STILLWATER — It is the matchup everyone has been talking about.
At some point this afternoon, Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon will gaze across the line of scrimmage and see Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara, lined up in man-to-man coverage.
If Blackmon or Amukamara can consistently win the one-on-one battle — a matchup so big ESPN's Todd McShay singled it out as the top one-on-one matchup of the week — it could decide the outcome of the final Big 12 conference meeting between the Cowboys and the Huskers. Nebraska plays OSU at 2:30 p.m. today at Boone Pickens Stadium.
Nebraska features arguably the best secondary in the nation and Amukamara leads the way. The Cornhusker's pass defense, ranked No. 1 nationally, is built on man-to-man coverage.
"They have good corners and they feel good about them," offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen said. "They're going to play man coverage. That's just what they do. They're going to rely on their athleticism and the coverage ability of the corners."
At 6-foot-1, 202 pounds with exceptional closing speed and athleticism, Amukamara is everything NFL teams look for in a cornerback. He ranks No. 3 overall on the "Big Board" of ESPN NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper.
Blackmon, meanwhile, has proven to be unstoppable this season with 57 receptions for 955 yards and 12 touchdown catches. At 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, Blackmon is a big target with a unique combination of great body control, hands and athleticism.
Both players will be the biggest test of the season for their counterpart.
"It's going to be fun to watch," quarterback Brandon Weeden said. "(Blackmon) has a tough test ahead of him but he'll be ready."
Blackmon appears ready to accept the challenge of playing Amukamara. Last season, Blackmon went against current Denver Bronco and former Cowboy Perrish Cox in practice. And, one of his best games of 2009 came against Texas, one of the few teams in the nation featuring cornerbacks who rival Nebraska's superb cornerbacks.
"(Playing against) guys like that make him better," Weeden said. "Watching him go against (current NFL cornerback Perrish) Cox and guys like that make him better. That's part of the reason he's so good this year."
Blackmon winning the one-on-one battle would force Nebraska to double the sophomore receiver, opening potential running lanes for running back Kendall Hunter and one-on-one opportunities for OSU's other receivers.
"Anytime I see man coverage one-on-one, I lick my chops," Weeden said. "But they'll have a good game plan and so will we. It will be fun to watch, I guarantee that."
If Amukamara wins, it allows Nebraska to focus on shutting down Hunter and the Pokes' running game without worrying about giving up huge numbers to the nation's top receiver.
"There are going to be matchups where we have to win," Holgorsen said. "It's going to be important for (Justin) to win and it's going to be important for our other skill guys to win (their) matchups as well."