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September 25, 2008

Big 12: Can Nebraska find home magic again?

MORE PREVIEWS: ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC

Bo Pelini has done just about everything he can to embrace the tradition at Nebraska. He has reinstituted the Huskers' beloved walk-on program. He crossed the state, reaching out to Big Red fans to rebuild bridges burned by predecessor Bill Callahan, who preferred film study to shaking hands.

Pelini has even put some option plays into the game plan for quarterback Joe Ganz. And what's closer to a Nebraska fan's heart than an option pitch?

How about a victory over Virginia Tech?

If Pelini wants to really embrace tradition, he needs to look back to the Huskers' 47-game home winning streak, which came to an end in 1998. During that span, Nebraska won big game after big game at home.

Recently, no one has feared coming to Lincoln. Since 2004, Southern Miss, Colorado, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Texas, USC, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M have gone into Memorial Stadium and walked out with victories.

"It's a prime-time night game," Ganz said of Saturday's matchup with the Hokies. "We're going to get a lot of exposure and a lot of people are going to see it. Hopefully we can play well and people can actually see us for who we are and how good we can actually be."

Nebraska's defense, ranked 103rd nationally against the pass, may match up well with Virginia Tech's offense. The Hokies are ranked 115th nationally in passing offense, averaging just 99 yards per game. The Hokies want to beat you running the football, and Nebraska has allowed only 2.6 yards per carry (18th nationally) through its first three games against Western Michigan, San Jose State and New Mexico State.

And don't be surprised to see a little option football from Nebraska on Saturday night.

"Some of the things that we do with the option are a direct reflection of what (Tom Osborne) did in the past," Pelini said. "We're not as fine-tuned in some of the intricacies as Coach Osborne did it. He took it to a whole other level."

BIG 12 SCHEDULE
SATURDAY
Army at Texas A&M, 12:30 p.m.
Arkansas at Texas, 3:30 p.m.
Colorado vs. Florida State in Jacksonville, 3:30 p.m.
Louisiana-Lafayette at Kansas State, 3:30 p.m.
TCU at Oklahoma, 3:30 p.m.
Troy at Oklahoma State, 7 p.m.
Virginia Tech at Nebraska, 8 p.m.

  • BEST MATCHUP
  • Oklahoma's offense vs. TCU's defense. Oklahoma's offense is averaging 54.7 points, tops in the nation. TCU's defense is giving up just 7.8 points per game (No. 6 nationally). OU running back DeMarco Murray is averaging 104 yards rushing, and quarterback Sam Bradford is the nation's No. 2-ranked passer. Something has to give because TCU is ranked No. 1 in rushing defense (30.5 yards per game) and total defense (183 yards per game).

  • PLAYER TO WATCH
  • Colorado freshman running back Rodney Stewart . He ran for 166 yards in the Buffaloes' victory last week over West Virginia. Stewart is only 5 feet 6 and 175 pounds, but he has 4.35 speed in the 40. Stewart will have a challenge Saturday afternoon in Jacksonville, Fla., against Florida State - which is fourth nationally in rushing defense. The Seminoles are giving up just 48.3 yards per game.

  • WHO'S HOT
  • Missouri senior quarterback Chase Daniel was 36-of-43 for a career-high 439 yards and had a Big 12-record 20 consecutive completions in a 42-21 victory over Buffalo. His 83.7-percent completion rate was the highest in school history. Texas quarterback Colt McCoy completed 13 of his first 14 passes and finished 19-of-23 for 329 yards and four touchdowns in a rout of Rice, becoming the school's career leader in TD passes with 62. McCoy passed Texas running backs coach Major Applewhite, who had 60 from 1998-2001. Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing threw for 356 yards and two TDs and rushed for another score to become KU's career leader in total touchdowns (53) in a victory against Sam Houston State. Texas Tech running back Shannon Woods, who spent much of last year in coach Mike Leach's doghouse, ran for 108 yards and had 53 yards receiving as the Red Raiders mashed Massachusetts 56-14.

  • WHO'S NOT
  • Texas A&M is ranked 102nd in rushing offense, 105th in rushing defense and is giving up an average of 3.33 sacks per game (115th nationally). The Aggies have dropped their first two home games for the first time since 1967. A&M's defense gave up six plays of at least 20 yards in the first half Saturday as Miami raced to a 24-10 lead on the way to a 41-23 victory in College Station. Kansas continues to struggle to run the ball. The Jayhawks averaged just 3.4 yards per carry (48 carries for 161 yards) against Sam Houston State and failed to pick up an inch on fourth down in the second quarter. Oklahoma is averaging just 6.0 yards per punt return, which is 91st nationally. Colorado went from 11th in rushing defense to 71st (143 ypg) after allowing West Virginia to run for 311 yards in the Buffaloes' 17-14 overtime victory. Iowa State converted just 2-of-14 third downs in a 34-31 overtime loss at UNLV. Kansas State gave up 303 rushing yards in a 38-29 loss at Louisville; the Cardinals managed just 53 rushing yards in a 27-2 loss to Kentucky.

  • WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
  • "What do you think? Of course we will." Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops when asked if he'll remind his team about a 17-10 home loss to TCU in 2005 with the Horned Frogs coming to Norman on Saturday.

    "We've lost four tight ends and that's a pretty big hit, but it's not an excuse. We've got to find somebody and go forward with it." Texas coach Mack Brown after learning that starting tight end Blaine Irby suffered a season-ending knee injury against Rice. (Texas lost Jermichael Finley early to the NFL, backup Josh Marshall to a shoulder injury and redshirt freshman Ian Harris to a preseason injury. Harris returned to practice Tuesday.)

    "The guys they've had playing are very good, so I think that will give them an emotional boost and a little bit of a chemistry that way, to get some of the guys back in the fold." Colorado coach Dan Hawkins on Florida State getting nearly a dozen players back from suspension connected to a cheating scandal.

    "The doghouse pretty well ended when we started spring and he competed hard. He always has had the ability to be really polished. When he's on his 'A'-game, he blocks as good as anybody in the league. When he's doing all the little things right, he's pretty good." Texas Tech coach Mike Leach on running back Shannon Woods, whom Leach benched the final four games of last season and sent home from the Gator Bowl for disciplinary reasons.

  • ETC.
  • Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp was considered for the Arkansas coaching job by Razorbacks athletic director Jeff Long before Long settled on Bobby Petrino. Petrino will be calling the offensive plays Saturday against Muschamp's Texas defense. Another great matchup this weekend will be Oklahoma State's No. 2-ranked offense (334.3 ypg), led by Big 12 rushing leader Kendall Hunter (149.7 ypg), against Troy, which is 11th in total defense (237.7 ypg). Troy beat Oklahoma State by 18 last season. Josh Freeman's 22 completions at Louisville set the Kansas State record for career completions with 512 in his two-plus seasons. Lynn Dickey had the previous mark of 501 (1968-70). Missouri's defense held Buffalo to 49 rushing yards, well below its average of 163 coming into the game. Iowa State has forced 13 turnovers through four games, which is third nationally and just five shy of its 2007 total. Colorado is 3-0 for the first time since 2004 and for just the second time since a 5-0 start in 1998. Texas A&M QB Jerrod Johnson's 275 yards on 19-of-32 passing against Miami were a school record for a quarterback in his first start. Johnson also became just the fourth quarterback at A&M to throw three TD passes in consecutive games. Texas wide receiver Jordan Shipley, who missed his first two seasons because of knee injuries, had five catches for 155 yards and two touchdowns against Rice. Missouri sophomore WR Jeremy Maclin had a career-high 14 catches for 168 yards in a victory over Buffalo.

    MORE PREVIEWS: ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC

    Chip Brown is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at cbrown@rivals.com.



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