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Bill Callahan Keys to Victory Over Oklahoma

I'm a little surprised at the number of people who have given this game to Oklahoma. I shouldn't be - most of the mass media is falling all over themselves to talk about the job that Bob Stoops has done with the Sooners this season. There's a reason for that - Oklahoma could have fallen apart after the Oregon loss, but they didn't. They could have come apart when Adrian Peterson got hurt, but they toughened up and got better at running the ball. They're a darned good football team, and Nebraska will have their hands full with them in the Big 12 Championship game.

When you get past "Bob Stoops is an incredible coach so the Sooners must win" stuff and take a look at these teams, they match up very well. Nebraska is a more complete team, especially on offense. Nebraska has plenty of offensive weapons, in the air and on the ground. Public perception is that this Blackshirt defense isn't as good as last year and when people say that, they're typically comparing this year's sack total - 25 - with last year's total of 50, and concluding we're not doing as well. Due to an injury-depleted secondary, Nebraska has had to play a different type of defense this year. We give up yardage, but keep other teams from scoring relative to the yardage they've gained.

This isn't a gimme for the Sooners. It will be a four quarter game, and it will be fun to watch.

Slow Down the Run

Its no big secret that we'll need to stop the run against Oklahoma if we expect to win the game. I don't think that the Husker front seven can stop Oklahoma from running the football. Oklahoma's offensive line is very good, better than most people expected.

Nebraska must limit big plays on the ground by Oklahoma in this game. We've done very well on defense most of the time this year, but we've had a tendency to give up big plays. Against Colorado, Charles had a long run of 44 yards , but otherwise had 17 yards on four carries. We gave up 45  yards when Holliday burst up the middle for a touchdown, but without that run, he had 22 yards on seven carries. Going back to Texas A&M, quarterback Stephen McGee broke a 57 yard run on a option play when Nebraska called a blitz. Mike Goodson had a long run of 54 yards, and a 22 yard touchdown run. We can't afford to give up gains of more than 25 yards against Oklahoma.

Nebraska's defense must play a good game, be in position, and do a good job of tackling. If they can do this, the game will stay close, and Oklahoma will be forced to pound it out for four quarters. At that point, it'll become a game of conditioning, substitution, and which team is more affected by four quarters of freezing cold weather.  

It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

Against Texas, OU coughed the ball up six times, losing three. They're ranked 117th out of 119 teams in Div IA in fumbles lost, although Nebraska's stat in that category isn't much better at 101st. Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State by playing mistake-free football, and Nebraska hasn't gotten a takeaway since the Missouri game. You could look at this and say that Oklahoma is much improved, but I prefer to think that Oklahoma is due for some turnovers. Either way, the team with the least mistakes in the turnover category wins this close game.

Picking off a Paul Thompson pass or an Allen Patrick fumble would be a nice early Christmas present for the Huskers. We deserve it, don't we?

Nebraska Magic

All those years of Sooner Magic and Barry Switzer's miraculous comebacks. It's time for some Nebraska Magic, in the form of quick-strike offense with Zac Taylor, Maurice Purify, Todd Peterson, Nate Swift and a tight end or two. I know that most people are expecting the cold weather to slow the game down - most have predicted a low-scoring affair. Both of these teams have overcome adversity to get where they are, both have good coaches, and both will play hard, freezing weather or not.

This is not a game that will be decided by field goals, time of possession and field position. It's a game that will be defined and decided by big plays. Each team has an advantage - OU has powerful running against a Nebraska defense that at times has played out of position and exhibited poor tackling. Conversely, Oklahoma's defensive secondary is young, and has yet to see a team with as many shifts and formations as Nebraska. A mistake or two, and Nebraska will score quickly.

Bottom line here - don't count this game over until the clock runs out.

Prediction

NU         30
OU         28

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