Nebraska and Oklahoma renew one of college football’s top series this weekend with a Saturday evening matchup at Oklahoma’s Memorial Stadium. The meeting in Norman will be the first in the regular season between the old rivals since 2005. The two teams also squared off in the 2006 Big 12 Championship Game in Kansas City.
Nebraska comes into the game at 5-3 overall and 2-2 in conference play, following a 32-20 victory over Baylor in Lincoln. The Sooners are 7-1 overall and 3-1 in Big 12 action after a 58-35 win at Kansas State. The game will mark Nebraska’s third of the season against a top-10 opponent, as the Sooners enter the game ranked fourth by the Associated Press.
Saturday’s meeting will be the 84th all-time between the two schools with Oklahoma holding a 43-37-3 advantage, including victories in each of the past three meetings. The two schools played for 71 consecutive seasons between 1927 and 1997, but have played just five times since with the Big 12’s schedule rotation. Oklahoma has won the past two meetings in Norman, but Nebraska won four of the previous five matchups on the Sooners’ home field.
Nebraska: Bo Pelini (Ohio State, ‘90) has a 6-3 record in his first season with the Huskers. In addition to five 2008 wins, Pelini led Nebraska to a victory as interim head coach in the 2003 Alamo Bowl. Pelini has served as defensive coordinator at NU, Oklahoma and most recently LSU over the past five seasons. Previously, he had stints as an NFL assistant with San Francisco, New England and Green Bay.
Oklahoma: Bob Stoops (Iowa, ‘83) is in his 10th season as Oklahoma’s head coach, and owns a 104-23 record with the Sooners. He has guided OU to five Big 12 Conference titles and the 2000 national championship. Stoops has led the Sooners to at least 11 wins in seven of his nine seasons in Norman. Like Bo Pelini, Stoops is a native of Youngstown, Ohio.
Nebraska is 813-336-40 all-time, one of just five schools with 800 all-time victories. w Nebraska has won five national championships (1970, 1971, 1994, 1995, 1997). w The Cornhuskers have won 43 conference championships. w Nebraska’s 44 all-time bowl appearances rank fifth nationally. w Since 1970, Nebraska has 379 wins, 26 more than any other school in the country. w Nebraska’s 96 football Academic All-Americans leads the nation. w The Huskers have had 106 All-Americans in school history.
Huskers Set to Face Ninth Top-10 Foe in Past Three Seasons
Nebraska's matchup against No. 4 Oklahoma is the ninth time in the past 33 games dating back to 2006 that the Huskers have squared off against a top-10 ranked team. The Huskers will be looking to get in the win column in those contests as the Huskers have dropped all eight contests.
Nebraska faced four top-10 foes in 2006 and matched up with No. 1 USC and No. 8 Kansas in 2007, before meeting No. 4 Missouri and No. 7 Texas Tech earlier this season. In addition, NU played at Missouri last season when the Tigers were ranked No. 17, before MU went on to finish No. 4.
The last time Nebraska faced as many as nine top-10 teams in a shorter period of time was from late in the 1986 season through the 1988 season. In a 27-game stretch, including three bowl games, Nebraska faced 10 top-10 teams. The Huskers were 5-5 in those games.
Overall, Nebraska has faced 13 ranked teams since the start of the 2006 season.
The Huskers’ last victory over a top-10 opponent was a 20-10 victory over second-ranked Oklahoma in Lincoln in 2001.
Nebraska snapped a five-game road losing streak and five-game Big 12 road losing streak with a 35-7 victory at Iowa State on Oct. 18. Picking up a second Big 12 road win will be a much stiffer challenge against the fourth-ranked Sooners. NU will be looking for its first win over a top-10 team on the road since No.7 Nebraska upended second-ranked Washington, 27-14, in 1997 at Seattle.
Youngstown, Ohio Will be Watching
Nebraska and Oklahoma are closely linked in college football history as a result of great matchups that have determined conference and national championships. The two schools now have another link in the way of head coaches Bo Pelini and Bob Stoops.
Both Pelini and Stoops are natives of Youngstown, Ohio, and graduates of Youngstown’s Cardinal Mooney High School. Pelini graduated from Mooney in 1986, while Stoops finished up at the school in 1978. Pelini spent the 2004 season on Stoops’ OU staff before moving on to LSU, and ultimately returning to Nebraska as head coach.
Nebraska has three Cardinal Mooney graduates on its coaching staff, including Bo Pelini, defensive coordinator Carl Pelini and running backs coach Tim Beck. Defensive graduate assistant Ross Watson is also a native of Youngstown, Ohio.
The Sooner coaching staff also has Nebraska ties, as assistant offensive coordinator and receivers coach Jay Norvell was Nebraska’s offensive coordinator from 2004 to 2006.
Husker Offense Continuing Productive Run
Nebraska has been impressive on offense throughout the 2008 campaign, but has hit its stride over the past three games. Nebraska ranks 12th nationally in passing offense at 297.0 yards per game and is 15th in the nation in total offense, averaging 446.1 yards per game. Nebraska also ranks 29th nationally in scoring offense at 33.1 points per game. In Big 12 games only, Nebraska ranks fourth in the conference averaging 471.2 yards per game.
The success of the offense comes on the heels of an explosive offensive campaign in 2007. NU finished last year ranked ninth nationally in total offense at 468.3 yards per game, and seventh in passing at 323.8 yards per game. The passing average was a school record, while the total offensive average was Nebraska’s best in a decade.
Nebraska boasts impressive numbers over the past several games dating back to last season.
Nebraska has gained 400 total yards or more in 10 of the past 13 games.
The Huskers have passed for at least 200 yards in the past 13 games, with eight 300-yard games in that stretch.
The Huskers are averaging 487.7 yards per game over their past 11 games, including 343.9 yards per game through the air. Nebraska is averaging 38.9 points over its past 11 games and has scored at least 30 points in 10 of 11 games dating back to last season.
Among Nebraska’s offensive explosion to finish last year was a 702-yard day against Kansas State, the 10th-best output in school history and the best since 1995. Nebraska has produced two 500-yard total offense games in 2008.
Swift Enjoying Standout Senior Season; Moves to Top of Reception List
Wide receiver Nate Swift has been a key component in the Husker passing game since 2005, and he and fellow senior Todd Peterson have been Joe Ganz’s favorite targets in 2008. Arguably Nebraska’s most experienced player, Swift has played in 46 games with 24 career starts. Through eight games, Swift leads the team with 44 catches for a team-high 607 yards, an average of 13.8 yards per catch. He also leads the team with six touchdown receptions.
The Hutchinson, Minn., native enjoyed a record-setting day in the Huskers’ win over Baylor. Swift hauled in a career-high 11 receptions for 121 yards and a pair of touchdowns. In the process, Swift moved to the top of the Nebraska career receptions list. He now has 147 career catches, bettering the previous record of 143 catches by 1972 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers.
Swift broke the record on a nine-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter to give NU a 24-20 edge. He added a second TD in the fourth quarter to give the Huskers a 30-20 cushion. The 100-yard outing was Swift’s seventh career 100-yard game, second in school history behind Rodgers’ 10, and the game marked the fifth two-touchdown outing of his career.
The performance against Baylor came on the heels of a strong showing at Iowa State, when Swift had eight catches for 112 yards and a touchdown, all in the first half. The Minnesota native opened his senior year with five catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Western Michigan. Swift had a career-long 61-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter against Western Michigan, bettering a 49-yard reception against Troy in 2006. He added a two-yard TD reception late in the second quarter.
With the career receptions record now in hand, Swift is also making a run at Rodgers’ career receiving yardage record. Swift has 2,142 career receiving yards, trailing Rodgers by 337 yards with four regular season games remaining. Swift is averaging 75.9 receiving yards per game and would need to average 84.3 yards to reach Rodgers’ record. Swift’s 607 receiving yards this season are just off the single-season yardage top 10 and just 335 yards from first on that list.
Swift has caught a pass in 40 of 46 career games, and his 11 catches against Baylor marked the 12th time in his career he had caught at least five passes. Swift’s previous career high was nine catches against both Oklahoma and Missouri as a freshman in 2005.
Swift burst onto the scene in 2005, when he caught an NU freshman record 45 passes, including seven touchdown grabs. He added 22 catches as a sophomore. Swift caught 36 passes for 520 yards and three touchdowns as a junior, helping Nebraska to a No. 7 national ranking in passing offense. With 44 catches this season, Swift has become the first player in school history to catch 20 passes in four straight seasons.
In addition to his offensive impact, Swift is Nebraska’s primary punt returner. Against Virginia Tech, Swift had an 88-yard punt return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. The return was the fourth-longest in school history and the first NU punt return for a touchdown since 2002. The effort earned Swift recognition as the Big 12 Conference Special Teams Player of the Week.