College Football Overtime (cont.)
'Must Suh TV'
ESPN's Thursday night games rarely fail to disappoint, with last week's Nebraska-Missouri game providing the latest dramatic episode. Trailing 12-0 heading into the final quarter, the Huskers -- whose offense struggled miserably all night under a torrential downpour -- suddenly scored two touchdowns in a 57-second span to start the fourth quarter, then pulled away to win 27-12.
For viewers nationally, the game served as a showcase for the Huskers' powerful defensive front, led by prospective No. 1 draft pick Ndamukong Suh. The 6-foot-4, 300-pound tackle's batted interception to himself early in the fourth quarter set up Nebraska's go-ahead touchdown. He finished with six tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and several batted balls.
While Suh was the game's undisputed star -- prompting several columnists around the country, including SI.com's Andy Staples, to begin touting his Heisman candidacy -- the entire front four of Barry Turner, Jared Crick, Suh and Pierre Allen spent most of the night chasing Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert out of the pocket. The four combined for 21 tackles.
Second-year Nebraska coach Bo Pelini -- who returned to Lincoln (where he served as defensive coordinator in 2003) determined to restore the program's tradition of defensive dominance -- appears to be well on his way. The 4-1 Huskers rank 13th nationally in total defense (273.4 yards per game), up from 55th a year ago.
"We've made a lot of progress from where were last year," Pelini said Sunday. "You've got to be able to stop the run and rush the passer, and we've been able to do that very effectively this season."
In fact, the Huskers did much the same thing in their Sept. 19 game at Virginia Tech, controlling the line of scrimmage nearly the entire game and holding the Hokies to 190 total yards before quarterback Tyrod Taylor engineered a last-second, game-winning 88-yard drive. The Missouri game served as a reversal of sorts for the Huskers.
"We lost one earlier in the year where the tone changed real late," Pelini said. "This time we kind of made things happen in the fourth quarter. Hopefully it gives us some momentum and some confidence."
The Huskers may need it this weekend when they host Texas Tech, which has won the teams' past three meetings. It will be interesting to see whether Suh and the defense can disrupt the Red Raiders' precision-based passing attack as drastically as they did Missouri's.
My reaction to the latest AP and coaches polls:
Overrated: Oklahoma State (Coaches: No. 14. AP: No. 16)
With Dez Bryant in NCAA limbo, Kendall Hunter shelved with an ankle injury and a defense that wasn't all that good to begin with, the Cowboys were fortunate to escape Texas A&M with a 36-31 victory. Until their stars return, though, this is not a top 20 team. Certainly they're not seven to nine spots better than Houston, a fellow 4-1 team which happened to beat Oklahoma State in Stillwater.
Underrated: Oregon (Coaches: No. 16. AP: No. 13)
Even without starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, the Ducks handled UCLA on Saturday for their fifth straight victory thanks in no small part to a surprisingly stout defense. Despite an injury-depleted secondary, Oregon did not allow an offensive touchdown against the Bruins and have allowed a combined 19 points in three conference games to take sole possession of first place in the Pac-10.
Current BCS forecast
Each week, I'll update my projected BCS lineup (as necessary) based on the latest week's games.
Title game: Alabama vs. Texas
Rose: USC vs. Ohio State
Fiesta: Nebraska vs. Boise State
Sugar: Florida vs. Cincinnati
Orange: Virginia Tech vs. Iowa
Toward the end of the Nebraska-Missouri game I regrettably tweeted that Kansas remained my pick to win the Big 12 North. In the words of Gob Bluth: "I've made a huge mistake." The Huskers have a far more favorable remaining schedule -- and a much, much better defense. Even if they lost in the Big 12 title game, their famous traveling horde would be widely welcomed by any bowl committee.
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