Big 12: Cody Green

AutoZone Liberty Bowl keys: Iowa State

December, 31, 2012
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Here are three keys for an Iowa State victory in today's AutoZone Liberty Bowl.

1. Make Cody Green beat you. Iowa State's been pretty good at taking away opponents' strengths throughout the season and held Kansas State to just 65 total rushing yards in a near upset in Ames. The Cyclones' best shot for victory is to solidify the front seven and make Green beat them with his arm. Tulsa won games by running the ball this year, and in their last meeting, Green threw two interceptions and completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes. He's thrown interceptions in each of his past four games, and if Iowa State can slow the run game and make Green throw the ball 30-40 times, the odds are in the Cyclones' favor.

2. Make life easy for Sam Richardson. Richardson is a young guy with a lot of potential, but you can't ask the ISU quarterback to drop back 50 times and win you a game. This starts on the offensive line and with play calling. It's important for the young Richardson to get off to a good start to establish some rhythm. That means a few screens, slants or short plays to get him rolling and some solid balance with the running game. Last year in the Pinstripe Bowl, Jared Barnett got off to a poor start and it snowballed before he was benched. If Richardson gets benched for similar reasons, Iowa State's not winning this game, barring a herculean defensive effort.

3. Slow it down and keep the game low scoring. Iowa State doesn't have a ton of offensive firepower, and surely you've seen the statistic about Paul Rhoads' career with the Cyclones. Under Rhoads, Iowa State is 20-1 when opponents score fewer than 24 points in regulation. When opponents score more than 24 points, he's a staggering 1-22. (He's 2-3 when opponents score exactly 24 points.) That's just the way it is, and you don't need me to explain the odds if this turns into a shootout.

A closer look: AutoZone Liberty Bowl

December, 19, 2012
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As the bowl season approaches, we're going to be looking a little closer at each game. We'll go down the Big 12 bowl schedule in chronological order.

AUTOZONE LIBERTY BOWL

Iowa State (6-6) vs. Tulsa (10-3)

Where: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, Tenn.

When: Monday, Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

About Iowa State: The Cyclones have made their mark in big-time upsets on an annual basis, it seems. Iowa State announced its intentions to make a bowl run with an upset win over then-No. 15 TCU on the road, though it was a wounded Frogs team without quarterback Casey Pachall. The Cyclones once again reached 3-0 in conference play with wins over Tulsa to open the season and rival Iowa in Iowa City for the first time in a decade. The Cyclones battled inconsistency at quarterback all season long, but Steele Jantz topped 400 yards of total offense and threw five touchdown passes in a win over Baylor that ultimately proved to be the difference in Iowa State's bowl run. The Cyclone clinched it this year with a four-touchdown win on the road against Kansas. It's not quite as dramatic as last year's double-overtime upset over No. 2 Oklahoma State, but it'll work. Another year, another unlikely bowl game for the Cyclones, who are one of nine Big 12 teams to reach the Big 12, but the only one to do so with a 6-6 record.

About Tulsa: Only one conference champion will face a Big 12 team in a bowl, and that's these Golden Hurricane. Tulsa beat UCF in overtime to capture the Conference USA title, and went 7-1 in league play with the only loss coming to SMU. The Golden Hurricane blew a lead in the opener on the road at Iowa State and narrowly lost at Arkansas, but finished undefeated at home at Skelly Stadium. That's an astounding four 10-win seasons in six years for Tulsa, which will try to reach 11 and avenge the loss to Iowa State.

Cyclones to watch: Two you won't be watching? The team's leading rusher, Shontrelle Johnson (knee) and arguably its best linebacker, Jake Knott (shoulder), who are done for the season. Still, A.J. Klein is an All-Big 12 first-teamer and James White is an experienced fill-in for Johnson, and both need big games for Iowa State to earn just the fourth bowl win in school history. Freshman quarterback Sam Richardson took over late and showed promise. The team's most talented receiver Josh Lenz, who caught six touchdowns among his 29 grabs for 430 yards this season. Safety Durrell Givens proved his worth as a big-play ballhawk, too. He's picked off three passes and forced four fumbles.

Golden Hurricane to watch: For Tulsa, it all starts with its three backs: Trey Watts, Ja'Terian Douglas and Alex Singleton. Singleton racked up a crazy 21 rushing touchdowns, but the trio combined for 2,581 rushing yards this season to carry Tulsa to a league title. Nebraska transfer Cody Green, who Big 12 fans surely remember as a high-profile signee and one-time starter for the Huskers, threw for 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, racking up 2,499 yards but completed just over 54 percent of his passes. Linebacker DeAundre Brown made 125 tackles, which would have led the Big 12, and added 17 tackles for loss and eight sacks. Iowa State would be well served to make sure to know where he is on every snap.

Did you know? Iowa State played in this bowl game just once: Exactly 40 years ago back in 1972. The Cyclones went for two points and the win against Georgia Tech, but the gamble failed, and Iowa State lost. The final score: 31-30. Sound familiar? That is pure insanity.

Cyclones gut out another home win

September, 1, 2012
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The last time Iowa State played on its home field, it erased a 17-point lead against the nation's No. 2 team for the biggest win in school history.

Saturday's 38-23 victory over Tulsa wasn't quite as dramatic, but the Cyclones yet again showed guts, despite an early deficit.

Trailing 16-7 in the second quarter, the Cyclones offense was sputtering and Nebraska transfer Cody Green was completing passes with ease.

He hit Bryan Burnham for a 21-yard gain to midfield, but Cyclones linebacker Jake Knott blindsided Burnham, jarring the ball loose and turning the game in Iowa State's favor.

The Golden Hurricane scored just seven points the rest of the game, and the Cyclones fans went home happy -- all 54,931 of them, a school record for a season opener.

It wasn't pretty, and produced some nervous moments late with Green trying to rally Tulsa for a comeback of its own, but it's a win for Iowa State, and a much-needed one for a team that can't afford a nonconference loss if it wants to qualify for a third bowl in four years under Paul Rhoads.

The most welcome development: Steele Jantz's much-improved accuracy and decision-making. The Cyclones' passer was plagued by head-scratching throws into coverage and frustrating misfires that eventually led to a midseason benching last season.

He finished an impressive 32-of-45 for 281 yards with two touchdown passes and a rushing score, along with one interception off a tipped pass.

If he plays like he did on Saturday, the job will be his all season. Seeing Shontrelle Johnson back and looking like his old self is reason for celebration, too. His career was nearly over after suffering a neck injury against Texas last year. He's back, and rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown on just 18 carries.

His touchdown sealed the win after Deon Broomfield ended Tulsa's last rally with an interception. Broomfield returned it 51 yards to the Tulsa 5-yard line.

Tulsa's a good team, even if they're not on the level of what Iowa State will see in Big 12 play. Rhoads' teams have always been marked by their toughness and resiliency, and it was on display yet again in Week 1. The early struggles and late backslide will offer plenty of film-room fodder for the next week, but Iowa State can smile, knowing it's safely reached 1-0 in a game that it easily could have lost.

Video: Friday Four Downs

August, 31, 2012
8/31/12
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video

Big 12 Blogger David Ubben revisits the major storylines of Week 1 in the Big 12 in this week's Friday Four Downs.

Lunch links: Big 12-SEC games?

August, 31, 2012
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When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. I read that one on a can of lemonade. I like to think it applies to life.
The Big 12 is known for its quarterback play, but not every five-star recruit meets his potential.

Not every two or three-star is a diamond in the rough.

Sometimes, careers require a restart.

The most prominent case this weekend? Former Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert, who left high school as the nation's No. 2 quarterback and No. 11 overall prospect.

[+] EnlargeGarrett Gilbert
Brendan Maloney/US PresswireGarrett Gilbert once looked like Texas' future QB, but is now trying to restart his career at SMU.
Gilbert showed limitless promise when he was rushed into duty against Alabama for the Longhorns in the national title game to close the 2009 season. Colt McCoy suffered a shoulder injury on the opening drive, and the rest of the game was Gilbert's.

After struggling early, he hit Jordan Shipley for a pair of scores, and looked the part of McCoy's heir apparent in 2010, despite struggling with turnovers against the Tide. (What redshirt freshman wouldn't?)

He never fixed it. Gilbert threw 17 interceptions a year later as the Horns fell to 5-7, and he was benched in the second game of 2011. He never saw the field again, transferring to SMU after rushing to complete 27 hours at Texas.

That allowed him to graduate and play immediately for June Jones at SMU, where he'll get a shot against more Big 12 competition on Sunday when the Mustangs travel to Waco to face Baylor.

"That says a lot about how badly he wants to be here and what kind of person he is," Jones told reporters this offseason.

He's not the only former Big 12 quarterback getting shot against Big 12 competition in Week 1.

Cody Green signed with Nebraska in 2009 after visiting Lincoln and only Lincoln, despite interest from other major programs.

He earned playing time in 2010 and 2011, but transferred to Tulsa in July 2011 after it became clear Taylor Martinez was Nebraska's future at quarterback.

Green threw for 657 yards and five touchdowns in two seasons for the Huskers, but he's found a new home with the Golden Hurricane, who travel to Iowa State on Saturday.

After redshirting in 2011, Green is the new starter for Bill Blankenship's team.

He's already beaten Iowa State once. In 2010, he completed 7-of-12 passes for 79 yards in a 31-30 overtime win to deny Iowa State an upset win and keep Nebraska in the driver's seat for its eventual Big 12 North title.

Green's squad is once again the favorite, and a Tulsa team that has won 10 games in three of the past five seasons could make more noise with the former Husker at the helm. A win against Iowa State would be the perfect start to a season, and the Golden Hurricane were picked to finish second in the C-USA West division.

Former Missouri quarterback Ashton Glaser, who transferred to Missouri State, could jockey for time on Saturday against Kansas State. Because the Bears are an FCS program, Glaser is immediately eligible.

Glaser appeared in just one game for the Tigers over his three years in Columbia, but the Wildcats will be a familiar opponent across the sidelines in his first game at his new home.

For Gilbert and Green, the same is true.
Garrett GilbertAP Photo/Nati HarnikGarret Gilbert's experience may have given him the slight edge among the Texas quarterbacks.
A selection at quarterback often means a selection of style as well.

At Nebraska in 2010, Taylor Martinez's speed chained the more experienced Cody Green and Zac Lee to the Huskers bench. As a result, the Huskers offense looked markedly different, centered around emphasizing Martinez's speed in the zone read game while minimizing his pass attempts as necessary.

Kansas State's Collin Klein didn't win the quarterback job, but coach Bill Snyder gave the sophomore time on the field behind Carson Coffman thanks to his shifty, speedy feet.

Back in 2008, Robert Griffin's athleticism made it near impossible for Art Briles to stick with Miami transfer Kirby Freeman for more than three quarters of the season opener, giving way to a new era built on the legs of the league's best dual-threat quarterback.

At Texas? No such luck.

Offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin took ownership on Monday of Garrett Gilbert's selection, but it was not an easy decision in Austin this offseason.

"They’re all similar," coach Mack Brown told reporters on Monday.

Gilbert, Case McCoy, David Ash and Connor Wood are all over 6-foot-2 and only McCoy, at 200 pounds didn't fall between 219 and 222 pounds.

"They’re big, they’re strong, they’re smart. They’re very accurate passers," Brown said, "and that’s been one of the difficulties of separating them."

Gilbert's experience, however harrowing it may have been, is the only way to differentiate the four, save Ash's slight edge in mobility.

"There was a certain equality for them starting over in a new offense that’s very complicated," Brown said.

But it's likely that the complex offense would have looked almost identical regardless of who won the job. Which as Brown reiterated, complicates matters.

"This whole battle at quarterback has been very difficult because everybody has gotten better, and that's really what you want, and that's what we said from this position is we don't want to have a huge separation," Harsin told reporters on Monday. "We want it to be a difficult decision, and it was. And Garrett did a nice job from spring through summer into fall camp, and he's earned it."

A competition taking place between two wildly contrasting quarterbacks might have added to the intrigue, but though it complicated the selection process, it simplified the quarterbacks' criteria.

"Bryan Harsin has done a tremendous job of making sure that each have had their opportunities with the different levels of competition," Brown said. "Every pass that's been thrown in preseason has been charted. Every meeting has been charted about who missed a question and who got them right. Leadership has been a huge part of this. We've had competition in 3rd down and 4th downs on the practice field, and who did the best in those areas is a huge part of this."

There was no need to skew the scale. Identical quarterbacks means identical grading.

"He's just older. He's done it before, and that probably helped him as much as anything," Brown said of Gilbert, who started all 12 games last season, versus his competition, which has thrown a combined one career pass. It was incomplete, by the way. And thrown by McCoy in last season's opener against Rice, well before the season was lost.

The one thing about the quarterbacks that can't be identical? The results from last year, when Gilbert threw 17 interceptions to 10 touchdowns, more picks than all but one quarterback in the nation, Dwight Dasher at Middle Tennessee State. It has to be different if life in Austin is going to get any different this time around with a new coaching staff, a new offense, but the same quarterback.

"We talked very little about last year. It's something that's still in the back of your mind. ... You've got a bad taste in your mouth. I think each one of us do. But for me, I would say I can use it as motivation," Gilbert told reporters on Monday. "We don't talk about it. We don't think about it much. It's a new year. It's a new season, and so we're very excited about the prospect of moving forward."

Mailbag: Aggies/SEC, underrating, new QBs

July, 22, 2011
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Thanks for all the emails, everyone. Short day today. Have a good weekend, and we'll see you live Monday morning from Big 12 Media Days. Get excited.

Justin in Forney, Texas, asked: DU, Why are we seeing A&M back in the news with the SEC? While I understand their frustration with the Longhorn Network, I do not see their recruiting increasing by moving to the SEC. Is this going to be a recurring issue each summer?

David Ubben: Yeah, my stance has basically remained the same since A&M's flirtations with the SEC started up more than a year ago. Texas A&M's decision-makers understand the risk in moving to the SEC, as well as the historical repercussions, saying goodbye to long-standing traditions with so many of the other schools in Texas.

Fans see opportunity for the program to grow in the SEC, and it's not impossible, but I feel it's much, much more likely that Texas A&M doesn't win in the SEC at the level it's won in the Big 12, which is already to say, not a ton. I see them on par with what Arkansas is now. Once in awhile, you may see them in the championship game, but if they're going to win a conference title, it's going to be once every 10-20 years. Programs like Alabama, LSU, Florida and rising powers like Auburn, not to mention sleeping powers like Georgia and Tennessee, won't make good new roommates if the Aggies want to win.

The recruiting advantages are overstated. The majority of players growing up in Texas dream of becoming Longhorns and beating the SEC, not going and playing in the SEC. Sure, when they get older, some of them realize schools like OU and Texas A&M are a better fit, but I absolutely, 100 percent disagree that "playing in the SEC" is a big draw for kids in Texas, and something that would help the Aggies recruiting substantially. It might be for a few guys, but it's not a game-changer, and the more difficult schedule would negate, if not overtake those advantages.

So, no. I don't think we'll see this every summer. Once this issue with the Longhorn Network is settled, I think the Big 12 will be back on solid footing. It will be glued together by the billion-dollar deal from Fox that it signed earlier this offseason, and looking forward to making even more money in 2014-15 when it negotiates a new deal for first-tier rights.


Eric in Manhattan, Kan., asked: Why does David Garrett always seem to get the shaft? He is all of 5'8" and under 180 lbs, but he hits like a 230 lb linebacker. I've seen him on multiple occasion level running backs and not be scared to take on a fullback. Then on player and awards lists he's never mentioned, even though last year he had the most tackles for the Cats.

DU: Well, I think the biggest factor was a) Kansas State didn't win enough games to get a lot of attention last season and b) their team wasn't very fun to watch.

Big 12 fans, for better or worse, have come to love the spread game and like watching teams ring up points. Kansas State scored plenty last season (third-most in the Big 12, in fact), but it wasn't a very fun team to watch. More than anything else, I point to those two factors more than any one thing about Garrett himself. It's an exposure issue.

Anyone who saw him play appreciated him, but for as much of a great football player as he is, his coverage does leave a bit to be desired, and for a cornerback, that's a big deal. You'd probably hear guys like Prince Amukamara, Alfonzo Dennard, and Jamell Fleming be appreciated a lot more, because they specialize more in coverage. If Garrett does move around and play some more safety or nickel back, he'd probably get some more notice.

It's unfair, but that's just how it is. You can't really change what people want to see or notice.


Denny Hinds in Waterloo, Iowa, asked: Tiller or Jantz in your opinion? I like jantz.

DU: I can't help but look back and think of Taylor Martinez when I think of Steele Jantz. Did Martinez have his shortcomings as a quarterback? Obviously, yes. But he wasn't significantly worse than Cody Green or Zac Lee as a passer, and his ability to run provided an absolute advantage and a new facet to the offense that no one else on the roster can provide.

For that reason, I think you'll see Jantz win the job. Tiller was very unimpressive when he got chances last season, and it's hard to believe Jantz is a worse passer. But his speed changes what Iowa State can do on offense, and it's worth putting him out there versus Tiller, unless Tiller is a substantially better passer.

For now, I don't believe he is. So, Jantz it is.


Andy in St. Louis asked: Last season, Missouri had a good rushing attack. It was strength and very effective at times, but it was still only solid. Do you think that with all returning running backs, 4 returning o-lineman, and a more run-oriented QB Mizzou's run game can make the jump to elite?

DU: It's got a pretty good chance to do it. Their running backs are great, especially when you add up their production. Any coach would love to have a 1,557-yard rusher with 19 touchdowns. And all four guys averaged more than 5.2 yards per carry! That's crazy. Missouri will benefit from not having to face a team like Nebraska, a speedy defense with instinctive defensive backs and linebackers capable of shutting down the Tigers slow-developing running game that usually starts 5-7 yards in the backfield.

Nebraska really abused Missouri's offense, but the Tigers had a lot of success against just about everyone else. I'd argue Missouri was pretty close to elite in 2010. Even though the style of its running game doesn't exactly strike fear into defenses, you can't argue with the effectiveness with the running backs. Blaine Gabbert actually had 13 more carries than any running back, but only gained 232 yards on his 112 carries, dragging down the team's average into the middle of the Big 12.


Seth Doege in Lubbock, Texas, asked: Should I attempt to do the "Teach Me How To Doege" dance after I score my first TD this year?

DU: YES.


John in Broken Arrow, Okla., asked: Ubbs, if Blackmon and Weeden have another year like last year where would you rank them as far as QB-WR tandems in Big XII history?

DU: Interesting question. If Justin Blackmon repeats and wins the Biletnikoff with equal or better numbers than he had in 2010, I think you'd have to put them at least on the level -- probably higher -- than Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree.

They won't have the longevity of the success Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley ever had, but Shipley never had a season like Blackmon had last season. Blackmon put together one of the all-time great seasons in college football history. It's been repeated ad nauseum, but I'm not sure people fully appreciate how difficult it is to account for 100 yards and a touchdown in every single game. No one had ever done that before. We might never see it again.

If nothing else, that might put Blackmon over the top.

Links: Aggie brass not (yet) talking SEC

July, 19, 2011
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Hard to believe, but this literally needs more cowbell.

Lunch links: More Longhorn Network details

July, 8, 2011
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Back in the Natural State.
Last month, Nebraska quarterback Cody Green announced his plans to transfer.

[+] EnlargeCody Green
Brett Davis/US PresswireCody Green is leaving Nebraska and a few Big 12 schools are on his list of possible landing spots.
Now, in an interview with HuskerOnline.com, Green says he could end up staying in the Big 12. Texas A&M, Baylor and Kansas State joined Tulsa and Houston as schools Green is considering.

"Mostly the guys who already I had a previous relationship with through high school. They were all right there the minute I declared I was going to leave," he said. "I made a visit to Kansas State this week and it went well. Coach [Bill] Snyder and those guys are a class act. When you have a legend like coach Snyder, everything feeds off of him. He's like coach [Tom] Osborne in that way."

Green signed with Nebraska in 2009 as the nation's No. 32 athlete. Rivals.com ranked him as the nation's No. 6 dual-threat quarterback. Since coming to Lincoln, he's started four games and appeared in 18 in two seasons on the field.

In 2009, he spent most of his time backing up Zac Lee, and in 2010, freshman Taylor Martinez.

The Dayton, Texas native has completed 66-of-122 passes for 657 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions.

Green told the site he had been considering transferring for a year, and planned to switch to wide receiver or tight end until injuries to Martinez and Lee forced him back into a starting role in a win against Iowa State. He also admitted that he played most of the game after suffering a concussion.

"I don't think I got as many quality chances as I could have had. It was just one of those things where I'd go in and make a mistake and get pulled. It was frustrating," he told the site.

Early last season, with Martinez becoming a star and the Huskers getting commitments from 2011 signees Bubba Starling and Jamal Turner, I heard from a few unhappy Nebraska fans when I suggested Green's future as a Husker might be abbreviated. Now, that's the case.

As for his future home, I could see him staying in the Big 12. If he sits out next season per NCAA rules, he'll have two years of eligibility remaining.

Texas A&M is a bit of a stretch. Johnny Manziel and Jameill Showers are the likely favorites to replace Ryan Tannehill next year, and even with Green's experience, I doubt his ability to unseat either of them.

As for Baylor and Kansas State, those could both be attractive options. He'd have to beat out some competition at Kansas State, but the Wildcats haven't had a quarterback with his experience or credentials on its roster. Unless Collin Klein, Sammuel Lamur or Justin Tuggle gets a firm grasp of the job this season, the job could be open again next spring.

Baylor's Robert Griffin III, a junior in 2011, has indicated to me on a couple of occasions that he plans to stay in Waco for all four seasons. Behind him, the Bears are thin at quarterback beyond Nick Florence, who started nine games for Baylor in 2009 with mixed results during a 4-8 campaign. Florence, however, is a junior like Griffin and will be gone after the 2012 season. Green could add a lot there if he's willing to wait out both. Like Griffin, Green is a mobile quarterback who Art Briles could build his offense around, though Griffin is clearly a much more talented passer.

Green's future is definitely something to keep an eye on, so even though the Huskers are heading to the Big Ten, we could see a former Nebraska quarterback back in the league very soon.
Nebraska is officially part of the Big Ten blog, and the welcome wagon hasn't stopped rolling.

To help us learn more about the Huskers, I've reached out to colleague David Ubben from the Big 12 blog. David knows all about Big Red and covered Nebraska during its transition from the Big 12 to the Big Ten. After being nice enough to hand off the Huskers -- actually, I had to pry them from his hands -- Ubben took some time to talk about the Big Ten's newest member.

Let's go back to June 11. What was your initial reaction to Nebraska leaving the Big 12 for the Big Ten?

David Ubben: Ha, well it was certainly an unpopular one among the Nebraska supporters. I thought it was a great move for the university and the football program, but a huge, huge blow to the future stability of the Big 12.

In short, I equated Nebraska leaving to pulling the pin on the Texas Grenade that would blow up the Big 12.

Obviously, that's not what ended up happening, and for a fan base that since June has despised all things Big 12, I was surprised at how much the Huskers didn't want to be blamed for the Big 12's demise. One would think they would relish in it.

At the core, I think there was some fear from fans that their Huskers might be villainized as a program for the self-serving move, but that's not at all what happened to Arkansas, who certainly did much of the same thing to the Southwest Conference when it left for the SEC.

Back to your original question, though, Nebraska leaving definitely meant a weaker Big 12 if it continued to exist moving forward, and anyone who wants to try to argue otherwise is kidding themselves. Nebraska did what it needed to do: secure infinitely more stability and a good amount of cash with a move to the Big Ten, as well as the academic prestige that comes with, to borrow a phrase from deservedly maligned Missouri governor Jay Nixon, aligning themselves with Northwestern and Wisconsin rather than Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.

Yeah, anytime a school wants to upgrade its league, it should remember Mizzou and do exactly the opposite. But back to Nebraska. People know about the national championships, Dr. Tom and the option offense. What should Big Ten fans know about the current Nebraska program and its fan base as the Huskers transition to the conference?

[+] EnlargeMemorial Stadium
Eric Francis/Getty ImagesNebraska's Memorial Stadium has been sold out for every single home game since Nov. 3, 1962.
DU: Nebraska's biggest asset is its fan base. People like to knock Huskers fans for being a bit full of themselves, but they have reason to be. They're going to rival any team in the Big Ten when it comes to traveling for road games. Prepare yourselves for a sea of red in your stadiums when Nebraska comes.

One big reason? It might be tougher to get a ticket to see the Huskers in Lincoln. Every single home game has been sold out since Nov. 3, 1962, a streak of 311 games. That's an NCAA record, of course. The ones who do make it into Memorial Stadium on fall Saturdays enter under permanent signs that read "Through these gates pass the Greatest Fans in College Football."

Is it obnoxious? Yes. Will it turn off a few opposing fans? Most definitely.

But I would argue that it's not inaccurate.

Husker fans are voracious supporters. They love their team. They know their team. They read about and are opinionated about their team. They spend money on their team. Any other fan base should admire at least that much. Because of that devotion, among other things, the program is one of college football's blue bloods and is able to make a big move that will benefit the program tremendously.

Let's talk about the team itself. Bo Pelini is an Ohio guy, and his track record on defense speaks for itself. Nebraska has seemed more up and down on the offensive side. How do you see the Huskers' style translating to the Big Ten?

DU: That's presuming Nebraska has an offensive style. Nebraska was all about the run early in the year, and ran over and around just about everybody in the first half of the season. Since no one could stop it, they didn't have to throw much, and when they did, they were so, so dangerous.

But the offense slowed late in the season, and I thought they relied on Taylor Martinez to simply drop back and pass way too often and didn't run the zone read enough.

The latest word from Nebraska's recruits is they want an offense that most closely resembles Oregon's, likely minus the dizzying tempo. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson would describe his offense as a bit of a hybrid between Oregon's offense and the West Coast passing attack, but he looks like he's on his way out.

I'm a big believer that you have to do what suits your personnel, and with a zone-read whiz like Martinez and quality running backs like Nebraska has, it would seem that's a good fit.

On the whole, though, Martinez has to continue to develop as a passer to really give the best defenses trouble. How much of that happens over the next three years will determine how successful they ultimately are. If he can't do it, there's nothing saying he's guaranteed to be the starter above incoming freshmen Bubba Starling (if he stays with football and doesn't sign an MLB contract) and Jamal Turner. Even Cody Green, who played when Martinez was injured this year, could earn some quality snaps if Martinez struggles as a sophomore.

Wow, sounds like we could soon have a QB controversy. Interesting. What do you think will be the biggest adjustments for Nebraska in transitioning from the Big 12 to the Big Ten?

DU: I'm a big believer in Pelini as a defensive coach, so I think they'll be able to make these adjustments eventually, but they're going to have to change the type of players they recruit defensively. You need so many defensive backs (and good ones) to have success in the Big 12, and winning the line of scrimmage will put you over the top, but teams like Missouri and Texas Tech have had success in the league without doing it on a consistent basis.

The Big Ten is all about the beef up front. The Huskers are big and fast on the defensive line with guys like Jared Crick and Baker Steinkuhler. I don't see many problems there.

Nebraska's best linebacker this year, Lavonte David, made a Big 12-best 152 tackles. He also happens to be 210 pounds. Players like him, while they're incredibly valuable in the Big 12 for their ability to make plays in coverage and provide a speed rush, will be marginalized in Nebraska's future for bigger, run-stopping linebackers.

There will be all kinds of things that will have to change, but the type of defensive personnel will be No. 1 on the list. Specifically, Nebraska will need more, bigger linebackers and fewer defensive backs.

Nebraska always has recruited so well in the state of Texas. How do you think the move to the Big Ten will impact Nebraska's recruiting strategy?

[+] EnlargeJamal Turner
Cliff Welch/Icon SMI Now that it's left the Big 12, Nebraska will have more difficulty luring elite Texas high school players like Jamal Turner.
DU: Oh, what a contentious question. So, so much disagreement on this issue.

I don't think there will be a time when Nebraska just has no one from Texas, but their success in the state will take a considerable hit with the move. I do believe the Huskers should continue to recruit the state, but I also think they need to take some of those efforts and resources previously allocated toward Texas and use them to start scraping the Rust Belt and compete with their new conference mates, rather than their old ones.

Pelini knows the area well, and I think the Huskers will have some success doing it. They had a huge year in 2011 in Texas, getting three top-tier, ESPNU 150 players in ATH/QB Jamal Turner, RB Aaron Green and CB Charles Jackson.

I do believe they can keep getting some talent like that in 2012 and 2013, but as recruits and their families really realize what life is like as a parent of a Texas kid playing in the Big Ten, they'll realize why so few Texas recruits elect to play in the Big Ten. I talked with Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville about this issue last week actually, and he said for most families, it's a huge deal. Watching on TV simply isn't the same thing as going to games, home or away. And the facts are, a lot of families can't afford to fly to a ton of games.

Nebraska traditionally only played one or two games in Texas during a season, three if they made the Big 12 title game and it was in Texas. That doesn't sound like many, but look at it this way, unless you can pay for a flight or make a ridiculously long drive, you're talking about going four or five months without seeing your son versus around two or fewer if they play games in Texas.

So in short, I don't think there will be a time when Nebraska absolutely can't recruit in Texas, but they need to take advantage of their new opportunities in Ohio and Michigan, too, as compensation for the guys who won't want to play up North.

OK, you're on the spot. How do the Huskers fare in Year 1 in the Big Ten, which has already branded them a legendary team in the Legends division?

DU: The Big Ten certainly didn't do them any favors with their first-year schedule, booking them for trips to Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan. Hosting Iowa, Michigan State and Ohio State is going to be tough, and they have to play the Buckeyes in the first game with their five suspended players back. Who knows what happens there?

With a still-maturing passer who won't have a ton of help at receiver, they'll have some struggles offensively, but they should be solid again on the defensive end.

I'll say 9-3 or 8-4. Short of what you might call a Legendary season, but certainly a good one.

Thanks to David for his time, and stay tuned as we'll both have more on Nebraska's move to the Big Ten.
That was pretty shocking. I didn't give Washington much chance to win, and I don't think I was alone there. The Huskies proved us all wrong with a 19-7 victory.

How the game was won: Washington got physical and overpowered Nebraska's defensive line up front for 60 minutes. The Huskies had some success doing it the first time around, but a poor defensive performance kept them from doing it enough to win the game. The defense got it done this time, Washington's offensive line got consistent pushes up front and Jake Locker only had to throw into the Blackshirts fearsome secondary when he wanted to. More often, he used his legs to make plays, on called runs and scrambles as part of that success running the ball. The Huskies rode Locker and Chris Polk to a 268-yard rushing night and a convincing win over a team almost no one picked them to beat.

The Huskers, meanwhile, made constant mistakes, lost the turnover battle 2-0 and were penalized 12 times for 102 yards. One of the most costly came in the fourth quarter after a goal-line stand that looked like it might swing momentum with the Huskers trailing 17-7. Cody Green ran for a first down, but All-Big 12 guard Ricky Henry was called for holding in the end zone, resulting in a safety, which stretched the deficit to 19-7 and gave the ball back to the Huskies. Blame the supposed scapegoat, the dreaded "lack of motivation" if you'd like, but the Huskers' lack of execution in all three phases of the game is a bigger reason for the loss. I never, ever would have pegged Nebraska for seven points against Washington's defense after ringing up 56 in Seattle with three 100-yard rushers back in September.

Turning point: Locker scored on a 25-yard run early in the third quarter to cap a four-play, 53-yard drive that put Washington up 17-7. The game teetered at halftime even though the Huskies had dominated the line of scrimmage, but Locker's emotional run shifted control of the game firmly in Washington's favor.

Turning point II: Locker's return. The quarterback took a nasty-looking hit and remained on the ground for several minutes early in the second quarter. He left the game for a few plays, but was able to return and lead his team to a big bowl win after a winless season in 2008 and no bowl appearances since 2002. I don't wear hats often, but if I did, mine would be off to Steve Sarkisian. This was impressive.

Stat of the game: This wasn't the prettiest passing game. All the quarterbacks combined threw for 170 yards, a touchdown and an interception on 16-of-40 passing.

Player of the game: Jake Locker, QB, Washington. Polk racked up the yards, but Locker played smart, tough, and made plays with his feet. Polk and the offensive line have a legitimate case for player of the game, but Locker kept the Huskies' offense rolling and did exactly what he had to do for his team to win. Considering the nightmare outing he had last time against the Blackshirts, it's even more impressive.

Record performance: Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David topped 150 tackles on the season for a single-season school record in just his first year on the field. The junior juco transfer broke former Blackshirt Barrett Ruud's previous record of 149 tackles in 2003.

What it means: Nebraska's season began with so much promise. National championship aspirations arose following a thorough Thursday night undressing of Kansas State to move to 5-0. A loss to Texas and Taylor Martinez's midseason ankle injury were speed bumps for the Big 12 North champions, but a pair of offensive clunkers against Oklahoma and Washington end the Huskers' season with a frustrating thud on the way to the Big Ten.

Conference-wide, it's another loss for the Big 12, who is now 1-4 in bowl games and no loss was more shocking. The Huskers entered as two-touchdown favorites, and were completely outplayed in every way.

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Lunch links: Mark Mangino to Nebraska?

December, 28, 2010
12/28/10
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They call me the Hiphopopotamus, my lyrics are bottomless.

Burkhead gives Huskers QB play a boost

December, 2, 2010
12/02/10
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Nebraska's game Saturday will begin the same way its season did: with everyone in attendance waiting to see who trots out to quarterback the offense on the opening series.

Taylor Martinez broke a 46-yard run in that game on his first career carry, and ran his way into the midseason Heisman conversation before being slowed by injuries and better defenses. A gimpy right ankle and nagging turf toe on his left foot kept him out of last week's North-clinching win over Colorado, and could slow him on Saturday.

[+] EnlargeNebraska's Rex Burkhead
Eric Francis/Getty ImagesRex Burkhead rushed for 101 yards last week against Colorado, but also threw two touchdown passes.
Martinez was a full participant in practice on Wednesday, but left the field with his left foot in a protective boot.

Zac Lee and, most recently, Cody Green, have filled in for Martinez. Green has yet to top 100 yards passing in a game this year, but made his best start of the season with plenty on the line against the Buffaloes, completing 10 of 13 passes for 80 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Martinez torched Oklahoma State for 323 yards in a 51-41 win earlier this year, but since then he Martinez topped out at 167 yards passing against Kansas -- one of just two teams in the Big 12 giving up over six yards per play on defense.

In short, as conference play has progressed, the Huskers quarterbacks have been uninspiring through the air. Nebraska's offensive line and the Huskers third "quarterback" might make that deficiency irrelevant.

"He has an impact on the game in a lot of different ways," said Nebraska coach Bo Pelini of running back/part-time quarterback Rex Burkhead.

Burkhead saw plenty of snaps out of Nebraska's Wildcat package against Colorado, and finished with 101 yards rushing and a touchdown. Defenses are forced to respect the high school quarterback's arm, too.

Burkhead threw his first two passes of the season against the Buffaloes. Both went for touchdowns, including a 26-yard rainbow down the right sideline to Brandon Kinnie.

"Nothing he does surprises me," Pelini said. "He does so many things to make a football team better."

Most of the time, that's playing a role as a traditional running back alongside Roy Helu Jr.

"Everyone focuses on the Wildcat, but he runs the ball hard, he's efficient, he can run inside or outside," Pelini said. "He's just a tremendous football player who's continuing to develop and get better."

Running the ball got Nebraska into the Big 12 title game; with 178 yards, Burkhead could become the Huskers third 1,000-yard rusher this season. If it beats Oklahoma for the Big 12 title game, it'll probably be because of that run game.

But if Burkhead has to take snaps in lieu of ineffectiveness from Green or Martinez, it should make running the ball significantly easier.

"They’re physical. It’s going to be a real physical game. They like to run the ball," Oklahoma defensive end Jeremy Beal said, "and we’ll have to stop the run to win the game."

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