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C O M M E N T A R Y
T A D    S T R Y K E R
July 11, 2010

 
Nebraska has bigger fish than Texas to fry
 
For as long as I can remember, Nebraska football fans have used a good portion of each summer to speculate about how the Cornhuskers will do that fall. This year is no different, but it seems that the speculation is a bit more focused this time around. One game in particular stands out.

Oct. 16 will be a memorable date in Nebraska football history. If you’re not already excited about it, you may not have seen www.RedOutAroundtheWorld.com. The theme is “Wear Red. Be Loud. Beat Texas.”

It’s an understandable sentiment. NU definitely owes the Longhorns a few defeats, and in light of Nebraska’s move to the Big Ten a year from now, time is running short.

When you observe the University of Texas’ position as self-appointed ruler of the Big 12 (which two-thirds of the nation somehow accepts despite the fact that Oklahoma has won more conference titles), when you consider the economic power of the Lone Star State, and when you toss in the perceived arrogance of the average Texas fan, the idea of looking forward to rubbing the Longhorns’ nose in it becomes a very attractive idea. But it’s not very Osbornian in its concept.

You remember Dr. Tom. Dull, boring Nebraska guy who used to preach taking em one game at a time, that sort of thing? Yep, even while he was losing five times in a row to Barry Switzer and the Sooners. Eventually, it paid off.

Now, as athletic director, Osborne has a disciple as head coach. He’s more emotional, but he says the same old stuff. Bo Pelini will keep the focus on winning the next game with execution, execution, execution until the cows come home. So he’ll keep the Cornhusker football program dialed in on Western Kentucky, Idaho, Washington, South Dakota State and Kansas State, in order.

If you’re one of those Husker fans who hated Bill McCartney’s guts because he emphasized beating Nebraska every year, you should be able to see the parallel. After a few years getting up to speed, McCartney and Colorado gave Nebraska all it could handle from 1986 to 1991, but most of that time, the Buffs had trouble with a lot of other teams they should have defeated.

After its worst decade in a long time, the Nebraska football program is getting back up to speed. Will it be able to regain the consistency that most programs never achieve? Immediate case in point: watch closely what happens in mid-October if an undefeated Nebraska beats Texas (which may be coming off a loss to OU at that point).

That would be a wonderful moment for the Huskers — who keep closing the gap, but still have not defeated a Top 19-rated team since 2001. But at that point, we would see how well a Pelini-coached team could handle being the hunted instead of the hunter.

It’s got to happen sometime; it may as well start this fall. There are a lot of games to play before the Huskers run into Texas — and a bunch more to play afterward.

For instance, the following week, NU plays Oklahoma State at Stillwater — where Nebraska has not won since Lawrence Phillips ran wild in the 1995 season-opener. And then, on Oct. 30, revenge-minded Missouri comes to Lincoln. Nebraska definitely has the talent to beat both teams. Does it have the tenacity?

For quite some time now, the tenth month of the year has been tough for Nebraska football. Since 2003, NU has lost at least twice each October. During the last two seasons — even with Pelini constantly preaching about executing the fundamentals — the penalty-prone Huskers could do no better than break even in October. With all kinds of question marks at quarterback, can the 2010 team do any better?

In other words, is a Husker team that has lost eight games over the past two seasons ready to take the next step up? Or will Nebraska keep hovering at the level that most of the nation envisions, which means another good defense/bad offense year that keeps it out of a BCS bowl?

Almost nobody outside Nebraska respected the Blackshirts at this time last season, and very few expected the Huskers to beat Oklahoma — but everyone was a believer by the time January arrived. Will the Nebraska offense be able to silence its critics in similar fashion this fall?

Nebraska should have bigger things on its mind than simply beating Texas on Oct. 16. Don’t get me wrong — it would be a big step for Pelini and his program. I’m just saying it’s way too early to start camping outside the stadium for that particular game.

 

Formerly the sports editor at the North Platte Bulletin and a sportswriter/columnist for the North Platte Telegraph, Tad Stryker is a longtime Nebraska sports writer, having covered University of Nebraska and high school sports for more than 25 years. He started writing for this website in 2008. You can e-mail him at tad.stryker@gmail.com. | Archive

 
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