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Loss has major consequences for the Huskers
By Marc Connolly
ABC Sports Online

BOULDER, Colo. -- This was supposed to be the season when everything came together for Nebraska. It was to be the year fourth-year head coach Frank Solich got his national championship to take his place alongside luminaries Tom Osborne and Bob Devaney who came before him, leaving a shadow the size of Toniu Fonoti in their wake.

With Eric Crouch back for his senior season as the winningest signal-caller in the land and a schedule that featured eight home games and was devoid of Mack Brown's Texas Longhorn juggernaut, all that was to be in the way of another Nebraska title was the defending national champion Oklahoma Sooners.

Chris Brown
Chris Brown beat Nebraska for 198 yards and 6 TDs.
So after the Cornhuskers disposed of the Sooners on Oct. 27, it seemed as though the only question mark surrounding Nebraska would be whether the Huskers would enter the Big 12 Championship game with a No. 1 or 2 ranking.

After Friday's shocking 62-36 shellacking of the Cornhuskers at Folsom Field, the question is now whether or not they'll even make the BCS, never mind the national championship game on Jan. 3.

"If you lose late (in the season), you get nothing," said I-back Thunder Collins, who rushed for 61 yards on 11 carries. "It is better to lose early than to lose late."

Indeed, the Huskers are in a precarious situation right now.

Although Florida State reached the national championship last year as the lucky one-loss team instead of Miami (despite losing to Miami nearly a month after the 'Canes lost to Washington), history hasn't been kind to those whose one blemish has come once the leaves have fallen off the trees.

"I feel badly for the players and for everyone associated with the program to have our season end this way," said Solich. "We'll just try to move on and get ready for the bowl game."

And those trying to figure out what game that is might be as baffled as the Blackshirts were against the run on Friday.

The roadblock of one-loss teams sitting behind undefeated Miami is enough to send the BCS heads into hiding. With Florida, Texas, Oregon, Oklahoma and now Nebraska all having some reason -- at least in their own minds -- to believe they deserve to play for the national title, it's not going to be something that is easily sorted out.

First off, Nebraska doesn't get another opportunity to impress the voters of the AP and coaches' polls, who will surely send the Huskers a message for losing by such a large margin. That was taken away from them with the loss to Colorado, as the Buffs will now travel to Dallas to take on Oklahoma (barring an upset by Oklahoma State on Saturday) as the conference's North Division champion in the Big 12 Championship.

An Oklahoma win in Texas Stadium would likely be enough for the defending champions to stay ahead of all the one-loss teams in the BCS standings, as they've been ever since losing to Nebraska on Oct. 27. But dangerously behind OU is is Florida, perhaps playing the best ball of anyone in the nation outside of Coral Gables. The Gators could possibly overtake the Sooners by beating Tennessee next weekend and followed up with a victory in the SEC Championship game on Dec. 8 against Auburn or LSU.

Yet, if Oklahoma and Florida lose, Nebraska might have a chance depending on how its numbers compare against Texas and Oregon.

You want controversy? One likely scenario would put Solich's squad in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1 as the third-best team out of the Big 12 with Texas going to the Nokia Sugar Bowl as an at-large BCS squad and Colorado -- the Big 12 North champs -- heading to the Holiday Bowl, home of the Big 12's fourth team.

Meanwhile, Nebraska's dream of having its first Heisman Trophy winner since Mike Rozier went out the door as well. Crouch put up solid numbers in defeat -- 162 yards rushing and two TDs to go along with 198 yards and two interceptions through the air on 13-of-28 passing -- but he wasn't at his best. Several of his passes were off the mark and he slipped on a few option runs when he seemingly had room to gallop down the field. At the same time, he didn't get great blocking, especially in the first half, but that's not going to be remembered by those with Heisman wands.

For what it's worth, the senior who became the 13th player in NCAA Division I-A history to rush and pass for 1,000 yards in a season thinks he still has a shot.

"I try not to think about it, but just go out and play as hard as I can every game," he said. "I don't feel I lost my hopes for the Heisman."

Unfortunately for Crouch, he won't have another chance to impress the fickle voters who will have ample opportunity to watch Ken Dorsey, Rex Grossman and Joey Harrington down the stretch.

Same goes for his Huskers.

Marc Connolly is a senior writer for ABC Sports Online. He can be reached at  HELP |  ADVERTISER INFO |  CONTACT US |  TOOLS |  SITE MAP
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