, Mendoza recently taking more reps at the position this last week.
With all the questions and concerns as Nebraska will get ready to play perhaps the best team they will face all year, the head coach said that a slow start to the week was countered by a nice finish today. "I thought we started off slow during the week, and we finished up better. I think we'll go down there and play well against a good football team," Pelini said.
"I think the kids are excited. I think the attitude is good. We just need to take it from the practice field."
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