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Texas vs. Nebraska
Betting Line: Nebraska -9.5 o/u 46
Things haven't been easy for fans of the Texas Longhorns in the past two
games. They were savaged by UCLA by a score of 34-12 and then lost the Red River
Rivalry 28-20 to Oklahoma. Predicted by many to be a BCS Title contender, those
hopes are all but out the window. They have only a single loss in Big XII play,
so its not out of the question for them to win the conference.
If Mack Brown can
right the ship this week the season can be saved. It won't be an easy task
against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. They are on a tear and currently stand at #5
in the polls. This game will be at Nebraska and is a rematch of last years Big
XII Championship game which the Longhorns narrowly won.
The Longhorns will rely on sophomore QB Garrett Gilbert. The youngster has been far from phenomenal, but he is learning on the job. He has 4 TD passes for 1,151 yards this year and 5 INTs. Don't let the numbers fool you. This kid has talent and with time he will prove it to the world. RBs Foswhitt Whitaker and Cody Johnson will have to give big efforts in the ground game. They have combined for 380 yards and 5 TDs this year. The Huskers have been weak against the run, so its important for the Longhorns to exploit that weakness. The offensive line has to do their part. Gilbert has been sacked 8 times in the past 3 games. He can't do his job if he is on his rear end the whole game.
On the whole, Texas's defense has been good. They have sacked opposing QBs 16 times and are giving up only 255 yards of total offense per game on average. The Huskers aren't an offensive powerhouse, so if the defense can make big stands the Longhorns will find themselves in good shape. Their main focus will be on Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez. This team has had trouble in their past two weeks, but they enter this game on a week of rest. Add to that the fact they are they littered with 4 and 5 star recruits and its very possible for them to grab this season and bring it back to life.
The Nebraska defense has been just as good as their Texas counterparts. They rank 4th in Points Against, and are giving up only 275 yards per game. They completely shut down Washington and Jake Locker in the second week of play. They have registered 11 sacks in 2010. The Huskers have done very well against the pass, but teams have been able to cut them up on the ground. Only Idaho has failed to get 140+ yards on the ground against them this year.
The Cornhuskers rank 2nd in the nation in rushing, and 9th in points for, but has yet to face a defense that could stop more than a sneeze. The Longhorns are desperate and they play very good defense. This will be dynamic QB Taylor Martinez's first test to date. The freshman has 737 yards on the ground and 12 rushing TDs to go along with 660 passing yards and 3 TDs. Senior RB Roy Helu Jr. has been solid this year with 415 yards and 5 TDs. If either of these players has a bad day then the Cornhuskers could be in big trouble. How will HC Bo Pelini's offense react to facing a rough and tumble Big XII defense for the first time this year? It's hard to predict, but they likely won't rack up 30+ points.
Our aprroach to handicapping often comes down to common sense. One of the things we like to do is analyze talent at a particular program historically. In other words, look at how teams do against each other historically, to determine if a talent gap exists. Common sense would tell you that if two programs play each other close to the vest year after year, and they both retain a good chunk of that same talent, then the current game figures to follow suit.
The biggest loss here of course, as far as talent goes, is Texas losing Colt McCoy to the NFL. That's big. If you look at recent meetings between these two you'll find all Texas wins, but narrow ones. 13-12, 28-25, 22-20, 31-7 and 27-24. They don't play every year, but as you can see, 4 out of the 5 games listed were decided by 3 points or less.
Texas is down. Nebraska is up. When one program dominates another in the win loss column, there's nothing sweeter than finally breaking through. Especially when those losses were all close. Nebraska has been knocking on the door in this series and this year presents them with their best shot to kick the door down.
Looking at the history, and the talent levels at the two schools tells us this game is likely to be close. When handicapping this game based strictly on this year, we have Nebraska winning this game by two touchdowns. So if we were to back Texas here, it would be based solely on hoping that the talent we know they have, shows up. Just as USC showed up last week against Stanford.
Yards per point numbers here are lopsided. Nebraska is 12 on offense and 22 on defense for a +10 overall. Texas is 15 offensively and a horrendous 13 defensively for a -2 overall. Converting this to a pointspread and giving Nebraska their home field edge would have Nebraska favored by at least 15 points. Now keep in mind, Texas Tech, UCLA and Oklahoma, all teams Texas has played, are better than any team Nebraska has faced this year.
But we also run a formula that gives us a predicted score on every game, and this formula takes into account schedule strength. It also has Nebraska by two touchdowns, 27-13. Lastly, turnover margin. Nebraska is +3 while Texas is -5.
We'll play this one by the numbers. Nebraska -9.5