What The Big 12 Title Game Taught Us

  • Monday, December 7, 2009 10:22 AM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl

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If you watched the Big 12 Championship Game on Saturday, you watched a classic. You don't see many games where both teams storm the field to celebrate victory. And amid all the excitement, confusion and disbelief the game provided, we learned a lot about both teams (and a little bit about college football). The rundown:

Ndamukong Suh is the best player in the college football. That will have to be enough to satisfy him and his fans, since he won't win the Heisman. But his incredible performance against Texas (which Brent Musburger called the greatest he'd ever seen) has at least earned him support, and a trip to the Heisman Trophy ceremony isn't out of the question.

Cincinnati was one second from playing in the national championship. They may be from the Big East, but the Bearcats get respect like they play in the MWC. Playing for the championship would have been a great opportunity to further prove the increasingly parity of college football. Instead, we got yet another awkward marriage, brought to you by the BCS.

This game's finish was a bone-chilling reincarnation of the 1994 Orange Bowl. Picture this: Nebraska scores and takes a late fourth-quarter lead against a team it has no business competing with. It drives the kickoff out-of-bounds, then pitches in another defensive penalty to set up the favored team for a game-winning field goal. Which game am I talking about? Both. The way Nebraska's 2009 loss to Texas mirrors its 18-16 loss to Florida State more than 15 years ago can mean only one thing: There is a God, and He has a sense of humor. The good news for Nebraska: After that loss, the program went 49-2 and won three national championships in four years.

Colt McCoy was about as nervous and skittish as a punted kitten. Who could blame him? He was sacked nine times and tossed three interceptions, and he very nearly lost the game for his team by extending his final snap almost until the clock expired (technically it did, but was resuscitated upon further review). He spent most of his time on the sidelines holding his head in his hands and spent most of his time in the pocket running out of it and away from Nebraska's mammoth defensive line. Was there ever a moment when McCoy's feet were planted behind center and he wasn't hurried by pressure coming at him from all directions? Ask him in 10 years: This will go down as the most flustered performance of his career.

Adi Kunalic's net contribution to Nebraska is officially and forever negative. No amount of touchbacks can make up for kicking the ball out-of-bounds on a kickoff with less than two minutes left. Without that penalty, there's no way Texas scores and wins the game. Kunalic's error gave Texas the ball at the 40-yard line, which was almost all the help Texas needed to get itself into field goal range. Why do I say almost? Well ...

Larry Asante has a one-personal-foul-per-game quota to fill. His horsecollar of Jordan Shipley after a catch moved the Longhorns another 15 yards down the field, putting them in field-goal range. Had Larry Asante simply sat on the ground and cried, another Husker defender would have grabbed Shipley after another two or three yards. "The Assassin" picked up where Kunalic left off, completing the screw job.

The Longhorns' offense is one-dimensional against formidable defenses. Colt McCoy is UT's rushing leader this season. Except for a few timely quarterback draws, that facet of offense was lacking -- and Nebraska was only bringing four defenders into the backfield on most plays. I don't see how McCoy can light it up through the air against any team that drops back six defenders, much less seven, and I don't see why Alabama would have any reason not to drop back and swarm the Texas receivers in coverage.

Nebraska will be a powerhouse soon enough. The Huskers have got all the right components, the most important being a stable, swarming defense. If you look around college football, all the great programs of the moment have great defenses. Great teams might get by with great offenses (Missouri had its moments in the past; same with Kansas; and Texas Tech has always knocked at the threshold) but great programs are built on defense. Nebraska's offense could be worse, sure, but it could be a lot better. A friend pointed out that if Nebraska's offense from 2008 had taken the field with this year's defense, that team would be in the national championship game. No truer words have been spoken.

Texas will lose to Alabama. The Horns have been far short of amazing this season, and Alabama is too strong all-around.

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