SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
10/18/2006 05:38:00 PM
Still High on the 'Horns
Colt McCoy is coming off a career game against Baylor when he threw for 275 yards and six touchdowns.
Tim Heitman/US PRESSWIRE
Here's an interesting little factoid for you: Texas has played seven games this season without leaving its home state. Furthermore, the 'Horns have yet to face an opposing team in its home stadium, having played five home games, a neutral-site game against Oklahoma (Dallas) and a "road" game against Rice at Houston's Reliant Stadium.
Both streaks will come to an end Saturday when Mack Brown's team visits Nebraska's Memorial Stadium, traditionally one of college football's harder venues for visiting teams (though Texas has won both its games there under Brown). It will be interesting to see how QB Colt McCoy, who has played at an extremely high level since losing to Ohio State, responds to his first truly hostile atmosphere. "Our kids play in front of 88,000 every week," said Brown. "They're used to big games."
Apparently the 'Horns haven't played in enough big games this season, because despite Texas beating the Sooners 28-10 and suffering its only defeat at the hands of No. 1 Ohio State, the BCS computers took one look at Texas' body of work so far and basically said, "Eh." Having beaten four teams ranked 71st or lower by the BCS (North Texas, Iowa State, Rice and Baylor) as well as a I-AA team (Sam Houston State), the 6-1 'Horns managed an average ranking of just 15th last week in the six computer ratings used by the BCS, saddling them at ninth in the overall standings.
It's hard to remember another recent defending national champion -- one that plays on national TV virtually every week -- seemingly flying under the radar like this Texas team. Yes, they were beaten fairly badly by Ohio State, but so has everybody else who's played the Buckeyes. Obviously, the 'Horns have a golden opportunity to rev up the computers Saturday if they win a road game against the 17th-ranked Huskers (6-1). As to whether that will impress humans like you and me, I suppose that depends on your opinion of Nebraska.
Is Bill Callahan's program finally approaching a return to Nebraska's days of dominance, as evidenced by their recent, workmanlike destructions of division foes Iowa State and Kansas State? Or is it still mired in the realm of good-but-not-great, as evidenced by a lackluster showing at USC and near-disastrous defensive collapse against Kansas? "You'd like to believe you're getting better," said Callahan. "But I don't think we've arrived by any means.
Before the season began, Nebraska fans, still riding the high of last winter's Alamo Bowl win over Michigan, looked at the schedule and pointed to the USC and Texas games -- matchups with both of last year's national-title participants -- as the Huskers' opportunity to prove they're "back." Obviously, Round One didn’t go as they'd hoped. Will Round Two be different?
I think Nebraska will put up more of a fight than it did in L.A. -- because it's playing at home and because it has more confidence -- but I would still consider it a major upset if the Huskers win. I say this not so much as an indictment against Nebraska, which has a powerful rushing attack (11th nationally), a solid quarterback (Zac Taylor) and an opportunistic defense, but because Texas, contrary to what the computers might tell you, is still very much among the elite teams nationally.
A lot of people were ready to write off the 'Horns after the Ohio State game, concluding that losing Vince Young was even more disastrous than anticipated. But each week since then, we've seen the coaches put more and more trust in McCoy, increasingly expanding his repertoire to take advantage of their playmakers at receiver. Last week against Baylor he went 21-of-32 for 275 yards, six touchdowns and one interception. I don't care if it was Baylor -- that's impressive.
But where Texas really made a statement was in the Oklahoma game, specifically on defense. If you recall, the 'Horns were down 10-7 at halftime but dominated the second half by holding Sooner star Adrian Peterson to a paltry 38 yards on 13 carries and forcing four straight turnovers. It's hard to imagine Nebraska will drive up and down the field on the 'Horns. Texas won't necessarily dominate offensively, either, but in a close game, all you need are a few big plays. The 'Horns still have a bevy of championship-level playmakers; the Huskers are still a couple away.
I think Colt McCoy is going to struggle in this game. Memorial Satdium is one of the loudest stadiums in the country (believe me!). This is nebraska's biggest home game this year, so you know that the fans are going to really loud for this game, and the defense is going to coming after him alot. I think its going to be a defensive game. Nebraska:20 Texas: 14. GO BIG RED!!!!
Texas beats Nebraska, wins out and still gets no BCS love because of the schedule and the OSU smack down, but Colt McCoy goes on to become a Texas legend because, well, with a name like that we expect no less.
Texas is in the handfull of best 1 loss teams right now, and if Colt McCoy continues to improve, as he's shown consistently already, then Texas would have to be considered the best 1 loss team and that could get them where they want to go. The OSU won out right, but that game, like most big games, was put out of contention by turnovers and a QB on the field for his 2nd college game, ever. Both of those things are being taken care of as the season progresses and I think voters would be intrigued by a Texas team that is proven over the past 2 year NC caliber everywhere but QB.
Even though Ohio State beat Texas by a large points margin, I think both teams were near equal in total offensive yards gained. The difference was turnovers, with Ohio State grabbing two of them, one of those preventing Texas from scoring a go-ahead touchdown. I guess the BCS computers don't look at all of the stats.
nebraska hasnt played a team that has the talent on D that texas has...im pretty sure the same D that stuffed all-world AP can hold their own against marlon glenn or whoever it is the gets the carries in lincoln..Texas will leave memorial stadium victiorious....again
Now, I am going to reserve my judgement until after this game, but, Stewart, I think you are being a little hard on the Huskers. I read your mailbag, and all I see is that you are able to look past a poor performance in a single game and judge on the ability of the team. Now I read this and you are still holding the Huskers outside your top 20 because of a bad game against Kansas, which we still won. I think you'll see that the Huskers can hang with a lot of "contender" teams, especially in Lincoln.
I'm tired of sports writers bagging Nebraska. We're 6-1! 95% of sports writers will give Notre Dame or Florida the benefit of the doubt and rank them high but Nebraska has to fight tooth and nail to climb an inch on the chart.
Texas SHOULD win this game. However, the fact that it is the first true road test, and the fact that Texas' defense (especially the secondary) is fairly banged up right now raise the specter of doubt in my mind. Also, Texas historically comes out slow in these early games. If Texas' defense plays to the level they did in the 2nd half against OU, Texas wins going away. Otherwise, it's a close game ripe for NU's picking.
Stewart, As a Husker fan I would love to disagree with you, but I can't. The 'Horns have gotten better and better since getting throttled by OSU, and it will take a really good team to beat them. NU is good and getting better, but not really good yet. But it is college football in October and I expect a competive game that is fun to watch regardless of who you like. And you never know, a timely (or untimely) TO or long return...anything can happen.
Even as a Husker fan I agree that an NU win will be an upset. Callahan hasn't seemed to feel comfortable really opening it up offensively, and the Husker D has been mediocre compared to the pre-season hype. They have the tools, they have the home field, and they have the opportunity. I just hope they take it.
As a Nebraska fan, I totally agree with what your saying. The Huskers are still a few players away from being one of the elite teams. Do I want Nebraska to win this game, yes, and I think they can, but they are going to have to play a pretty darn good game. Nebraska has showed some inconsistency this year, but who knows, the game is at home and it's the longhorns first true road test. I would rather lose this game and beat Texas in the Big 12 championship if it comes to that though.
Unlike Oklahoma the Husker don't have to rely on a ground game. Against Kansas the Huskers passing game buried them with 4 passing plays over 50 yards all for touchdowns. Not that they have a problem with the running game being #1 rushing a game in the confrence
"Harrison Beck leaving is a sign that Callahan is losing this team just the way he lost the Raiders. Horns roll!" Oh yeah, because the Raiders were 6-1 when their collapse began and undefeated in division and conference play. It's OBVIOUS the Huskers have lost total faith in Callahan. Please at least try to sound like you have a good reason Texas will win. Beck was a prima donna who wanted to be a star or didn't want to play at all. Players like that don't belong at a school like Nebraska. Nobody in Lincoln shed a single tear when he left to go be with Steve Spurrier, who's just as pathetic as Beck is.
To the ignorant poster that said that Harrison Beck leaving is sign that Callahan is losing conrol,
You obviously don't know much about Nebraska. What does having four RBs willing to split carries to help the team win say about Callahan? I'm sure if he had lost control, they wouldn't have bought into his system. Bottom line, Harrison Beck was immature and was not liked by most of his teammates. The kid thought that he deserved to play based on what? The fact that he was 1 - 11 with 1 INT his freshman year? Was it the fact that he didn't even participate in spring drills because he was hurt? Maybe it was because his mommy said he was good enough to play.
Nebraska struggled against USC, while even Pac-10 bottom-dwellers have put up some points on the Trojans. UT may struggle at first before getting comfortable in their first true road game, but they have too much talent not to pull this one out. That said, I'd love to see Nebraska shake up the not-so-Big 12 with a win!
As for UT/OSU and turnovers, either the UT offense made mistakes (rate UT lower) or the OSU D forced the turnovers (rate OSU higher). One can't discount the turnovers and say the teams are closer to equal - that's a specious argument!
"nebraska hasnt played a team that has the talent on D that texas has...im pretty sure the same D that stuffed all-world AP can hold their own against marlon glenn or whoever it is the gets the carries in lincoln..Texas will leave memorial stadium victiorious....again"
Is that why OU put up 171 yards rushing? OU is ranked 26th or 27th in the nation for rushing averaging about 172 yards. NU is ranked 11th averaging 208 yards per game.
I'm torn. I had one parent go to each of these school and I am big fans of both. Not only that but I'm going to the game with my dad(nebraska alum). I'm going to root for Nebraska but I'm not to sure they can win. Texas' defense was pretty nasty in that OU game and the play calling against USC still has me wondering. I understand that you have to establish a rushing game but Nebraska threw downfield very few times. Texas 24 Nebraka 20
I don't understand the analysis - Texas is still among the "elite teams nationally" and their QB is getting better every week, except that they haven't played anybody good, other than OSU (who they lost to). You can't have it both ways.
I just want to inform all of the Texas fans out there that if Texas does win out they will not be playing in the National Championship game. First reason is that Texas' schedule is WEAK, compared to those in the SEC and Big Ten and now Pac Ten. Second reason is that no one is going to want to see a rematch of Texas vs. OSU game.
As a Longhorn fan the offense sputters on occasion (i.e., second quarter Baylor), but the defense is great against the run and pretty good on the pass. If Texas gets fired up, they will take the Huskers.
I agree with you, Stewart, that the computers should show some love to the Horns if they beat Nebraska at Nebraska. USC is getting a ton of love from the computers, who have them ahead of both Michigan AND Ohio State, supposedly because of their "difficult" schedule. To date (I know that Cal, Oregon, and Notre Dame are ahead on the schedule), they have only played two teams in the top 20 of the BCS: Arkansas, who was essentially without their leading rusher (McFadden was hurt) and a quarterback that was soon replaced (with Mustain), and Nebraska, which was a home game for USC. So if the computers love USC for beating Nebraska at home, they should really love Texas if they can beat Nebraska on the road. P.S. I REALLY hate the BCS!
I think McCoy struggles on the road against Nebraska and they pull the upset over the Horns. That said I don't think Nebraska is back-I think the Horns are going to struggle against any quality opponent.
Texas @ Nebraska is going to be great to watch, there's just too much tradition between the two schools. However I think Texas has an edge if for no other reason than the Big Red machine hasn't gotten its "mojo" back from the past. Memorial is hard for any road team and the Nebraska fans are the best, but Texas historically loves (and wins) road games under Mack. Texas lost to OSU because of turnovers and when they lost Tarrell Brown, (suspended) Tressel and Co. was smart enough to go after a secondary that clearly was confused on their assignments practically the whole game. Colt actually held his on other than the single interception. Since that time, the staff has been letting him open up with each game, a little more downfield every week. Six touchdowns against a Baylor team that isn't as bad as everyone might think was impressive. Both teams have hard hitting defenses, but I think Texas edges this one cause of their talent on both sides.
As on OSU student, I have to say that Texas is the best 1-loss team in the country. So far this season, I have watched the Buckeyes steamroll everything that even looked at them the wrong way. But Texas gave us a heck of a game down in Austin; much closer than the numbers make it seem. I think Texas will roll fairly easily over Nebraska, and everyone else they play this season.
Even though he has never admitted it, Coach Callahan learned a very valuable and important lesson from the USC loss and thus he will let Zac be Zac and actually play West coast offense against the 'Horns...the air will be filled with footballs! I also think that the Blackshirts will put Colt on his back more than has happened to him this season. I do worry about our corners defending the pass; however, McCoy getting his cage rattled so much should balance that out. GO, HUSKERS!!!
Husker fan here, I think TX probably wins since I think they're about the 3rd or 4th best team in the country. However, Big Red is up for the upset(ala ARK vs AB), but we'll have to get some breaks. I agree with some of the bloggers that NE doesn't get much respect in the poles or media, contrary to media darlings MI,ND in particular. I'm also sick of all the hype of Rutgers, WV, and Boise ST. Give me a break! B.M.W.
Husker fan, This game reminds me of NE/MI last year with NE given little press and little chance to win. TX has a better team than MI last year and this year, so I think they'll win unless NE forces some breaks and "wants" the game more. P.S. I'm sick of all the hype of media darlings MI,ND, and newcomers WV, Rutgers, and Boise St.....B.M.W.
I have been to Texas Nebraska games in the past and loved every minute of them. To me this is a great game...Texas has been dominate recently and should continue to be with a win on Saturday...Texas 27 Neb 13
Too much defense and Gene Chisik for Callahan to over come and Texas despite missing two quality db's will out athlete the huskers....Colt should make the difference in this game next year but this year it is the defense and the unrelenting pressure UT's D will put on Neb. I was at the UT OSU game and trust me....that was closer then the final indicated...Texas is closer to the numer 3-5 team in the nation than the 15 and would beat most anyone in the country short of Ohio St. nutts.
FYI...I am a Texas A&M Grad who hates UT but honest I can be...FIRE Fran and HIRE anyone to beat UT!!!
I have been a Husker fan for about 33 of my 37 years. I hope our coaches decide to open up the playbook for this game. We have the tools to put together a game against anyone in the Top 10, including a very fine OSU team. Unfortunately, our coaches have been more concerned about not losing a game than winning a game.
I hope for a win, but will be just as satisfied if the Huskers show up and play a good game.
consider this, you had UT cleaning out Memorial Stadium efficiently, when Lee Corso had The NU-UT game on his upset-alert segment. Take a few pointers from the experts and don't always be so rash in your decisions. Florida, Michigan, and ND are always so quick to recieve love from pollsters like you but Nebraska everybody always say don't read too much into their wins and you guys always are picking them apart when NU loses. Brush up on your sportswriting skills.