IT's Nebraska Game Picks

IT's Bill Frisbie, Michael Pearle and Clendon Ross give you their picks, and the reasoning behind those picks, in Saturday's game between Texas and Nebraska.

IT Picks:

Frisbie -- No matter what happens Saturday, Nebraska will still go on to win the Big 12 North and Texas appears headed to an Alamo Bowl date with either Michigan or Purdue. Even though Nebraska’s strength (rushing offense) plays toward Texas’ Achilles Heel (run defense), Saturday’s date with the Cornhuskers is the game that concerns me the least of Texas’ four remaining contests. Here’s why:

At some point this season, Roy Williams just has to break out. He has had only a pair of 100-plus yard receiving games, and those came way back during the first two games of the season. Last year, his 161 yards on a school record 13 receptions at Nebraska virtually made all the difference in Texas' 27-24 win. With Husker defenders talking smack about how it won’t happen Saturday, Williams will have added incentive if Greg Davis can find a way to get the ball to him in what is sure to be double-coverage. Otherwise, Williams is on the verge of replacing Eric Metcalf (1985-89) as the most underutilized talent in Texas history.

The only team all season to beat Nebraska was a Missouri team with its big, mobile quarterback Brad Smith who makes plays with hands and feet. Texas has a starting quarterback like that, too. Vince Young continues to amaze UT coaches with his ahead-of-schedule improvement and comfort level in leading the team even against high profile competition.

Texas seems to have gotten the memo that tight ends are eligible receivers. That bodes well for the Horns, boasting a gamer in sophomore David Thomas and the woefully underutilized Bo Scaife.

Passing quarterbacks dissect Texas like an anesthetized frog in Biology 101. QB Jammal Lord -- while big, strong and fast -- is anything but a passing QB.

Texas usually finds a way to win in this series, even when it may not have been the better team. The Horns are 4-1 against the Children of the Corn in Big 12 play. One of these days, either the law of averages will catch up to Texas or Nebraska will get fed up with being on the short end of the corncob and will out-muscle and out-desire the Longhorns (it’s been known to happen). Until then, I go with the team that has shown the hot hand until the losing side proves me wrong.

The lower ranked team has won six of the past nine meetings.

Texas should win at home. (Then again, that’s what I said when Arkansas came to DKR).

Lord will rush for 200-plus yards but the Horns hang on for a win. Texas 27, Nebraska 21.

Pearle -- Nebraska is a team that Mack Brown’s Texas has been able to solve three out of the four times they’ve played, with the lone loss of course coming in the most crucial contest between the teams, the ‘99 Big 12 title game, won by the Huskers. For whatever reason, Texas plays NU seemingly the exact opposite way it now plays OU; that is, with confidence and an attitude that keeps the team busting their guts until the final whistle, with victorious results. So that of course bodes well for Texas -- the Horns should actually have some swagger when they walk on the field in this one, the kind the Sooners now use to wear down Texas when the teams take the field in the Cotton Bowl.

But it is going to take way more than swagger and history for Texas to win the 2003 installment. It is going to take a vicious defensive effort, the kind the Texas stop-troops really have not shown over four full quarters all season. The obvious key in this game is whether Texas can stop the Nebraska ground attack, or at least slow it down enough for Vince Young to freelance his way to the end zone enough times to pull out a Texas victory.

My knee-jerk reaction is to say no, as disturbing visions of Arkansas and OU still dance in my head. Even lowly Baylor last week seemed to regularly tear off big chunks of yardage on the ground against the Horn D, though the stats ultimately were skewed downward by Texas sacks and Bear penalties that nullified big-gainers. But Texas showed that it can play with emotion and intensity when it swarmed all over Ell Roberson and K-State a month ago, ultimately turning in enough big plays and crucial stops to win.

Which Texas D will show up Saturday, the one that laid down and quit against OU, or the one that rose up and stuffed K-State? With the infusion of head-hunter Aaron Harris at MLB, with an excited DE Mike Williams coming hard and fast off the edge, and with Phillip Geiggar continuing to anchor the secondary with sure-handed tackling, I feel better about the Horns ability to stop Nebraska. When the Horns are given a simple assignment on defense as they will be Saturday -- stop the run -- they have usually had success, as with K-State earlier this season. With NU being basically no threat to pass, Texas can just line up and attack. My sense is that we will see an excited Texas defense, juiced by a rowdy home crowd, having fun flying to the football and making plays. The inexperience of DEs Williams and Tim Crowder, who will have crucial roles in stopping the Husker option, does, however, make me a little nervous.

Nebraska’s loss to Missouri this season might well be the blueprint for this one, as Tiger QB Brad Smith ran for three TDs and passed for another one, leading Mizzou to 27 fourth-quarter points and the win. I like Vince Young’s chances to mirror Smith’s performance Saturday. Although NU’s defense is ranked third nationally in total D, you have to wonder a little bit about that ranking. The Huskers schedule has been pretty lame, with the win over Okie State way back in August appearing as the only really impressive victory. The same could be said of Texas’ win over K-State, so this game is truly intriguing. When the smoke clears, I think Texas will have escaped with a win, and Mack Brown will have kept his ravenous critics at bay for at least another week. Texas 31, Nebraska 28.

Ross -- Folks that have read Inside Texas long enough know that I'm a believer in streaks, particularly because of the attitudinal effect they have on UT. The two best examples of it are vs. Oklahoma and Nebraska. Against the Sooners since the '00 game, the Horns walk down that Cotton Bowl tunnel saddled with two TDs worth of emotional baggage (and I think that might grow as a result of this year's Debacle in Dallas, The Sequel). Yet close to the opposite is true vs. the Huskers since '98 in Lincoln when Major Applewhite and Ricky Williams engineered a streak-breaking win (NU's home-win streak, that is; after that win, we headlined Inside Texas that week with It's Texas Streakin' Now; UT 20, NU 16). Much like the Oklahoma coaches and players know they will beat Texas while the guys in Orange hope to beat the Sooners, I believe the Longhorn coaches and players know they will beat the Huskers. Not in a strictly cocky sense, but more in a confident sense based on recent results. And that confidence can trump other factors.

Saturday at DKR, I'd say the "other factors" in this game point to a toss-up. Michael and Bill have covered those areas above, and I addressed one of them -- the Texas run defense -- in-depth in this week's Inside Scoop. I will say this: Carl Reese's D will be supremely challenged on the ground by the Husker attack. And the Blackshirts will be supremely challenged by Vince Young, who brings a similar skill set to this game as Brad Smith, who lit up the Huskers in their only loss. Turnovers, as always, could be key (Nebraska's defensive turnaround can be traced in large part to its newfound penchant for takeaways). If turnover margin favors either the Horns or Huskers by more than one, that team will win.

But I'm keeping things simple: the last toss-up game (vs. K-State), I picked against Texas while imploring the defense to step up. In that one, they did (enough to win the game, at least) while Vince Young announced his game-changing presence to the college football world. This toss-up, I'm going with the Horns because I think for one of the few times vs. top level competition, Mack Brown's team actually has an attitudinal edge, and in this contest, that will be the difference. Texas 30, Nebraska 20.

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