The bye week blahs have hit a bit, but all Husker fans should be tuning into ESPN this evening to watch Oklahoma State take on Texas A&M. Nebraska plays both of these teams on the road this year, and with Texas looking very vulnerable, there's a possibility that Nebraska might meet either one again in the Big 12 Championship game.
SB Nation has blogs for both sites, I Am the 12th Man for Texas A&M, and new this year, Cowboys Ride Free for Oklahoma State. Cowboys Ride Free has put together a pretty decent preview for the game, as has I Am The 12th Man.
So why should Husker fans watch? Because both teams feature outstanding offenses that will present an enormous challenge to Nebraska and Bo Pelini's Blackshirt defense.
Oklahoma State is first nationally in total offense (596 ypg), second in scoring (57.0 ppg), and second in passing (391.7 ypg), while Texas isn't far behing at ninth in total offense (501.3 ypg), 12th in scoring (41 ppg), and 13th in passing (296.7).
It isn't just the potency of the offenses that make them dangerous, it's that the weapons come in the air and on the ground. Both teams have quarterbacks lighting it up through the air, but they also feature some of the Big 12's best running backs.
Jerrod Johnson was a known quantity coming into this season, so highly touted that the Big 12 media picked him as the preseason Offensive Player of the Year. I've already mentioned Johnson's bad game against Florida International, but you should also known that he's already had two 300-yard games this season, putting up 322 against Stephen F Austin and 349 against Louisiana Tech.
Weeden, not so much. Weeden is a junior who played behind the departed Zac Robinson last year, and he has done a good job of directing a Cowboy offense that's been retooled under new Offensive Coordinator Dana Holgorsen. Holgorsen brought his Airraid offense from Houston, where he'd been the previous two seasons. Previous to Oklahoma State Holgorsen was at Texas Tech from 2000-2007, so you'll be seeing a fair amount of Mike Leach's influence (and Leach did well against our Huskers).
Weeden and Johnson rank 9th and 11th nationally in total offense so far this season, with Weeden averaging just over 314 yards per game to Johnson's 308.
Running Backs And Receivers? Which To Use?
It's a good bet that both teams will try to establish the run early, keeping the other's defense balanced. Both teams have exceptional running backs - Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter might be the best in the conference, if not the nation, and Texas A&M's Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray are as good as any other tandem in the Big 12 (yes, that includes Roy Helu and Rex Burkhead).
Both teams have excellent receivers. Oklahoma State has Justin Blackmon (leading the nation in ypg) and Josh Cooper (47th), while Texas A&M has Jeff Fuller (20th nationally in receiving ypg) and Uzoma Nwachukwu (pronounce that one!). (If you're wondering, Nebraska doesn't have a receiver ranked in the top 100 nationally.)
Football fans talk about games in which a coach establishes a "blueprint" for shutting down and defeating opponents they'll face later in the season. This game will provide some keys for Nebraska's staff that they'll use later against these teams. It gives us the same - how will the Husker defense perform against offenses that have balance? Then throw in Jerrod Johnson's mobility and ability to run the ball, and how do you deal with that, too?
What About Defense?
Both of these teams have struggled the past few seasons on defense. Texas A&M brought in a new defensive coordinator, Tim DeRuyter, replacing Joe Kines, who retired after last season. DeRuyter has changed the base defense from a 4-3 to a 3-4. After three games this season, the Aggies are tenth in total defense, although tonight's game will be the first test against a real offense.
It's the second year for Oklahoma State's defensive coordinator, Bill Young. The Cowboys aren't ranked very well in total defense (78th), but they have faced Tulsa and Troy so far this season, both of whom are highly ranked in total offense (5th, 14th, respectively). The Cowboys have had to replace most of their linebackers and secondary from last season, making the defensive match up that much more interesting.
All statistics from cfbstats.com