The Big 12 Conference Championship couldn't have asked for a bigger stage. The Nebraska Cornhuskers representing the Big 12 North division, and the Texas Longhorns representing the Big 12 South division. A victory for Texas locks up a birth in the BCS National Title game. With much of the national media and a lot of college football fans picking Texas to win, one might consider Nebraska to be an underdog against the Longhorns. NU Coach Bo Pelini doesn't buy into the "underdog" label.
"I don't even know what that means," Pelini said. "That's for the bookies in Vegas." Despite the extra implications of the game, Bo Pelini managed to keep his Husker team focused. The team did not take advantage of the extra days off, but rather, Pelini gave his team a rest on Saturday and Sunday. For the NU coaches and players, this is just another game.
"Our approach wasn't any different than it is any other week," said Pelini. "Our guys know what we got in front of us. We don't treat this week any different than we have any other week, and the kids have approached it the same way."
With such a meaningful game brings a lot of attention. The game features two teams that won their respective divisions of the Big 12, but most of the talk has been about the high-powered Texas offense. The label of being an "underdog" isn't affecting the Nebraska players.
"That means absolutely nothing to me," said Phillip Dillard. "All it is is talk. You can say what you want about a team, but you got to come out and show it."
The Longhorns undoubted leader on offense is quarterback Colt McCoy. McCoy is a dual threat quarterback, and that was never more evident than against Texas A&M. McCoy threw for 304 yards and four touchdowns, and ran for 175 yards and a touchdown. There isn't much dispute, McCoy is tough to stop.
"We've faced some good running quarter backs," said Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini. "He's probably the best one we've faced. He's patient like Reesing and he's got Tyrod Taylor speed. You really got to account for that all the time."
The numbers support Pelini's claim. On the season, McCoy has thrown for 3,328 yards and 27 touchdowns. But while Nebraska hasn't faced a challenge like Colt McCoy yet this season, McCoy hasn't faced a defense as good as the Nebraska "Blackshirt" defense. Bo Pelini doesn't think his team will be in any awe over the Longhorn quarterback.
"We've played against a lot of good football players this year," Pelini said. "Our guys are used to it."
Texas has an undoubted superstar on offense, but he is definitely not a one-man show. Colt McCoy's supporting cast includes First Team All-Big 12 wide receiver Jordan Shipley, who has hauled in 99 catches for nearly 1,300 yards. 11 of those catches were for a touchdown. After Shipley, Texas has four other receivers with over 30 receptions on the season. Nebraska's defense has their work cut out for them if they plan on containing the Longhorns.
"They have a lot of playmakers," said Nebraska senior safety Matt O'Hanlon. "They have a lot of guys who have the ability to take a five-yard reception into a 70-yard touchdown. As a defense, we definitely have to tackle pretty well because we know they're going to get a catch here and there. We just can't make it into a touchdown or big play. We have to limit those mistakes."
So how exactly do you stop an offense that scores 43 points per game and posts over 450 yards of offense per game? That is the duty that Bo and Carl Pelini have to take on.
"They run the ball well, they throw the ball well, and they got a mobile quarterback," Carl Pelini said. "You got to be clicking in every aspect. A lot of offenses you face, you can make them one dimensional and make them impatient. These guys won't be; they got too many weapons. You got to be ready and you got to defend the whole field."