No. 10 Oklahoma Sooners (10-2, 7-5 ATS) vs. No. 13 Nebraska Cornhuskers (10-2, 5-7 ATS), Saturday December 4th, 8:00PM Eastern Cowboys Stadium Arlington, T.X.
By Jay Horne, College Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Betting Odds: Okl -3.5/Neb +3.5
The no. 10 Oklahoma Sooners punched their ticket to the Big 12 Championship last Saturday by taking down Oklahoma State in the Bedlam Rivalry 47-41. Oklahoma will now face the no. 13 Nebraska Cornhuskers this Saturday at Cowboys Stadium with a trip to the Fiesta Bowl on the line. The Cornhuskers punched their ticket to the Big 12 Title game last week by handling business against Colorado in 45-17 fashion. For the Cornhuskers, this is their last season before departing to the Big Ten. If Nebraska could pull off a victory it would send them out on top of the Big 12 in a storybook type departure.
However, the Sooners are equipped with the Big 12’s highest scoring offense averaging 39.2 points per game. QB Landry Jones tied the school record with 468 passing yards last week as against Oklahoma State with 4 passing touchdowns. The Sooners own the nation’s 4th best pass offense averaging 336 yards per game and Jones has especially played well in recent weeks. WR Ryan Broyles has been names as a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award which is given annually to the nation’s top wide receiver. So far this season, Broyles has racked up 1,391 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. The big question heading into this Saturday is will the Sooners passing attack being able to continue their success against possibly the best pass defense in America?
The Cornhuskers rank 2nd against the pass allowing a measly 144 yards per game through the air. So far this season Nebraska has held 3 of the best passing offenses in the conference in Texas A&M, Missouri, and Oklahoma State to just 218 passing yards on average. It is also safe to say that the Cornhuskers defense will be the best all around unit that Oklahoma has faced all year. Nebraska has held opponents to 291 yards per game while giving up just over 16 points on average. It will be interesting to see if Nebraska’s defense can sustain the surging Oklahoma offense this Saturday.
If Nebraska is able to get some solid effort from their defense, they will likely try to control the ball with their strong rushing attack. The Cornhuskers rank 8th overall in rushing averaging 269 yards per game. QB Taylor Martinez was held out of last game as he continues to recuperate an ankle injury. Martinez definitely gives Nebraska their best opportunity to win. The Cornhuskers quarterback is 2nd on the team in rushing with 974 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. Nebraska runs a heavy triple options style offense with tailbacks Roy Helu Jr. and Rex Burkhead.
Helu Jr. has been really explosive this season as he leads the team with 1,120 yards and 10 touchdowns. However, Burkhead is equally dangerous as he proved last week rushing 19 times for 101 yards. Burkhead led the offense in the wildcat formation on several drives last week in attempt to take some of the pressure of backup QB Cody Green. Look for some similar situations with Burkhead in the wildcat even if Martinez is full go this weekend simply because the Cornhuskers had so much success last week. The Cornhuskers will need everything to go their way in the running game. Not only are they not a very strong passing team, but they lost leading WR Niles Paul to a foot injury which will only damper the Cornhuskers passing efforts even more.
Another big x-factor in this Saturday’s match-up will be the turnovers which are always important in the big games. Oklahoma has one of the best turnover ratios in the entire country at .92. However, Landry Jones did throw 3 picks last week and one of those was returned for a touchdown. Plays like that will absolutely destroy chances of capturing a Big 12 Title this Saturday. In Nebraska’s only two losses this year, they have lost the turnover war. Therefore, if the Sooners can force a few turnovers it will greatly enhance their chances of taking down the championship as well.
Jay’s pick to cover the point spread: I really believe that Nebraska is the better team all the way around. I do not see Oklahoma’s defense stopping the Cornhuskers often but I believe Nebraska will in return limit the Sooners passing attack. Unless this game gets blown open by big plays, I expect the Cornhuskers to get the job done. Take Nebraska +3.5.