Opponent Recap: Nebraska

Submitted by Heiko on February 21st, 2012 at 4:30 PM

Previously: Western Michigan, Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan, San Diego StateMinnesotaNorthwesternMichigan StatePurdueIowa, Illinois


If you can keep a secret, this image was actually taken in Iowa.


  • Chattanooga, 40-7 (W)
  • Fresno State, 42-29 (W)
  • Washington, 51-38 (W)
  • @ Wyoming, 38-14 (W)
  • @ No. 7 Wisconsin, 17-48 (L)
  • Ohio State, 34-27 (W)
  • @ Minnesota, 41-14 (W)
  • No. 11 Michigan State, 24-3 (W)
  • Northwestern, 25-38 (L)
  • @ No. 12 Penn State, 17-14 (W)
  • @ No. 18 Michigan, 17-45 (L)
  • Iowa, 20-7 (W)
  • No. 9 South Carolina, 13-30 (L) Citrus Bowl

Record: 9-4 overall, 5-3 B1G, 3rd place Bo Division


  Offense Defense
Rush: 217.2 ypg, 15th 158.5 ypg, 64th
Pass: 162.7 ypg, 104th 192.2 ypg, 19th
Total: 379.9 ypg, 66th 350.7 ypg, 37th
Scoring: 29.2 ppg, 49th 23.4 ppg, 42nd
T/O Margin: -1, 67th 

Recap: Today I learned where the state of Nebraska is on a map. It’s … :

When the B1I1G Ten anschlussed Nebraska, some were surprised that a school like Missouri didn’t even get more than a courtesy consideration. Guns, Germs, and Steel provides some great arguments for why it’s more natural for civilization to spread latitudinally (east-west) than longitudinally (north-south). I expect the B1G’s newest member to be Wyoming in several years unless Notre Dame finally gets culture-flipped* before that.

Anyway, footbaw.

(more after the jump)

Prior to the 2011 season Nebraska was in an interesting place. They spent the 2010 season losing for the Nth time to a Texas team that wasn’t even bowl eligible, playing ugly games (and losing) against Texas A&M and Oklahoma, before finally dropping their bowl game in a rematch against a Jake Locker-led Washington. It would have been the worst Big 12 farewell tour ever if the Aggies hadn’t decided to follow suit this past season.

I suppose folks down there don’t take kindly to deserters.

Despite the immensely disappointing season, many had the Huskers pegged as B1G favorites last summer; at the very least, most expected them to show up in Indianapolis to play either Wisconsin or … yeah, just Wisconsin.

It was a fair assessment. The Huskers defense returned a lot of talent in All-American DT Jared Crick, All-American LB Lavonte David, and All-Big 12 CB Alfonzo Dennard. On offense superfast chicken-winged QB Taylor Martinez was back, and though they lost RB Roy Helu, Jr., Rex Burkhead was just 50 yards shy of the 1,000 yard mark in 2010, so they seemed to be okay there. Really, offensive line and receiver seemed to be the only iffy positions by virtue of inexperience. The rest of the team was solid if not stellar.

I studied him during warmups and finally figured out what he does: he jerks his head back on the wind-up. If you want to simulate it yourself, just pretend there's a stiff string connecting the ball and your head during the throw.

If you watched Nebraska play through their nonconference schedule, you could tell there was something off about them. They played well enough to win comfortably, but there wasn’t much of a sense that they were completely outclassing their opponents as they were expected to, particularly on defense. Then they hit their B1G schedule.

The night they played Wisconsin I dragged my friends around Ann Arbor looking for a bar that wasn’t completely crowded so we (I) could watch the game. By the time we finally found one (Heidelberg, but we had to wait for the baseball people to leave). Wisconsin was up two touchdowns and Martinez was getting sacked on every down, so then I had to apologize for making such a fuss for an uncompetitive game.

It was surprising how fragile the Huskers were mentally. Once they lost the lead the game might as well have ended for them, especially on offense. And it’s not like the Badgers had a worldbeating shutdown defense -- in fact, their defense would be liable for each of their late game chokes, as would soon be exposed.

Nebraska got over the loss to Wisconsin the next weekend in a close win over Ohio State, but that’s with one huge, huge caveat: if Buckeyes QB Braxton Miller hadn’t gotten injured in the third quarter of the game, forcing Ohio State to Bauserbomb the game away, the Huskers would have lost. Luckily for them, the stars aligned and allowed the Huskers to mount the comeback victory. It was a costly game for them, however -- Crick suffered a torn pectoral muscle and would be lost for the rest of the year.

The only real highlight of the second half of Nebraska’s season was their manhandling of Michigan State. This, of course, was followed by the lowlight of losing to Northwestern a week after. The Huskers ended the regular season on a positive note, beating Iowa at home and allowing Burkhead to set the program record for carries in a game (38), before getting demolished by South Carolina in the Capitol One Bowl.

Nebraska’s defense will likely experience a further dip in 2012 as they adjust to a new coordinator while most of their defensive stars depart for the NFL. Offense should remain status quo since both Martinez and Burkhead return while the line and receivers can’t get much more mediocre than their 2011 showing. Nebraska has done well recruiting over the last several years, ranking in the lower end of Rivals’ top 25, so they’ll at least remain in the discussion for the division title year in and year out.

*Civilization IV reference. 

Best win: Michigan State.

Worst loss: Northwestern.

When Michigan played them we thought they were as frightening as: No idea actually, and my fear of the unknowing was worth a fear level of 7.

But now we know they are as frightening as: Somewhat of a 6. The biggest reason for the drop is weakness in the trenches on both sides of the ball. They remind me a lot of Virginia Tech, actually -- lots of great skill players limited by mediocre linemen.

What the win meant for Michigan (in bullet form, with visual aids):

  • Mike Martin forced a pitch on a speed option.

  • Odoms got behind two defenders and made a diving catch into the back of the end zone.

  • Michigan successfully executed a fake field goal because Penn State did it to them in 1995.
  • Toussaint went for 138 yards.
  • Rex Burkhead went for 36 yards. Total. Really.
  • Rex Burkhead tried to block Mike Martin, which was a poor choice.

  • Michigan forced two fumbles on special teams.
  • Hoke and Mattison were unimpressed by a quadruple option.

And it totally felt as awesome as:



February 21st, 2012 at 5:00 PM ^

You can tell the photo isn't Nebraska because there is an element of non-flatness to the ground.


To Nebraskans those look like mountains in the picture.


February 21st, 2012 at 5:27 PM ^

I was going to say the same thing! But he may be on topic here. The core of the East-West Axis theory is that civilization spreads that way because you can grow the same crops and raise the same livestock at the same (more or less) latitude. The B1G is, at it's heart, a corn conference, so the absence of Missouri and inclusion of Nebraska seems pretty logical.

Picktown GoBlue

February 21st, 2012 at 8:12 PM ^

- oops sorry, no religion or politics.  And that GG&S point is a great one with recent conference gerrymanderings tending toward taking block-shaped territories and stretching them out east and west into conference strata.  B1G gets the north Midwest, Pac12 gets the southwest and the northwest, ACC gets the northeast plus its mid-Atlantic area (I think Miami has got to be wondering how long it will work being in the ACC).  The Big East grabs a swath across everywhere (but you wonder how long it will work for the Texas and Florida schools, to say nothing of SDSU and Boise).  Big XII has the south Midwest, now stretching eastward to West Virginia.  And the SEC has (duh) the southeast, stretching westward into Missouri and Texas.


February 21st, 2012 at 5:28 PM ^

To me this game represented when I not only thought a win against TSIO was possible, but that it would happen. These Seniors had led the team through so much I knew they would do whatever it took to Beat Ohio


February 21st, 2012 at 6:13 PM ^

Whenever i get dumbfounded at work, i find myself saying "Mike Martin forced a pitch on a speed option" while shaking my head.  So....thanks for that.


and yeah, i know....."Cool Story, Bro"

Johnny Blood

February 21st, 2012 at 7:50 PM ^

One of the reasons that I really love this site is that it is the only place I know where you can have a good discussion of athletics and people are also well-educated and rounded enough to be able to bring books like that into the conversation.

I'm partial to Collapse myself, but I really like all the Jared Diamond books.

Mr. Yost

February 22nd, 2012 at 10:16 AM ^

We respected them going in. Many people were willing to take 9-3 with a ND/MSU split and a given 2 losses to close the season.

NO ONE. I mean not ONE person outside of the locker room thought we could've done what we did to them.

We dominated that game, I mean completely.

Not shown are the various special teams blunders where our Furman's, Hollowell's and Robinson's are making plays.

In every phase we dominated.

We dominated so much that no one cared when they scored on that kinda sweet, but kinda bullshit play...

We dominated so much that we were HAPPY when they didn't fumble away kickoff returns so that our defense could take the field.

You guys think I'm joking? I'm not laughing. I WANTED to watch defense that game. I definitely noticed the Martin/Burkhead distruction because I was only 99% into the offense, I was probably on here (MGoBlog) part of the time. But when Martin and the boys took the field, I was locked in.

So were they. They were calling their own defense from the field, it was funny to watch. A one point GMat was just on the sideline watching, not even calling in plays. He let Mallory call the secondary and it was Martin and Van Bergan putting people in position in the front 7.

We did whatever we wanted that game.

Welcome to our conference, Cornhuskers. Indeed.


February 22nd, 2012 at 7:53 AM ^

but I think it's more like the bug in V, where even after a city-state goes from anger to neutrality, you still can't enter its territory (as if it stayed angry at you even when pretending otherwise).

And that's fine, because you can still win the game without its help. Just move on to the next big city, acquire it, and let the silly little city-state rot on its own. In this version, city-states never get to dominate the world.


February 22nd, 2012 at 9:19 AM ^

Nebraska dominating MSU was the Big Ten head scratcher of the year. (Last year that honor went to MSU dominating Wisconsin.)

Totally unexpected. No idea how that happened.


February 22nd, 2012 at 12:15 PM ^

What I took away from the Nebraska/MSU game was that there isn't that much difference between the better teams in the conference.

Was MSU the better team?  Very likely.  But Nebraska was at home, State isn't *that* good on offense and whatever weaknesses NU may have showed, they still had Lavonte David .  If your offense gets stoned time after time, your defense isn't going to hold out forever (as we found out in the Trash Tornado)

We were also better than Nebraska, but we weren't 28 pts better than them.  I think we win that game again if you played it today, but the 45-17 beatdown was majorly abetted by us being at home and not utterly faceplanting on special teams.

Wisconsin was the best team in the conference, but not so much better that they couldn't lose close ones to ASU and MSU.   And Akron State in spite of being a rudderless trainwreck at times was - let's face it - 1-2 plays from beating MSU, Nebraska, PSU and us.