Saturday, December 5, 2009
Pregame ponderables from Big 12 title game
By Tim Griffin
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The South Division has dominated play in these recent Big 12 title games.
Most people expect more of the same tonight with Texas heavily favored to beat Nebraska.
Here are some of the things I'll be watching during the game tonight to see if the No. 3 Longhorns can continue that trend.
- Will Nebraska be able to exploit an advantage they feel is in place for inside running? Although Texas ranks as the nation's leading rushing team, Nebraska coaches believe they can run the ball "downhill" with Roy Helu Jr. and Rex Burkhead. Watch for this to happen early. If Nebraska can gain some momentum, it will be a good sign for their chances.
- Keep Zac Lee in favorable down-and-distance situations. Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson has done a good job of pulling in the reigns of his unit over the Cornhuskers' five-game winning streak. They haven't asked Lee to beat people, but have kept him in good situations. It will have to be that way tonight as well. If they can keep Lee in third-and-2 and third-and-4 and out of third-and-8 or third-and-10, it will make it much easier on him and the Cornhuskers.
- Can the secondary check the second and third Texas receivers? The Cornhuskers' have a couple of first-team All-Big 12 players in Prince Amukamara and Larry Asante. That group will have to do a good job to check the receivers other than Jordan Shipley who have emerged for Texas over the last several weeks.
And here are some items that Texas needs to watch tonight:
- Colt McCoy can't get frustrated. The Longhorns will be facing their toughest defensive challenge since Oklahoma. Heck, tonight's challenge might be tougher than the Sooners. McCoy could likely find yards difficult to come by. He doesn't have to play the perfect game to beat the Cornhuskers or put the finishing touches on his Heisman Trophy bid. But his statistics likely won't be anything like they were last week at Texas A&M. If he has some early struggles, he can't get down about his effort as he seemed to do at times during the Oklahoma game.
- Come back Sergio: Coming into the season, Texas defensive end Sergio Kindle was expected to be their top defensive player and a sack-producing machine. He's been tied up by double-team blocks by opposing teams, but his numbers haven't been anywhere near what was expected. Tonight in his final college game in his hometown area would be a big time night for a huge time game from Kindle.
- Make their special teams come through: Alex Henery and Adi Kunalic have been weapons all season for Nebraska in dictating field position. But Texas is pretty good in returns, averaging 28.3 yards on kickoffs and 13.4 yards on punts. The Longhorns also have blocked five kicks and Hunter Lawrence has converted 20 of 23 field goals. Whoever wins on special teams will have a big edge tonight.
A crowd of more than 80,000 is expected, making this crowd the largest in Big 12 history for a championship game. Almost all of the fans are in their seats and looks to be about 80 percent Texas supporters inside the stadium.