Oklahoma fans shouldn't place too much stock in Nebraska's shootout win over Oklahoma State.
Ranked fifth nationally in total defense, a unit best known by its nickname, the Blackshirts must play well against Oklahoma's high-powered offense if the Cornhuskers are to post an upset Saturday night in the Big 12 title game.
â€œThey play with a lot of confidence and swagger, but they also play with a lot of knowledge,â€ said OU offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. â€œIf they get worked on any play, the next time you come back to that, they make an adjustment and get it fixed.â€
Because the Cowboys compiled 495 yards in a 51-41 loss to Nebraska in Stillwater, there's a misperception Nebraska's defense is overrated.
In the Cornhuskers' other 11 games, opponents have averaged 273.3 yards and 14.5 points.
â€œThe impressive thing is every play is challenged,â€ Wilson said. â€œEvery play is competitive across the board.â€
Nebraska runs a unique scheme, often times using seven defensive backs/hybrid players. The Blackshirts play man coverage. Receivers have trouble getting open.
The Cornhuskers, who are one of only three teams in the country to hold opponents to less than 50 percent completion percentage, will try to take way bubble screens and quick slant passes the Sooners have thrived on. Nebraska, though, can be vulnerable against the run (OSU's Kendall Hunter rushed for 201 yards).
â€œEvery week you emphasize one thing more than something else,â€ said OU offensive tackle Eric Mensik. â€œWe've got to be able to pound the ball and also give Landry (Jones) time to take some shots over the top. But their secondary is really good.â€
Cornerback Prince Amukamara was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year by coaches. Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard and safety Eric Hagg have combined for nine interceptions. Lavonte David, the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year, has 128 tackles.
Up front, Nebraska plays physical. Defensive tackle Jared Crick (71/2 sacks) might be a first-round NFL pick.
â€œEvery play, their guys up front are fighting with the offensive line, very competitive,â€ Wilson said. â€œGuys are locking up receivers. They're grabbing, mugging, hanging on to you, make you work. You're not going to get an easy pass. It will be an interesting challenge."
Three games represent the Blackshirts' potential:
*Washington quarterback Jake Locker was supposed to test the Cornhuskers early in the season. Locker was 4-of-20 for 71 yards passing.
*Texas A&M scored 33 points two weeks earlier against OU, but the Aggies won a battle of field goals, escaping 9-6.
*Kansas is the worst team in the conference. But holding any team to 87 total yards and five first downs is impressive.
Only once have the Sooners failed to score a touchdown in the Bob Stoops era. It was last year's 10-3 loss in Lincoln.
Jones threw five interceptions. The Sooners missed three field goals. They turned it over on downs three times inside the Nebraska 25 and failed to convert on fourth-and-1 at the 20.
â€œLast year, we moved the ball well against them, but they really stuffed us and we didn't get a lot once we got to the red zone,â€ Stoops said. â€œThey made more plays and stopped us. A big key is, can we move the ball and also score in the red zone?â€
But this is a different OU offense loaded with weapons such as Jones, Ryan Broyles, DeMarco Murray, Roy Finch and Kenny Stills.
Last year's offense was plagued by injuries, penalties, turnovers and a quarterback learning on the job.
â€œWe struggled with a whole bunch of people a year ago,â€ Stoops said. â€œA year ago is a year ago. But their pressure is always good. They always have good schemes.â€
Because Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez isn't expected to be near 100 percent, the Cornhuskers' best shot at an upset is to have the Blackshirts keep the score down similar to last year's Big 12 title game against Texas.
â€œIt's a good test,â€ Mensik said. â€œTheir defense is really good. Nebraska has had a heck of a season. To go against one of the top defenses in the nation is very exciting. It will be an interesting matchup.â€