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November 30, 2010

The Husker Buzz: More than just a game

Heading into 2010 this year was about two things to most Nebraska fans. No. 1 Husker fans wanted to win the Big 12 championship and No. 2 they wanted to play in a BCS bowl game.

NU hasn't won a league championship since 1999 and they haven't played in BCS bowl game since 2001.

On Saturday they can accomplish both of these things with a win over No. 9 ranked Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship game.

A loss on Saturday will mean a trip back to another mid-tier bowl game, which NU fans have become accustomed to over the last 10 years.

Since 2001 Nebraska has played in the Independence Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, the Gator Bowl, the Holiday Bowl and two Alamo Bowls.

That's why Saturday's Big 12 Championship game is so important to this program. For head coach Bo Pelini the pressure is on.

A loss in Cowboys Stadium on Saturday probably means a trip to the Insight Bowl in Phoenix and that would be considered a disappointment to most Husker fans, because it's no different than the spot they've been in nearly every December since the 2001 Rose Bowl game against Miami.

There's no question the Huskers have taken some major steps as a program this season, but Saturday offers them the opportunity to finish things the right way.

You can just sense the pressure on NU and Pelini mounting as things get closer to kickoff. For the first time during the regular season Pelini has limited the access to his players.

Nebraska's players were only available for about 10 or 15 minutes following Monday's practice and they were not allowed to talk at the traditional Tuesday press conference.

Pelini doesn't want his team to think about Saturday's game against the Sooners by overstating the obvious how big this opportunity is.

Conference championships and national championships are what define success at Nebraska. Sure victories in the Gator Bowl and the Holiday Bowl are nice, but Saturday is NU's true bowl game.

The quarterback situation heading into the Big 12 Championship game remains dicey as the Huskers approach midweek.

If I had to guess right now, the reading from offensive coordinator Shawn Watson is he wants Taylor Martinez to start.

Without Martinez, this offense has been pretty limited and I think getting him back on Saturday will open more things up.

With that being said, I also think we still could see Cody Green play. Green took some big steps in last week's win over Colorado and now has the confidence that he can get the job done if called upon again this week.

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Just looking at the All Big 12 team, I think Nebraska came out pretty well on Tuesday. Seeing five first-team and three second-team selections on the defense shows just how respected this unit is by the league's coaches.

The two things I had a problem with though in the All Big 12 team were with Alex Henery not making it as the first team kicker or punter and defensive back DeJon Gomes being snubbed all together.

I guess I don't quite understand what the fascination is with Oklahoma State kicker Dan Bailey. Henery is better than him in nearly every statistical category, but Bailey did have more attempts and field goals made. Henery's only miss came on a blocked kick.

Talk to any NFL scout and I'll bet you a steak dinner they'll tell you who the best kicker in the Big 12 is. Former Husker and NFL kicker Kris Brown told me Henery is way better than he ever was at this stage of the game and Brown has been kicking in the NFL since 1999.

Maybe I'm biased because I've covered Henery since he was in high school, but I have truly never seen a better kicker than him in the years I've watched college football. Hopefully the media team gets it right. I know one prominent Big 12 writer told me on Friday that his vote is going to Henery on the media team and not to Bailey.

As for Gomes, just look at the defensive back statistics and tell me how he's not deserving of at least second-team honors considering the fact the Big 12 put 11 defensive backs on the first and the second team defenses.

It will be interesting to see what direction the media goes later this week. I'd imagine we'll see a few differences on the first and second teams. Daniel Thomas making the second team also was a surprise to me. I thought he deserved first team honors over Oklahoma's Demarco Murray.

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A lot of Husker fans are looking for spots to party at Friday night in Dallas. I can tell you of two different things going on right now.

Our friends at the Huskers Sports Network will be broadcasting live from Lone Star at the Sundance Square in Fort Worth, while the famous Sidetracks Band will once again be playing at Humperdink's in Arlington.

A spokesman for Humperdinks told me they will have a tent set up this year to try and handle some of the overflow crowd when the band starts to play. Humperdink's will also offer a round trip shuttle to and from the stadium on Saturday starting at 3 pm for $10.

My early guess on fan totals right now is at least 40,000 will be in Arlington this weekend. NU fans have had several weeks to suck up tickets and there seems to be even a bigger late rush of people trying to get down. Travel safe. This should be a day to remember.


Sean Callahan can be reached at sean@Huskeronline.com and he can be heard each day at 6:50 am and 4:50 pm on Big Red Radio 1110 KFAB in Omaha. He can also be seen on WOWT TV in Omaha four nights per week during the fall and each week he appears on NET's Big Red Wrap Tuesday's at 7 pm.



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