Big Red Rivalry: Quarterbacks, Defenses And Game Changers

OU and Nebraska will hook it up Saturday night on the gridiron for the last time in the regular season until 2012. Unfortunately neither team is what we thought they'd be this season in the way of Big 12 division contenders. Oklahoma currently sits a game behind Texas in the South while the Huskers are behind Kansas State in the North. The way Texas is playing its most likely a cased closed scenario for the Sooners while Nebraska still has some options in the North seeing as how that division only has one team with a winning record in conference.

For both teams the problems deal directly with the offensive units. Oklahoma lost a Heisman quarterback and the best tight end in the country, not to mention the deficiencies along the offensive line, while Nebraska just failed to reload properly. The two teams are #6 and #7 in the conference in scoring but even with stout defenses that hasn't been enough to meet fans expectations.

Quarterback Woes

Both teams are on their second quarterbacks of the season but for different reasons. Landry Jones was thrown into the fire in game one for an injured Sam Bradford and became the permanent starter when Bradford went down again against the Longhorns. He's handled the ascension to the next Sooner big man on campus with relative success in throwing for 1657 yards and 17 touchdowns to just 6 picks. He's been named the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week twice in five starts.

Meanwhile Cody Green has snatched the reigns to the Nebraska's offense away from Zac Lee who was benched after seven games for being ineffective. Green was 12-21 for 128 yards, an interception and 1 pick in his debut which was a 20-10 win over the Baylor Bears. You have to think that Brent Venables and Jeremy Beal are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to welcome Nebraska's signal caller to this rivalry in just the second start of the season. Even though OU's quarterback situation isn't ideal at least they are the ones with the freshman quarterback making his 6th career start instead of the 2nd.

Dominant Defenses

The offenses this year may not be anything like the ground and pound/flash and dash offenses that made this one of the most storied rivalries in the nation but the defenses sure are. Both are difficult to score on and both like punishing quarterbacks while stuffing the run. Nebraska leads the conference in scoring defense with 11.3 points allowed per game and the Sooner defense is just behind them at 12.6.

The two best defensive tackles in the conference will be wreaking havoc in this game. Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh has 49 total tackles and 5 sacks while OU's Gerald McCoy ranks 4th in the conference in tackles for loss with 12.

Game Changers

Neither team gives up much in the way of points or yardage. Both OU and Texas are in the top three of the Big 12 in scoring, rush and pass defenses. That means that things like turnovers, kick/punt returns (field position) and field goals will play a huge role in deciding who wins this game. OU just made a switch at place kicker two games ago and so far it has worked to everyone's liking. However Nebraska's Alex Henery has the exact same field goal percentage (11/13) that got OU's Jimmy Stevens benched. Oklahoma's Tress Way (new place kicker) is also second in the conference in punting average (43.1). All of this very well could equate to a close game that will be decided by a single "game changing moment" that will most likely come from a turnover of the special teams units.   

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