Archive for the ‘Preview’ Category

CFN 2009 Nebraska Preview

July 22, 2009

College Football News has released their 2009 Nebraska preview. To read the preview, click here.

Some interesting observations made by author Pete Fiutak:

  • “Best Offensive Player: Junior TE Mike McNeill
  • “Key Player to a successful season: Junior WR Niles Paul”
  • “Key Game: Nov. 14 @ Kansas”
  • “The season will be a success if…..the Huskers win the North.”
  • “…with the great defense, decent promise on offense, and one of the nation’s best kickers in Alex Henery, there’s no reason this can’t be the year Nebraska gets back to the Big 12 title game and is more than just a speed bump against the South champion.”

Also interesting were some of Nebraska’s 2008 ‘Fun Stats:’

  • – Fourth quarter scoring: Nebraska 155 – Opponents 52
  • – Fumbles over the last two years: Nebraska 40 (lost 28) – Opponents 32 (lost 8)
  • – Time of possession: Nebraska 34:01 – Opponents 25:59
  • – Penalties: Nebraska 94 for 800 yards – Opponents 64 for 477 yards

Two things here. No doubt turnovers and penalties were our Achilles heel. As the great Phil Steele always proclaims, look for teams with most turnovers one year to have the biggest turnaround in record the following year. Well, with two consecutive years of turnover happy football and a new quarterback this year, it should be interesting to see how that unfolds. And surely, there is no way Pelini’s 2009 team can commit almost 62 penalty yards/game while their opponent only commits 36 penalty yards/game. Can they?

Fix those two things and this season will be a success – as Pete says.

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Wake Forest Preview

September 7, 2007

Ed. Note – Nothing like waiting until the last minute. One thing that will suffer this year, due to increased schedule demands will be my opponent previews. Hopefully they will still be of interest.

Head Coach: Jim Grobe 7th Season at Wake Forest. Career record 37-35

Last Season: The Demon Deacons shocked the world on their way to an ACC Championship and a 10-3 record.

This Season: The Deacons returned 14 starters when the season began, but injuries have already begun to cause problems. As with Nevada, conventional wisdom sees Wake headed back to pre-2006 levels. But how far will they fall? According to SMQ, most of the way down:

Wake Forest is not a good team. In fact, it wasn’t a good team when it won the ACC last year. It was an exceedingly mediocre team with an outstanding kicker and an unsustainable barrage of fortune at its back. On an every-down basis, Wake was what it’s always been – slightly below average – evidenced in it being outgained overall in league games despite a 7-2 record. The conference should be tougher this year, but even if it’s the same parity-driven parade of underthrown curl routes, the Deacons are a middling bowl team at best and a lamentable bottom-dweller at worst. They’ll be doing just fine to finish 7-5.

On Offense:

Like many teams today the Deacons run college football’s newest equalizer – the spread offense. Wake will attempt to combine misdirection and superior execution to overcome talent deficiencies on Saturday. When execution meets the aligning planets a spread attack can cut down even the grandest gridiron Goliaths (See Emo Week at Michigan). Even at it’s peak Wake’s offensive attack is far more plodding than prolific producing just 21.6 points a year ago. In terms of offensive efficiency the Deacons were entirely average ranking 59th nationally in the Scoreability Index . That sandwiched the efficiency of the Wake attack between the offenses of Air Force and Northern Illinois. Wake Forest scored one touchdown for every 85 yards of offense they generated. For comparison, Nebraska scored one touchdown for every 81 yards of offense the Huskers generated a year ago, which ranked 42nd nationally.

Quarterback: Wake will likely be without starting quarterback Riley Skinner who suffered a separated shoulder against BC. That means sophomore Brett Hodges gets the start on Saturday. Hodges is much quicker than Skinner but is similar in terms of efficiency, moving the chains and taking what a defense gives him. He also appears to be an upgrade over Skinner in arm strength. Against Boston College, Hodges completed 17/23 passes for 130 yards and a TD. He also threw one INT. His passing efficiency rating is currently at 127.0 which ranks 58th nationally, one spot ahead of Sam Keller. Keep an eye on third down, as the Wake QBs struggled in week one completing just 50% of their passes. That’s a huge dropoff from first down where their QBs completed an astounding 91% of their passes.

Running Back:I would be completely justified in leaving this position out of the analysis as Wake’s running game was simply non-existent in week one. The Deacons managed just 2 yards rushing on 24 attempts against BC. That’s not going to get it done, even in the ACC. The running game was counting on 230-pound sophomore Kevin Harris. Harris is big and strong and supposedly possesses 4.5 speed to boot. Unfortunately that combination of speed and power is useless when your 4 carries are cut short in the backfield or spent running up the backs of your lineman as Harris’ were in week one. Micah Andrews is also back from a knee injury a year ago and got seven carries for 7 yards against the Eagles. He’s got talent, however, as evidenced by a 254-yard effort against Vandy in 2005.

Wide Receiver: The Wake receiving corps has benefited from the move of last year’s leading rusher Kenneth Moore to his more natural WR position. He lit up BC for 15 catches, 126 yards and a TD. Moore has the kind of size and strength that has been known to give the Huskers fits. Murillo and Grixby will need to play strong near the line of scrimmage to keep him in check. Kevin Marion and Chip Brinkman have names that belong at a fraternity party, but are actually two more capable receivers for Wake. Marion has game-breaking speed and made a name for himself a year ago on special teams. Brinkman has decent athleticism, but is a bit untested catching just one ball a year ago. Senior tight end John Tereshinski is also dangerous both as a blocker and a target over the middle. He had 6 catches for 75 yards in week one.

Offensive Line:The offensive line returns everyone from a year ago except All-Everything tackle Steve Vallos. That makes the rushing performance even less impressive. The tackles are Jeff Griffin and Louis Frazier. Griffin is only a sophomore, but looks like’s Wake next OL star. Frazier was great as a runblocker last season, but struggles against strong pass rushers. The guards are Chris DeGeare and Matthew Brim. Brim is the only new starter, but was slotted to start a year ago before breaking a bone in his hand. DeGeare is ginormous at 360+ pounds. The one lineman for Wake who is expected to garner post-season accolades is center Steve Justice. I’m excited to see him match up with Suh on Saturday.

On Defense:

Despite the loss of Jon Abbate many thought this year’s defense had a chance to be even better than the 2006 version. Last year Wake’s D was the model of efficiency as measured by the Bendability Index. The Deacons finished #3 nationally in the Bendabililty Index as opponents needed to generate an average of 126 yards to score the equivalent of one TD a year ago. In comparison, the Blackshirts were less efficient forcing opponents to march 109 yards to score the equivalent of a single TD last season. Overall, Wake’s defense is speedy in the secondary, but will need to step up against the run and generate a pass rush to be successful on Saturday.

Defensive Line: The defensive line seems to have the talent to be active and get into a team’s backfield. How they’ll stack up against Nebraska’s bigger offensive line remains to be seen. One player to keep an eye on is NT Boo Robinson. Robinson is a 6-2, 326-pound sophomore who can clog up a running game if left unaccounted for. The other DT is the undersized John Russell who goes just 6-3 and 250 pounds. He has a good motor, however, and won’t be easily pushed around. The defensive ends are Jeremy Thompson and Anthony Davis. Thompson looks to be growing into his potential and had 2 sacks against BC. Davis is tall and rangy, but has yet to be a factor in Wake’s pass rush.

Linebackers:You don’t replace a Jon Abbate without experiencing a dropoff. The Deacons are currently starting a trio of sophomores in Aaron Curry, Stanley Arnoux, and Eric Berry. Berry is a DT playing LB and goes 6-1, 288-pounds. I have no idea what that’s about. Curry is big, fast and experienced and could push for all-conference honors with a strong season. He currently leads the team in tackles with 11. Arnoux has a nose for the ball and a knack for being in the right place at the right time.

Secondary:Alphonso Smith appears to be ready this season to be the star of the secondary. He has great cover skills and will bait Keller into forcing throws if he’s not careful. Smith returned an INT 21 yards for a TD against BC. The other CB is another sophomore Kerry Major. Major isn’t the strongest CB Nebraska will face, but is a steady contributor for Wake. The safeties are Chip Vaughn and Aaron Mason. Vaughn is big and fast and should become a playmaker in the future. He returned a fumble 38 yards for a score last week. Mason looks like a CB but has the skills to be a decent safety.

Random Notes

Wake Forest and Important Stats (2007):

Scoring Defense: 96th – 38 ppg
Third Down Efficiency: 79th – 31.6%
Total Offense: 67th – 368 yds/game
Scoring Offense: 49th – 28 ppg.
Pass Efficiency Defense: 97th – 151.45
Rush Defense: 28th – 54 yds/game
Total Defense: 95th – 462 yds/game
Yds./Pass Attempt: 69th – 6.1 yds/Att.
Passing Efficiency: 58th – 123.91
Third Down Efficiency Defense: 83rd – 42.9%

Six Degrees of Beano Cook: Wake Forest beat Florida State. Florida State beat UCLA. UCLA beat USC. USC beat Nebraska.

Nevada Preview: The Cliff’s Notes Version

August 31, 2007

Ed. Note – Nothing like waiting until the last minute. One thing that will suffer this year, due to increased schedule demands will be my opponent previews. Hopefully they will still be of interest.

Head Coach: Chris Ault in his 23rd year (non-consecutively) with the Wolfpack. Division IA career record 47-25.

Last Season: The Wolfpack finished 8-5 including a strong showing in the MPC Computers Bowl falling to Miami (FL) 21-20.

This Season: Most expect Nevada’s fortunes to return to more average levels. They return just 12 starters (5 offense and 7 defense) from last year’s squad. The 2006 team also benefitted from a +12 turnover margin which is unlikely to be repeated. In addition, the Wolfpack must replace 2nd Team All-WAC QB Jeff Rowe who threw for 2,925 yards a year ago.

On Offense:

Nevada runs the “Pistol Offense”.

What it is – a hybrid of the shotgun where the quarterback lines up a few steps behind the center. It allows for two-back and single-back sets, typically with four receivers.

What it isn’t – A Mike Leach-ian or run-n-shoot high octane offensive attack.

The Wolfpack offense is a patient, deliberate, efficient, run-based attack. The pistol offense allows for a north/south running game, while also giving the passing game the advantages of the shotgun. We can expect Nevada to run the ball up the middle, but attempt to keep the Blackshirts honest with a fair number of bootlegs and play-action passes. A prototypical Wolfpack drive will include a balanced mix of running and passing plays that burn time and keep the defense guessing. Sound familiar?

Just how efficient was Nevada’s pistol offense in 2006? The Wolfpack finished 10th nationally in the Scoreability Index . In other words, they scored one touchdown for every 71 yards of offense they generated. For comparison, Nebraska scored one touchdown for every 81 yards of offense the Huskers generated a year ago.

Quarterback: Nick Graziano will look to replace Jeff Rowe. Graziano is just a sophomore, but came to Nevada has a highly thought of recruit. Graziano should show off his tremendous arm, and decent mobility. He figures to have a ton of upside in Nevada’s offense. While he has the ability to make all of the throws the offense requires, there is some worry he may rely on his arm too much and could force throws that aren’t really there.

Running Back: Gone is Robert Hubbard who rushed for over 1,000 yards last season. In his place expect to see Luke Lippincott or Brandon Fragger. During one stretch a year ago, Lippencott (6-2, 215) rushed for 359 yards and seven touchdowns, leading the Pack to three straight wins by a combined score of 135-28. He’s a power back, but does have some speed in the open field. Fragger looks like the team’s future star. He’s a sophomore with a good burst through the line. He finished 2006 with 270 yards and three TDs.

Wide Receiver: Three names to watch at the WR position are Marko Mitchell, Mike McCoy and Arthur King. Mitchell is 6-4, 195 pounds, and has good speed for his size. His best attribute is his hands and he catches everything that’s close to him. He was second on the team with 39 catches for 493 yards and four TDs last year. McCoy is listed as a backup but is the team’s big-play target. He averaged 15 yards per catch and scored nine touchdowns on just 23 receptions. King has decent size and speed and should benefit from last season’s experience.

Offensive Line: The line could be the Wolfpack’s Achilles Heel this week. They will be without starting center and Rimington Trophy candidate Dominic Green who broke a bone in his foot. His backup then went all Latrell Spreewell getting into an altercation with a coach. That means Josh Catapano will have the unenviable task of matching up with Ndamukong Suh. You’ll also want to watch Catapano as he’ll be counted on to make 60+ snaps from the shotgun formation. The Wolfpack have two returning starters up front in senior Charles Manu (6-3, 300) and junior Greg Hall (6-3, 290).

On Defense:

Nevada has some new defensive coaches, but will retain its 3-4 defensive alignment. A year ago the Wolfpack defensive forced an incredible 37 turnovers. That helped the team field the 22nd most efficient defense in country as measured by the Bendability Index. Opponents needed to generate an average of 102 yards to score the equivalent of one TD on the Wolfpack a year ago. In comparison, the Blackshirts forced opponents to march 109 yards to score the equivalent of a single TD last season.

Defensive Line: The starters up front are expected to be Mundrae Clifton, Matt Hines and Erics Clark. The 285-pound Hines is the best of the front three with terrific moves and the potential to grow into a star interior pass rusher. The 6-6, 270-pound Clark was expected to be a good pass rusher as last year went on, but it didn’t happen with just 2.5 sacks and 19 tackles. Even so, he’s a good lineman with the big body needed to stop things up. Clifton is big, strong, and quick and seems to have all of the measurables. The coaching staff is now just waiting for his talent to show up in games.

Linebackers: The linebackers are expected to be the strength of the Wolfpack defense. Unfortunately, the will not be at full strength against the Huskers. Ezra Butler, considered the star of the defense, has been suspended for Saturday’s game in Lincoln by Nevada coach Chris Ault for a violation of team policy. Butler was an All-WAC selection and Butkus Award candidate who recorded 17.5 of his 71 tackles behind the line of scrimmage last season. In his absence, Jeremy Engstrom (6-1, 247) and junior Joshua Mauga (6-2, 245) seasoned will be looking to step up in Butler’s absence.

Secondary: Heading into the season, the weak link on the Wolfpack defense is at cornerback. De’Angelo Wilson was kicked off the team, leaving a hole at corner. Senior Devon Walker was getting prepared to go into the season as a number two, but now finds himself a starter after making 18 tackles and breaking up two passes in 2006. On the other side will be junior Paul Pratt. Pratt was beat deep several times a year ago, but was still coming off a serious knee injury. If his speed fully returns, he is probably their best cover man. Sophomore Jonathan Amaya returns at free safety after being one last season’s surprises. The former walk-on made 42 tackles and also recorded an interception. Uche Anyanwu is being counted on at strong safety. He’s huge at 6-4, 220 pounds, but inexperienced. Nebraska fans should expect a big play or two against the Wolfpack secondary.

Random Notes

Nevada and Important Stats (2006):

Scoring Defense: 32nd – 19.2 ppg
Third Down Efficiency: 28th – 42.7%
Total Offense: 46th – 357.54 yds/game
Scoring Offense: 20th – 30.08 ppg.
Pass Efficiency Defense: 47th – 121.29
Rush Defense: 52nd – 128.5 yds/game
Total Defense: 48th – 325.46 yds/game
Yds./Pass Attempt: 57th – 7.12 yds/Att.
Passing Efficiency: 36th – 138.21
Third Down Efficiency Defense: 43rd – 35.7%

Six Degrees of Beano Cook: Nevada beat Colorado State. Colorado State beat Colorado. Colorado beat Texas Tech. Texas Tech beat Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State beat Nebraska.

Auburn Preview

December 26, 2006


Location: Auburn, AL
Enrollment: 23,000
Conference: SEC
Stadium: Jordan-Hare Stadium (Capacity: 87,451)
First Year of Football: 1891
All Time Record: 648-379-47 (.625)

Head Coach: Tommy Tuberville
6th year as head coach at Auburn: Career record at Auburn 51-24
.

Team Overview

Last Season: Despite losing Jason Campbell, Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown, the Tigers barely missed a beat in 2005. They finished 9-3 in 2005 after losing in the Capital One Bowl 24-10 to Wisconsin.

This Season: Auburn comes into the Cotton Bowl with a 10-2 record. The Tigers started the season 5-0 before losing at home to Arkansas 27-10. Auburn then reeled off 4 more wins, including a 27-17 victory over Florida. The Tigers finished the season with another home loss to Georgia and a win over archrival Alabama.

On Offense: Although it is not the most productive unit in the country, Auburn’s offense is one of the most balanced attacks. The Tigers rank 68th in the nation in total offense while producing 155 yards rushing/game and 178 yards passing/game. Auburn’s quarterback is the left-handed Brandon Cox. Cox has completed 153/250 of his passes for 2087 yards 13 TDs and 9 INTs. Cox is capable of being extremely accurate when given time, but often breaks down under pressure. He has also been forced to battle through nagging injuries, but should be healthy for the bowl game. Despite his own injury issues, the Tigers’ rushing attack is led by senior Kenny Irons. Irons is not the most physical runner, but is also difficult to bring down one-on-one. He excels in the open field and makes the most of running lanes. Irons has rushed for 861 yards and 4 TDs in 2006. Irons’ backup during the season has been sophomore Brad Lester who has produced 523 yards and 9 TDs. Lester will not be available for the Cotton Bowl, however, after being suspended for a violation of team rules. In Lester’s place expect to see true freshman Ben Tate. Tate who is Maryland’s all-time prep leader in rushing, has 369 yards rushing this year and averages a robust 7.4 yards/carry.

Auburn’s receiving corps entered the season as a talented, but inexperienced group. The Tiger receivers are deep as a unit and also possess a great deal of speed. The Tiger’s leading receiver is senior Courtney Taylor. Taylor is a big, strong receiver who is difficult to bring down in the open field. He has 48 catches for 634 yards and 2 TDs on the year. Behind Taylor is the athletic Rodgeriqus Smith. Smith has caught 26 balls for 452 yards and 4 TDs. Two other targets to look for are Prechae Rodriguez and TE Gabe McKenzie. Rodriguez is 6-4 with great deep speed and should develop into a consistent deep threat for Auburn. Tight end Tommy Trott is also a capable receiver who has 10 catches and 2 TDs in 2006. In addition, senior TE Cole Bennett may return from a broken ankle, which forced him to miss most of the season.

The Auburn offensive line came into 2006 with the need to develop depth behind a fairly solid starting unit. The Tigers’ biggest man up front is 6-8, 320 pound LT King Dunlap. Dunlap was known as a talented run blocker, who is continuing to improve at pass protection. The RT is senior Jonathan Palmer. Palmer is the most experienced member of the Tiger O-line. The guards are Tim Duckworth and Ben Grubbs. Grubbs is a good athlete and a dominating run blocker, while Duckworth is an all-conference performer. The center spot is manned by Joe Cope, a former walk-on who more than holds his own in the middle.

On Defense: The Tigers rank seventh in the nation in scoring defense (13.9 points) and 25th in total defense (297.5 yards). For the past few years they have relied upon the play of a group of undersized, but quick linebackers and 2006 has been no different. Auburn’s best defensive player is SLB Will Herring. Herring moved from FS to LB this season to take advantage of his speed and experience. Herring leads the team with 65 tackles, and is second on the Tigers with 7.5 TFL. Karibi Dede fills the MLB spot for Auburn. He is smallish at 6-0, 216, but is generally able to hold his own against the run. He has 56 tackles and 1 sack on the year. The WLB spot is held down by sophomore Merrill Johnson. He is another LB known for his speed and has shown an ability to get in the backfield. Johnson has 32 tackles and 3 QBH in 2006.


Headed into the season, Auburn thought it might have the SEC’s best secondary. David Irons and Jonathan Wilhite, who are among the best hitting DBs in the country, man the CB spots. Irons, who is the brother of RB Kenny Irons, has 45 tackles, 2 INT and 6 PBU on the year. Wilhite is steady, but has been known to take his share of risks. He has 24 tackles and 1 forced fumble this season. The safeties are Eric Brock and Aairon Savage. Savage has the size and speed of a corner, but is third on the team in tackles with 48 and also has 1 INT on the year. Brock is the team’s biggest DB at 6-1 213 pounds. He is tied for the team lead in INTs with two.

The Auburn front four is young and starts just one senior across the line. They are led by junior DE Quintin Groves. Groves finally became more consistent this season at getting into the backfield. He leads the team with 12 TFL and 9.5 sacks. The other DE spot is filled by senior Marquies Gunn. Gunn is physical and quick and has 7 TFL and 3 sacks. The DTs are Josh Thompson and Sen’Derrick Marks. Thompson the NG, is extremely powerful. He has 3.5 TFL, 1 sack and 2 QB hurries. Marks a RFr, is still raw, but has 8.5 TFL and 3.5 QBH.

Special Teams: The Tigers have one of the country’s best kicker and punter combinations. The kicker is Jon Vaughn who rebounded from a poor 2005 season to hit 19/23 FG attempts. Kody Bliss is the punter and averages 46.1 yards/punt, including placing 12 attempts inside the 20 yard line. In the return game, Tristian Davis is a dangerous kickoff returner who averages 26.4 yards/return.

Random Notes

Series History: This marks the fourth meeting between the two teams. Nebraska leads the all-time series 3-0.

I Can’t Believe I Looked It Up Either: Auburn is 5-5 all-time against teams from the Big 12. The Tigers record is 1-3 versus Big 12 teams in bowl games. Their lone win was a 24-3 Gator Bowl victory over Colorado in 1972.

I Can’t Believe I Looked It Up Either – Part II: Auburn’s first bowl game was the 1937 Bacardi Bowl, in which they tied Villanova 7-7. The Bacardi Bowl was played six times in Havana, Cuba. The 1937 game was the only one pitting two American CFB teams against one another. The previous games matched an American team with a team from Cuba. The Cuban teams went 1-4 against US college teams.

Six Degrees of Beano Cook: Beano is feeling optimistic. Nebraska beat Missouri. Missouri beat Ole Miss. Ole Miss beat Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt beat Georgia. Georgia…beat Auburn.

War Eagle? Go Tigers?

December 5, 2006


I promise I will have a lot more upcoming on Auburn as the Cotton Bowl approaches. However, I first thought it important, to better understand their mascot. You see, Auburn seemingly has two mascots. I found this to be extremely confusing at age 4 when the Tigers/War Eagles last visited Lincoln and I find it just as confusing now. Apparently I am not alone. The university devotes an entire page to the clarification of this issue.

So Auburn’s nickname is the TIGERS, while Auburn’s battle cry is “WAR EAGLE!” It is all so clear now.

As usual, M Zone jumped on this almost a year ago and had all sorts of fun creating the school’s new hybrid mascot – the Auburn War Tig…eag…er!

Nicely done.

Big XII Championship Game – Oklahoma Preview

November 27, 2006


Enrollment: 30,447
Conference: Big 12
Stadium: Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium(Capacity: 82,112)
First Year of Football: 1895
All Time Record: 767-291-53 (.713)

Head Coach: Bob Stoops
8th year as head coach at Oklahoma: Career record at Oklahoma: 75-16 (.824)

Team Overview

Last Season: A year ago the Sooners finished 8-4 including a 17-14 Holiday Bowl victory over Oregon.

This Season: The OU season began with the loss of starting quarterback Rhett Bomar due to NCAA violations. A controversial loss to Oregon followed in September and Texas also slipped by the Sooners in the Red River Rivalry game. OU’s bad luck continued a week later when their Heisman candidate running back Adrian Peterson broke his collarbone against Iowa State. Despite these struggles, Oklahoma won the Big 12 South and comes into the conference championship game with a 10-2 record.

On Offense: The Oklahoma offense is currently ranked 39th nationally in total offense and averages 370.67 yards per game. After Bomar was booted off the team Paul Thompson moved from WR back to quarterback. Since making the switch Thompson has been critical to the Sooners’ success and his statistics are actually better than Bomar’s 2005 numbers. Thompson has completed 61.5% of his passes for 2169 yards and 18 TDs with 7 INTs. While he is not the most polished QB, he has more than enough athleticism to get by.

A major factor in the game, could be the health of Adrian Peterson. It appears he may be cleared for the game, which would certainly provide a spark to the Sooner “O”. In Peterson’s absence, however, the OU running attack hasn’t skipped a beat. The Sooners are currently ranked #14 nationally in rushing offense, while producing 188.7 yards/game. Allen Patrick has picked up the slack and has rushed for 687 yards and 3 TDs on the year. While Patrick lacks the size and power of Peterson, he is extremely quick and bursts through gaps like no other back the Huskers have seen this season. Behind Patrick, Chris Brown has also been getting his share of carries. At the very least NU fans should fear this back based on his name alone (think CU 2001). Brown averages 5.4 yards/carry and has 5 TDs on the year.

The Sooners’ top receiving threat is 6-4 Malcolm Kelly, who will again cause matchup problems for the Huskers. Kelly is only a sophomore, but has become the team’s go-to target on short, mid-range and deep patterns. He has 52 receptions for 851 yards and 8 TDs. Juaquin Iglesias, another sophomore is another of Thompson’s favorite targets. Iglesias has plenty of speed and has produced 368 yards and 2 TDs on 33 receptions. The Sooner tight end is Husker legacy Joe Jon Finley (Clint’s brother). Finley is improving as a blocker, but has become an athletic receiver in the middle of the field. He has 19 catches for 241 yards and 3 TDs.

The Sooner offensive line is extremely young, and lacking in star power. However, there is still a lot of talent up front for OU. The steadiest performer on the O-line is probably LT Chris Messner. Messner a 6-6, 280-pound senior played RT a year ago, but has done an commendable job protecting Thompson’s blindside. The other tackle spot is manned by true freshman Trent Williams. Williams, who goes 6-5, 320-pounds is a future star, who has looked especially good in the Sooner running game. The center is sophomore Jon Cooper. Cooper has good strength and has been very consistent since returning from last season’s broken ankle. The OU guards are George “Duke” Robinson and Brandon Walker. “Duke” ballooned up to 360 pounds a year ago, but has since slimmed down to svelte and mobile 330. Walker was a highly coveted JUCO transfer who looks capable of also playing tackle.

On Defense: The Sooners continue to rely on a stingy defense. The unit currently ranks 14th nationally in total defense and 18th in scoring defense. The strength of the OU defense may be its linebackers. The linebacking corp is led by Rufus Alexander who is one of the top defenders in the country. Alexander relies on great instincts and excellent speed to create problems for opposing teams. He currently leads the Sooners with 95 tackles. The MLB is senior Zach Latimer. Latimer is great against the run and is tied for the team lead in tackle for losses with 10. The strong side LB is Curtis Lofton. Lofton has the size to play in the middle, but also the speed to range from sideline to sideline.

The Sooners’ front four is also solid. DE Larry Birdine has returned from a torn bicep and continues to find ways to pressure opposing QBs. He is fifth on the team in tackles and second on the team in sacks with 2. Senior Calvin Thibodeaux mans the other DE spot. Thibodeaux doesn’t have the best speed or the greatest technique, but he is still tough keep out of the backfield. Steven Coleman and Cory Bennett are the DTs. Coleman is the biggest tackle on the roster and excels against the run. Bennett is somewhat undersized at 275-pounds, but looks capable of becoming one of the conference’s best interior pass rushers.

The Oklahoma secondary is packed with underclassmen. The emerging star is SS Reggie Smith. Smith is extremely versatile and can play CB as well as both safety spots. He was a recruiting near miss for the Husker coaching staff and his athleticism will be on display in all aspects of the game on Saturday. Sophomore Darien Williams starts at FS. Williams is a solid tackler and is currently third on the team with 52 stops. The CB spots are filled by Marcus Walker and Lendy Holmes. Walker has legitimate 4.4 speed and is the closest thing to a lock down corner the Sooners have. Holmes is another sophomore who continues to improve in coverage. The Sooner nickelback is Nic Harris. Harris looks like a future star and leads the team with 3 interceptions in 2006.

Special Teams: Garrett Hartley handles the kicking duties. Hartley has had an incredible year and has hit 17/18 FGA. Although known for his strong leg, his one miss came from 40-plus yards. The Sooner punter is Michael Cohen who averages just over 42 yards/punt. Reggie Smith is a dangerous return man who handles both punts and kickoffs. Smith is joined on kickoff returns by Juaquin Iglesias who averages just under 30 yards/return with one kick returned for a TD on the year.

Random Notes

Series History: This marks the 83rd meeting between the two schools. Nebraska trails in the all-time series 37-42-3.

I Can’t Believe I Looked It Up Either: The Big XII Championship Game will be televised by ABC at 7:00 p.m. (CST). Nebraska’s all-time record on television is 164-76-1 (.680). Oklahoma’s all-time record in televised games is 159-83-5 (.644).

He Also Paints the Endzones: In addition to starting in the secondary, returning punts and kickoffs and taking the occasional snap at wide receiver, Reggie Smith also keeps a video journal for Sooner fans.

Six Degrees of Beano Cook: Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State beat…Nebraska.

Colorado Preview

November 22, 2006

Enrollment: 30,000
Conference: Big 12
Stadium: Folsom Field (Capacity: 53,750)
First Year of Football: 1894
All Time Record: 644-396-36 (.615)

Head Coach: Dan Hawkins
1st year as head coach at Colorado
Career record at Colorado: 2-9

Team Overview

Last Season: A year ago the Buffaloes started 6-2 before a late season collapse led to four straight losses. With a 6-6 record, and endless PR nightmares, head coach Gary Barnett was scapegoated out of Boulder in the off-season.

This Season: The Dan Hawkins era began with a shocking loss to Div. IAA Montana State. This was followed up with five straight losses before the Buffs got of the snide with an unexpected win over Texas Tech. After a second victory over Iowa State, CU enters the game with a 2-9 record.

On Offense: Colorado currently averages 290.91 yards/game, which ranks the Buffs 102nd in total offense. They are also 117th in passing offense, and 27th in rushing offense. The Colorado offense is keyed by quarterback Bernard Jackson. Jackson is a talented runner, but is limited in the passing game. As a result, the Buffaloes have attempted to structure the offense around his athleticism. On the year Jackson is 97/196 with 1167 passing yards and 6 TDs. He has also rushed for 661 yards and 7 touchdowns.

At running back, CU is led by junior Hugh Charles. The 5-8, Charles is extremely explosive and has rushed for 718 yards and 1 TD on the year. Charles’ backup is Mel Holliday, who has ties with Nebraska. Holliday is a more physical back, who has produced 445 yards rushing and 1 touchdown this season.

The Colorado receivers are fairly experienced and Jackson has a done a nice job of spreading the ball around the group. The leading receiver is tight end Riar Geer, who is trying his best to replace NFLer Joel Klopfenstein. Geer has 23 receptions for 247 yards and 2 TDs on the year. The Buffs’ top wideout is former JUCO transfer Alvin Barnett, who has nice hands and good concentration. Other key WRs are junior Dusty Sprague (11 receptions, 179 yards), and sophomore Patrick Williams (17 receptions, 229 yards, 1 TD).

After an extremely disappointing 2005 campaign, the CU offensive line continues to improve. The Buffaloes were counting on center Mark Fenton to anchor the line. Unfortunately, Fenton who might be the best center in the league when healthy, missed six games with a fractured fibia. Fenton returned against Iowa State and split snaps with senior Bryce MacMartin. The CU tackles are juniors Edwin Harrison and Tyler Polumbus. Harrison looks to have all the tools to be a great LT. He weighs in at 6-4, 300-pounds, and is a steady pass blocker. Polumbus has also been solid in pass protection and has taken more snaps than any other Buffalo lineman in 2006. The guards are Brian Daniels and Daniel Sanders. Daniels has a been a consistent performer over the last three years and probably demonstrates the best technique of anyone along the O-line. Sanders is just a sophomore, but already has the size and strength to be a force in the running game.

On Defense: The Colorado defense currently ranks 60th in total defense (329.3 ypg.) and 49th in scoring defense (20.9 ppg). The strength of the Buff defense is its linebackers, where they are led by the duo of Jordon Dizon and Thaddaeous Washington. Dizon, a junior, can cover a lot of ground and is having a monster year. He leads the team with 118 tackles, and also has 4 sacks, 1 forced fumble and 2 fumble recoveries. Washington is a strong 240-pound, MLB who can also make plays all over the field. He is second on the team in tackles with 96. Joining Dizon at OLB is sophomore Brad Jones. Jones is rangy at 6-4, 220-pounds and continues to improve against the run.

The leader of the CU defensive front four is DE Abraham Wright. Wright has become a destructive force for the Buffs and leads the team with 11.5 sacks and 16 quarterback pressures. The other DE is senior Walter Boye-Doe. Boye-Doe moved over from LB a year ago, but has become a decent pass rusher. He has 2.5 sacks and 7 QB pressures in 2006. The defensive tackles are George Hypolite and Brandon Nicholas. Hypolite is an undersized sophomore who has shown the ability to get into the opponents backfield. He has 2.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss this year. Nicholas transferred from Notre Dame and is a strong 270-pounds. He needs to continue to improve against strong running teams.

The star of the Buffalo secondary is All-Big 12 candidate Terrence Wheatley at cornerback. Wheatley has 4.4 speed and tackles well in the open field. His strongest attribute, however, is his ability to cover one-on-one. He leads the Buffs with 5 interceptions in 2006. The other CB is senior Lorenzo Simms, who was named honorable mention All-Big 12 in 2004. The CU safeties are J.J. Billingsly and Ryan Walters. Billingsly the FS, is extremely quick and always seems to find the ball. He has one interception on the year. Walters is a big hitter who leads the secondary in tackles with 56. He also had a 95-yard fumble return for a TD against Kansas.

Special Teams: Colorado is led in scoring by all-world kicker Mason Crosby. Crosby is 19/27 on FGs on the year including 2/5 from beyond 50-yards. The Buff punter is Matt DiLallo who averages 43.6 yards/punt. DiLallo has also placed 13/42 punts inside the opponents 20-yard line. CU’s top kickoff returner is Stephone Robinson who averages 17.4 yards/return. Robinson also averages 5.1 yards per punt return on the year.

Random Notes

Series History: This marks the 65th meeting between these two schools. Nebraska leads the all-time series 45-17-2.

I Can’t Believe I Looked It Up Either: In an atrocious offensive display, the Buffaloes mustered just 113 yards of total offense and 5 first downs against Oklahoma.

I Can’t Believe I Looked It Up Either – Redux: Colorado scores a touchdown once every 38.9 snaps. Their opponents average a TD every 25 snaps.

Pretty Good Company: Through the end of the 2005 season, Dan Hawkins had compiled a 53-11 record with Boise State. Only Walter Camp, George Woodruff and Bob Pruett had more total wins in their first five years of head coaching.

Six Degrees of Beano Cook: Even at 2-9. Colorado beat Texas Tech. Texas Tech beat Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State beat…Nebraska.

Texas A&M Preview

November 7, 2006

Enrollment: 45,487
Conference: Big 12
Stadium: Kyle Field (Capacity: 82,600)
First Year of Football: 1894
All Time Record: 634-409-48 (.603)

Head Coach: Dennis Franchione
5th year as head coach at Texas A&M
Career record at Texas A&M: 24-21

Team Overview

Last Season: A year ago the Aggies finished a disappointing 5-6, but played archrival and national champion Texas as close as anyone outside of Ohio State or USC.

This Season: Fortunately for Coach Fran, the Aggies’ are having a solid season and come into the contest with a 8-2 record. Their two losses have been by a combined four points to Texas Tech and Oklahoma. Lost in the success is the ease of the A&M schedule. They began the season with non-conference tilts versus the Citadel, Louisiana-Lafayette, Army and Louisiana Tech. Outside of the game at Texas, the Aggie’s toughest conference games are at home and their road schedule is a joke as they face KU, Baylor and Oklahoma State away from College Station.

On Offense: Texas A&M is currently ranked 17th nationally in total offense (407.2 ypg) and 20th nationally in scoring offense (31.3 ppg). The offense is keyed by sophomore QB Stephen McGee. McGee has a live arm, as well as the ability to get up field with his legs when necessary. He has completed 62% of his passes for 1816 yards and 11 TDs in 2006. McGee has also rushed for 482 yards and 2 scores. Behind McGee, the Aggies have a talented running back tandem in Jorvorskie Lane and Michael Goodson. Lane is a behemoth weighing who weighs 275 pounds, but is surprisingly quick. He is having a monster year and is second in the country in scoring with 18 rushing TDs. Goodson is only a freshman, but has already shown why he was such a sought after recruit. Goodson has great speed and agility which he has used to amass 619 yards and 2 TDs on the season.

The A&M receiving corps is led by senior Chad Schroeder. Schroeder has returned from a broken leg suffered against Iowa State in 2005, to lead the Aggies with 34 catches for 509 yards and 3 TDs. The other major WR targets are Earvin Taylor and Kerry Franks. Taylor is also coming back from a broken leg, but is a physical specimen at 6-3, 244 pounds. Franks has the speed to be the Aggies homerun threat and has 8 catches for 219 yards on the season. Like Missouri, A&M also boasts a talented TE tandem in Martellus Bennett and Joey Thomas. Bennett a sophomore looks like a future star at 6-7, 248 pounds. He has 30 receptions on the year for 42 yards and 3 TDs. Thomas a junior, has 9 catches for 133 yards and 2 scores.

The Aggie offensive line should be given plenty of credit for opening up holes large enough for Jorvorskie Lane to squeeze his fat ass through. The line is led by junior Guard Kirk Elder. Elder has good athleticism for a lineman and continues to play at an all-conference level. The other Guard is senior Grant Dickey. Dickey is a former Alabama transfer who goes 6-5, 313-pounds. The Center position is manned by Cody Wallace who was an honorable mention All-Big 12 pick in 2005. The Aggie Tackles are Corey Clark and Travis Schneider. Clark has the ability to play both Guard and Tackle, but has settled into the strong tackle spot. Schneider is just a sophomore, but has a lot of potential and a 6-8, 295 pound frame.

On Defense: After finishing dead last nationally in passing defense, the Aggies brought in defensive coordinator Gary Darnell and switched to a 4-2-5 base defense in the offseason. The Aggies’ pass defense has improved and they currently rank 38th in this category (181.5 ypg), 51st in rushing defense (128.3 ypg) and 37th in scoring defense (18.7 ppg). A&M’s best defensive player is probably senior linebacker Justin Warren. The 4-2-5 alignment allows Warren plenty of space to roam and Warren’s attacking style fits this arrangement nicely. He currently leads the Aggies with 71 tackles on the year. The other linebacker is Misi Tupe. Tupe is third on the team in both tackles and tackles for loss.

Texas A&M relies on its huge defensive line to clog up the middle of the field. DE Chris Harrington has a developed into a major factor for the Aggies. He’s become much more consistent this season and leads the team with 10.5 TFL and 6.5 sacks. Lining up at the other DE spot is junior Jason Jack. The Aggie defensive tackles are Bryce Reed and Red Bryant. Bryant is 6-5, 330 pounds and might be one of the nation’s most unknown talents. He has been battling injury, but saw action last week versus OU. Reed’s play has been adequate, but he has had a quiet year thus far. If Bryant can’t go, look for Marquis Thornton in his spot.

The secondary took a lot of the blame for giving up 304.6 passing yards/game a year ago. This season the DBs’ talent has begun to show up as they are making plays and giving up fewer big third down completions. One of the players to keep an eye in the secondary is SS Melvin Bullitt. Bullitt is a big hitter who is second on the team in tackles with 59. The Aggie FS is sophomore Devin Gregg. Gregg is a heady player who leads the team with 2 interceptions in 2006. The cornerbacks are both sophomores who saw significant action a year ago. Danny Gorrer has great recovery speed but needs to get better at playing the ball in the air. On the other side Arkeith Brown is small, but athletic and is also a tremendous leaper. With their 4-2-5 alignment TAMU utilizes a WHIP. The WHIP is LB/DB blend who provides run support, blitzes from the corner, and provides pass coverage. Brock Newton currently mans the WHIP spot and is seventh on the team in tackles with 34.

Special Teams: The strong-legged Layne Neumann handles the field goal duties for the Aggies. He is 10/12 on the year with a season long of 39 yards. He missed his only attempt longer than 40 yards on the year. Chad Schroeder is the punt returner. He averages 7.9 yards per return with a season long of 30 yards. The kickoff returners are Kerry Franks and Pierre Brown who are both dangerous. Franks 31.4 averages yards/return, and has returned one 99 yards for a TD. Brown averages 24.8 yards/return and has a season long of 48 yards.

Random Notes

Series History: This marks the 12th meeting between these two schools. Nebraska leads the all-time series 9-2. Nebraska has outscored the Aggies 319-144 in the series.

I Can’t Believe I Looked It Up Either: TAMU defensive coordinator Gary Darnell held the same position at Kansas State from 1978-1982. Nebraska outscored the Wildcats during those years 215-52.

Tradition: The Aggies are known for a number of traditions that are among the best in college football. Everyone knows about the “12th Man,” but it is more than just a feel good story. Don’t believe me? Just ask this Army kickoff returner.

Six Degrees of Beano Cook: It was a costly loss for our victory chain. In 2006, Texas A&M beat Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State beat…Nebraska

Missouri Preview

October 30, 2006

Enrollment: 27,985
Conference: Big 12
Stadium: Faurot Field (Capacity: 68,349)
First Year of Football: 1890
All Time Record: 567-494-53 (.533)

Head Coach: Gary Pinkel
5th year as head coach at Missouri: Career record at Mizzou: 29-30

Team Overview

Last Season: A year ago Missouri finished 7-5 and ended the season with a 38-31 win over South Carolina in the Independence Bowl.

This Season: The Tigers returned 17 starters and had a lot of talent in place, meaning the temperature under Pinkel’s chair would rise with mediocre results. The biggest question coming into the season was how to replace Brad Smith. Chase Daniel has become the answer and Mizzou currently finds itself at 7-2.

On Offense: Missouri’s offense hasn’t skipped a beat without Smith, and in fact, might actually be more consistent. The Tigers currently rank 19th nationally in total offense and are averaging 413 yards/game. Chase Daniel is a gritty performer who is capable of carrying the team on his back. Although he is just a sophomore, thus far, he has been able to do all that has been asked of him within the offense. He is completing 65% of his passes for 2287 yards and 19 TDs with 8 INTs. He has also rushed for 322 yards and another 4 TDs.

The Mizzou rushing attack averages 155 yards/game places it 42nd nationally and 8th in the Big 12. The Tigers running game is led by Tony Temple. Temple missed the spring with a shoulder injury, but has bounced back and shown improved durability. He has racked up 662 yards and 3 TDs. Jimmy Jackson, Earl Goldsmith and Marcus Woods will also see action against Nebraska. Goldsmith is extremely quick, while Jackson has a bit more power than the other Tiger RBs.

While the Missouri receivers are talented, they are actually overshadowed by the most talented tight end duo in the nation. Junior Martin Rucker (Mike’s lil bro) and sophomore Chase Coffman are both big targets with extremely soft hands. Although Rucker was the more known of the two going into 2006, it is Coffman that is having the bigger year. He currently has 40 catches for 402 yards and 5 TDs. If we don’t see a big play from one of these two, I will take back all of the nasty things I’ve said about our safeties.

At WR the Tigers are led by William Franklin. Franklin has pretty good size (6-2, 205), great speed and sensational leaping ability. He currently has 42 receptions for 743 yards (17.7 yards/rec) and 6 TDs. Joining Franklin are Brad Ekwerekwu, and freshman Jared Perry. Ekwerekwu is 6-4 and 215 pounds with good hands and shifty moves in the open field.

Missouri has four returning starters along the offensive line, led by senior center Adam Spieker who is a three-year starter. Missouri’s tackles are Tyler Luellen and Joel Clinger. Luellen has a long frame at 6-7, which provides him with excellent reach in pass protection. Clinger has a terrific motor, which allows him to be an aggressive and devastating run blocker. On the inside, the Tiger guards are Monte Wyrick and Ryan Madison. Wyrick is the heaviest of the OL at 320 pounds, as well as one of the Tigers’ strongest players. Madison is just a sophomore, but has been dependable thus far.

On Defense: The Tigers’ defense has shown tremendous improvement over its 2005 efforts. Missouri currently ranks 26th nationally and 2nd in the Big 12 in total defense. The Nebraska offensive line will benefit from absence of Mizzou DE Brian Smith. Smith an explosive pass rusher who had 7.5 sacks in 2006 was lost for the year to a hip fracture while blocking on a fumble return against KSU. Stepping in for Smith is Xzavie Jackson, who has good size and a great deal of experience. The other DE spot is manned by Stryker Sulak. Sulak has good strength and a nice burst to the ball. On the inside, the Tigers rely on DTs Lorenzo Williams and Evander “Ziggy” Hood. Williams’ speed will almost certainly cause problems for the interior of the Husker line and Hood has been great against the run.

The middle of the Tiger linbacking corps is filled by Dedrick Herrington. Herrington is a former safety who combines great size with the athleticism of a DB to make big plays from his MLB spot. Mizzou’s leading tackler is OLB Marcus Bacon who has 81 stops. Bacon is another former safety who flys to the ball. At the other OLB spot is sophomore Brock Christopher. Christopher is the team’s biggest LB who makes up for a lack a range with his tremendous tackling ability.

Missouri’s secondary continues to improve and the Tigers are currently 2nd in the Big 12 in passing efficiency defense. The cornerbacks are Darnell Terrell and Hardy Ricks. Terrell is another big CB at 6-2, but is also incredibly athletic. He has 1 INT and 7 passes broken up, and has also forced a fumble in 2006. Ricks was a sought after recruit who has 31 tackles and on PBU on the year. Missouri has one of the nation’s top safeties in David Overstreet. Overstreet is smart and has a nose for the ball, he is currently third on the team in tackles with 66. The FS is Brandon Massey, who is tied for the team lead in interceptions with 2.

Special Teams: The Nebraska kickoff team might get the break it needs, as Mizzou ranks 86th nationally in kickoff returns. Earl Goldsmith averages 20.6 yards/return and has a season long of 32 yards. Marcus Woods and Tommy Saunders split the punt return duties, although Saunders has had more success on the year. Missouri’s kicker is Jeff Wolfert. Wolfert is 11/13 on the year with a long of 44 yards. Adam Crossett handles the punting duties. He averages just under 40 yards/punt and has placed 9 out of 31 punts inside the 20.

Random Notes

Series History: This marks the 100th meeting between the two schools. Nebraska leads the all-time series 62-34-3.

I Can’t Believe I Looked It Up Either: Nebraska has scored 24 total points in each of the last four meetings with Missouri. The Huskers are 2-2 in those games.

Fading Out: Under Pinkel, in the last five regular season games of each of his five seasons, Mizzou has gone just 10-15 and has only beaten one team (Iowa State in 2004) in November that finished with a winning record.

Six Degrees of Beano Cook: In 2005 Missouri beat Nebraska 41-24.

Oklahoma State Preview

October 25, 2006

Enrollment: 20,834
Conference: Big 12
Stadium: Boone Pickens Stadium (Capacity: 44,700)
First Year of Football: 1901
All Time Record: 472-492-48 (.490)

Head Coach: Mike Gundy
2nd year as head coach at Oklahoma State: Career record
8-10.

Team Overview

Last Season: In Mike Gundy’s first year leading the Cowboys, the team sputtered offensively on their way to a 4-7 record.

This Season: OSU opened the season with blowout wins over powerhouses Missouri State, Arkansas State, and Florida Atlantic. The Cowboys have since dropped 3 of 4 and are 1-2 in the Big 12, with their lone win coming on the road against Kansas. Last week the OSU fell to Texas A&M 34-33 on a blocked extra point in OT.

On Offense: After struggling through most of 2005, the Cowboy’s spread offense may be finding its way. Oklahoma State currently ranks 12th in the nation while averaging 421 yards/game and 7th nationally in scoring offense (34.7 ppg). The key to the Cowboy offense is former hotshot quarterback recruit Bobby Reid. Reid struggled with his accuracy a year ago, but seems to have found his touch this season and is completing just under 60% of his passes for 1387 yards and 17 TDs. Reid also leads the Big 12 in yards per completion. Reid left the Texas A&M game a week ago with a after suffering a concussion on an option keeper, but is expected to start against Nebraska.

The Pokes’ running attack is led by sophomore Mike Hamilton. Hamilton, a second team All Big 12 pick a year ago, has great speed and agility, as well as surprising power. Hamilton currently has 498 yards and 4 rushing TDs.

OSU’s most dominating offensive performer is WR Adarious Bowman, who is a Limas Sweed clone at 6-4, 220-pounds. Bowman is putting up extremely impressive numbers in 2006, including 791 yards receiving and 9 touchdowns. The Cowboys also have receiving weapons in D’Juan Woods and TE Brandon Pettigrew. Woods has seen his numbers drop in the wake of Bowman’s emergence, but he is still more than capable of hurting defenses. Pettigrew is still young, but averages 13 yards/reception and has 2 TDs in 2006.

OSU’s offensive line is headed by RT Corey Hilliard. Hilliard, a 6-5, 310-pound senior should be an early round NFL selection after improving his pass blocking technique. The only other senior starter on the O-line is RG Kurt Seifried. Joining the two seniors on the line are sophomore center David Washington, junior LG David Koenig and LT Brady Bond who is a redshirt freshman.

On Defense: OSU’s defense has had a tough time stopping teams this year. The Cowboys currently rank 68th nationally in total defense (341.5 yards/game) and 62nd in scoring defense (22.3 ppg.). The majority of OSU’s struggles can be attributed to growing pains as they are still a very young defense. The front four of the defense is led by DE Victor DeGrate. DeGrate is a former linebacker who has added weight, but kept his quickness. He currently leads the team with 7.5 sacks and 9.5 TFL. On the inside the Pokes rely on Ryan McBean and Larry Brown. The two have combined for 7 TFL and 2 sacks.

The OSU linebacking corps has the potential to be great in a year or two. For now they are athletic, but inexperienced. 255-pound MLB Roderick Johnson is the most experienced of the three. Johnson has the size and speed to be a destructive force in the middle. He is currently 3rd on the team in tackles and also has 2 sacks. The outside LB spots are manned by Chris Collins and Alex Odiari. Collins is a true freshman and might be both the quickest and strongest of the three LB. Odiari was a big-time recruit two years ago. He has 2.5 TFL and has also recovered a fumble in 2006.

OSU’s leading tackler is speedy FS Andre Sexton. At SS, former QB Donovan Woods looks more comfortable after switching to the safety spot halfway through the 2005 season. Woods is starting to get himself in the correct position and has an interception and 2 forced fumbles in 2006. The OSU cornerbacks are Jacob Lacey and Martel Van Zant. Lacey is the speedier of the two, while Van Zant is more physical at 6-2, 205-pounds.

Special Teams: The pressure will again be on Nebraska’s kickoff unit, as Oklahoma State has two dangerous return men. Parrish Cox averages 31.4 yards/return and has taken one back 96 yards for a TD, while Grant Jones averages 39.0 yards/return. OSU’s kicker is Jason Ricks. Ricks is 6/8 on FGs on the year with a long of 53 yards. His only miss on extra point attempts was the block versus A&M. Matt Hodge is the Cowboy punter. He averages 49.2 yards/punt and has placed 6 punts inside the 20.

Random Notes

Series History: This marks the 41st meeting between the two teams. Nebraska leads the all-time series 36-3-1. Interestingly the Huskers dropped the first two games in 1960 and 1961, but did not lose another one to the Cowboys until 2002.

I Can’t Believe I Looked It Up Either: Since 1990, Nebraska is 7-2 following a home loss. During that same time period they are 5-0 following a loss to Texas.

These Are Their Stories…”dun DUN”: After the heartbreaking defeat to Texas A&M OT Corey Hilliard had this to say:

“I didn’t go out or nothing. I just sat in my room. I didn’t watch ESPN or nothin’. Actually I watched Law and Order and then I went to sleep.”

Well, He Was Supafly on That Day: The all-time Oklahoma State record for receiving yards in a game is held by one Curtis Mayfield (no, not that one). Mayfield torched Nebraska for 209 yards receiving in 1989. OSU’s QB in that game was Mike Gundy.

Six Degrees of Beano Cook: In 2005 Oklahoma State beat
Texas Tech. Texas Tech beat…Nebraska