Bill Frisbie, Lead Writer -- Nebraska coach Bill Callahan's Farewell Tour arrives in Austin this weekend. Hey, when your Athletic Director and chief ally gets shown the door at mid-season, it's time to polish the resume. Unfortunately for Callahan, the updates will include a 1-3 start in Big 12 play this season as well as a despondent fan base that never quite bought into his West Coast offense.
Predictably, the rhetoric around the hallowed halls of Bellmont this week referenced Nebraska as more of a wounded animal ready to strike than a lame duck playing out the season. The Huskers are two victories shy of bowl eligibility, and a signature win against nationally-ranked Texas could conceivably breathe new life into Dead Man Coaching. But Texas coach Mack Brown says all that becomes meaningless when his players see that red 'N' on Husker helmets this Saturday. John Chiles and company were second-graders when the Huskers won back-to-back national titles, so that's ancient history to most of the underclassmen. More than anything else, the Horns know they were thumped in all phases during their last home game against K-State. They say they want a better accounting of themselves when they return home for the first time in one month.
The Blackshirts are more black-and-blue these days. Nebraska's defense is a husk of its former self, yielding more than 227 rushing ypg and is on pace to become the worst unit in program history. Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis said the teams that have run on Nebraska have all been option teams, but this is just a pre-game disclaimer. (Nearly everyone has run on Nebraska this season. And when Texas fails to hit the weekly rushing average, Davis can attribute it to scheme.)
It's odd to think that, two months ago, this shaped up not only as Texas' biggest home game, but also one of the top collegiate tilts, of 2007. Now, it looks like the last gimme on Texas' slate. Nebraska has dropped three straight conference games by an average of 30 points. I don't expect the Horns to win by four TDs, but I do expect Brown to notch his fourth straight against the Children of the Corn. Texas 34, Nebraska 13.
Ross Lucksinger, InsideTexas.com Editor -- This is going to be a strange one.
The Horns have had consistency issues all season, but it pales in comparison to the unpredictable creature they'll be facing in the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Oh, the Huskers can score points, but they've been tripping over themselves on the way to the endzone. They have a -9 turnover differential and each time they get anything rolling, they give the ball, and all of the momentum, back.
The undisciplined nature of the team makes a lot of sense, though. They have a coach whom the fans and the administration have little to no faith in and are being booed by their own fans, an experience that Nebraska players sure aren't used to. But will the Huskers be able to use this game as a rallying point to play harder and more focused than before and save the season? Probably not.
Texas has had the same problems, but to a much lesser degree. Basically, take each of Texas' problems this season and magnify them and you get the 2007 Nebraska Cornhuskers. Watching this game is going to be an odd experience. I'm expecting plenty of turnovers and broken plays that turn into huge gains.
I'm going with a weird score, because this is going to be a weird game, but the Horns still win. Texas 32.4, Nebraska
Mike Blackwell, Inside Texas Magazine Editor -- There was a time when a Texas-Nebraska game was guaranteed to include an appearance by Lee Corso and the ESPN Gameday gang. Folks would have trouble finding tickets, and if the game was in Austin, Longhorn fans would start tailgating mid-week to keep the Big Red faithful from showing up and taking over their favorite spot.
Last week, long before the final gun sounded in the Huskers' game against Texas A&M in Lincoln, Nebraska fans were merely red with embarrassment. They filed out of their stadium early – something they never do. The Aggies shellacked the Huskers in Lincoln by literally running the football right down their throat. The thought of a Nebraska team being physically dominated at home would've been unthinkable 10 years ago.
Times have changed.
This weekend's Texas-Nebraska game in Austin is certainly an interesting one to contemplate, but not for the same reasons as in year's past. One team, Texas, is perceived as a team that has underachieved and can't run the football. The other team, Bill Callahan's Huskers, are looked upon almost pitifully, like a one-time valedictorian who now lives on the street, mumbling questions to himself. Nebraska fans are wondering, frankly, if their team has quit on its coach.
Callahan's weekly meeting with the press this week sounded sadly Nixonian: "I am a good coach," he said, and he's right. But he's probably not a good coach for Nebraska. And I think we all know how that Nixon thing turned out.
All of this is to say that Texas is about a 20-point favorite for a reason. The Huskers simply cannot stop the run, so for the umpteenth time this year, I'm going to predict that Jamaal Charles will have a huge game, 150 yards are so. Nebraska has lost its will, and simply cannot win this game. In fact, I'd be surprised if the Huskers are even competitive after halftime. Texas 38, Nebraska 14.
Michael Pearle, Co-Publisher -- Wow. And us Texas folks think we have a lot to gripe about.
Nebraska comes to town Saturday having lost its last three to Missouri, Oklahoma State and A&M by the scores of 41-6, 45-14, and 36-14 respectively. That's the same A&M squad that had just limped out of Lubbock with a 35-7 thrashing at the hands of the Red Raiders. Nebraska beat Ball State by a point, 41-40, when the Cardinal kicker missed a field goal with :12 to play. Athletic Director Steve Pederson was fired over the whole mess, and Husker coach Bill Callahan has the gumption to tell the media this week, "I've done an excellent job in every area."
Um, yeah coach, maybe in every area but offense and defense? Man, I truly feel for the Husker nation. One of the proudest football programs in all of college football, a program that used to be synonymous with rugged defense and a devastating ground game, that rolled star tailbacks off the assembly line like GM does pickup trucks, is now stuck in some "West Coast Offense" no-man's land, getting spanked almost weekly by teams that past Nebraska squads would've crushed. As a supporter of the Big 12 and a college football fan, I hate to see it.
So like so many teams seem to do, the Huskers will take on Texas in a game they will see as an opportunity to salvage some of their badly damaged pride, and keep their hopes alive for a post-season bowl. A win over Texas might take some of the heat off of the team, like the win over Texas did the Aggies last year. Have the Huskers quit on Bill Callahan? I am certainly not close enough to that program to know. But after going to Lincoln to watch the Horns play the Huskers, and being around the Big Red fan base, a pretty classy bunch, I find it hard to believe the Huskers would quit on their fans, their families, and themselves. So Texas is likely to catch a Nebraska squad that is going to fight and scratch like a wounded animal. And after Nebraska watches film of Texas, they probably will like their chances of pulling off the upset.
Texas is just so hard to gauge this season. They've played really good football in stretches, but mostly have been frustratingly average. The offense lacks a deep threat, a dominating offensive line, and a dependable running game, so has struggled at times to score. The pass defense is currently ranked a mediocre 54th nationally, but seems to be improving, finally creating some game-changing turnovers is recent weeks.
Nebraska will come in thinking that they can throw on Texas and possibly outscore the Horns, given Texas' sporadic offensive production. And they will have a chance to do just that. I think this game will be closer than the fat 21-point spread, but the Horns will finally prevail in a back and forth game. Texas 35, Nebraska 24.
Clendon Ross, Co-Publisher – This pronouncement has been met with shock by most folks I've talked to this week, but I'm expecting a tight game between Texas and Nebraska. The Huskers' inept performance the last three weeks – and make no mistake, it has been inept – has lulled some Longhorn fans into the belief that this game will be a walk. "If A&M can beat ‘em handily in Lincoln, why can't we do it Austin," has been a common question. The answer is, Texas, excepting about 10 quarters of football this season, has not looked much better than Nebraska. The Horns are just a step or two above mediocre – maybe ‘average' is the right word – and nowhere near great.
And in this one, turnovers could very well be the equalizer. The Aggies don't turn the ball over, and didn't last weekend in Lincoln, which turned an even game vs. the hosts into a relative rout. If I felt like Texas would definitely win the turnover battle, I'd give the Horns the solid edge. But I'm not so sure that will be the case Saturday at DKR.
Call it a hunch (because with this year's UT team, there is truly no tellin' what type of performance we're going to see on any given weekend; it's that lack of an "identity" thing), but I've got a bad feeling this is going another negative giveaway-takeaway day for the Horns and that this will be the Huskers' last stand, their final chance to salvage a season gone wrong, and that will lead to their best play of the season.
I'm not sure even that is enough to overcome their shortcomings. The once-proud Blackshirt defense is awful, and even though the Huskers' main defensive weakness – stopping the run – is not something Texas is well-equipped to take advantage of (unlike, say, the Aggies with their option attack), Colt McCoy and his bevy of receiving options should be able to overcome a couple of picks as long as Nebraska also coughs the ball up as regularly as it has recently. If not, watch out. Regardless, I still see another fourth quarter scare. Texas 32, Nebraska 21..
Average of IT Members Picks: Texas 39, Nebraska 18.