The Right Game for Nebraska?

Clemson vs Nebraska. It's been sinking in. Yes, it takes me awhile sometimes, but this is kind of a big deal. It's a January bowl, Nebraska is slowly climbing its way back to...somewhere. This could be their coming out party. Maybe? So, who they play could be a very big deal. In fact, I think it is. But Clemson?

I have to admit that until probably just this week, I was about as excited to see Nebraska play Clemson as I would be to watch croquet in slow motion.

Yes, I know – as a member of the media you aren't supposed to be more excited about one match up versus another.

But come on, once I heard Florida State's name being thrown around as a possible opponent for the Huskers, it would be hard not to get excited about that.

Granted, neither is a world-beater at this point, like they were so many times when they faced off in January bowls. Heisman candidates aren't anywhere to be found, All-Americans are very few and the only thing that would be on the line at this point is momentum going into next year.

But all those 'dad gummits' we'd be missing, the 'aww shucks', reminiscing about wide left, wide right or just glory days gone by.

Lots of story lines there. Lots of stuff to talk about, write about, wax nostalgic over.

But then I started to think about what could be lost from that particular game.....

...or who.

Bo Pelini anyone?

Sure, Nebraska faced Clemson over a quarter century ago when Athletic Director Tom Osborne was the Head Coach. And yes, T.O. Has coached many o' game in the state of Florida, many for a lot of hardware on the line.

But think about how much attention would have been given to a game involving Tom Osborne and Bobby Bowden, even if Osborne's role with the team isn't exactly what it used to be.

If you don't think that would have happened, all you had to do was listen to the official announcement by the Gator Bowl committee and the amount of questions which were directed at the

Even if T.O. didn't want it, if it would
have been FSU vs NU, there
would be much talk about him.
former Husker Head Coach versus the current one, talking about Clemson way back when and all those bowl games played in the Sunshine State.

If they were to face Florida State multiply that by about 10.

This isn't about Tom Osborne, though, nobody can deny the stabilizing force he was when he came back at the Athletic Director at Nebraska. Bo was also his hire, which you also have to include as you are doling out credit for the steady climb back up by these Nebraska Cornhuskers.

But this is Bo's team now, and he's the one who came in, seemingly instantly re-energized a team's belief in the coaching staff and more importantly, in themselves.

Bo's demeanor, his fire and yes, his early penchant for vocal tirades on the refs. His loyalty to his team and the subsequent loyalty they have showed him. It's all made for interesting and even compelling drama throughout the season, and if this had been that FSU vs NU match up, much of that would have probably gotten lost amidst the addiction to glory days gone by.

This is undoubtedly Bo's team, and a game like this will keep that very much in perspective.

BIG 12 DEFENSES STINK

Speaking of perspective, we might have lost some over this year, a season dominated by offenses, Heisman candidates, pass-happy mentalities, cartoon-like games and the ability to score in a matter of seconds.

Could a Clemson slow down a
Sam Bradford?
That means defenses are reeling, wondering what they are going to do to try and slow down one point-producing-juggernaut after another. Even when those teams have come out on top, they gave up 400 or more yards along the way.

So, are they really that bad, or are offenses in this conference simply that darn good?

Take Nebraska for example:

Nebraska ranks second in the conference in pass defense.

But in the entire country, they're 90th.

That seems pretty odd, eh?

Of course, no other defenses in the country have to face offenses like members of the Big 12 Conference face each and every week.

Out of the pre-season Heisman candidates from this conference, all of them played on the offensive side of the ball.

You had quarterbacks Chase Daniel (Missouri), Colt McCoy (Texas), Sam Bradford (Oklahoma), Graham Harrell (Texas Tech) and some thought that Kansas QB Todd Reesing was a darkhorse candidate at the very least. Then you throw in a pair of wide receivers in Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree and Missouri's Jeremy Maclin.

The final regular-season tally on power offenses in the country has also proven that if you are in the Big 12, your Defensive Coordinators might go into the season with dark brown hair, but they will come out of it with more than a little gray.

Check out these national rankings for just some of the offenses in this conference:

3rd – Oklahoma 4th – Texas Tech 6th – Missouri 7th – Oklahoma State 9th – Texas 12th – Nebraska

Half the conference ranked in the top-12 in

Can Nebraska stop an elite rushing
attack with backs like C.J. Spiller?
(pictured)
yards per game on offense?

Add to that the fact that four out of the top six scoring offenses in the country are Big 12 schools, Oklahoma riding at the top scoring 54 points per game.

Close to the other end of the spectrum you have Clemson, which ranks as one of the top 20 defenses (17th) in the country.

However, you look at their opponents which consist of teams like Alabama, Georgia Tech and South Carolina, all known to be offensively potent in their own way, the Tigers still haven't faced a unit which ranks amongst the top 40 in Division 1-A.

In fact, the best passing offense they have faced by national ranking is South Carolina, which finished the regular season ranked 54th.

That would be good enough for 10th place in the Big 12.

The basic point of this is that while there are a host of arguments as to whether or not Big 12 defenses are that bad, prompting the question about whether or not their offenses are that good – those questions probably won't be answered in this game.

But with Clemson having legit NFL-type talent in the backfield in the form of not one, but two running backs, those being standout senior James Davis and the scintillating junior, C.J. Spiller, the Huskers will be tested perhaps in a way they haven't been tested all year.

Three times Nebraska has given up over 200 yards rushing in a game, and in two of those (Virginia Tech and Baylor), it was the quarterback doing most of the running.

Do running games scare them? Can they stop a down hill attack for an entire game? We'll see.

But can Clemson stop Nebraska through the air?

All these numbers, for this game they will be torn apart, asunder, analyzed and poured over ad nauseam. But that's good, and while they certainly would have been had this opponent been Florida State vs Nebraska, because it's not Bobby's team, it's actually his kid's former team we'll be able to appreciate it a lot more.

I certainly do, and it only took me about a week to figure it out.


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