Nebraska opens Big 12 Conference play with a key North Division matchup against Missouri in Columbia, on Thursday, Oct. 8. The matchup at Missouri’s Faurot Field will be carried to a national television audience by ESPN with kickoff set for just after 8 p.m. (CDT). The winner of the NU-Mizzou contest has been the North representative in the Big 12 title each of the past three seasons.
The Huskers will bring a 3-1 record to Columbia with the lone setback a 16-15 loss at No. 6 Virginia Tech on Sept. 19. Overall, Nebraska has outscored the opposition 157-28 through four games, including three lopsided home victories. Nebraska is ranked 22nd in the coaches poll and 21st according to the Associated Press (Oct. 4 rankings).
Missouri begins Big 12 play with a perfect 4-0 record, most recently posting a 31-21 victory at Nevada on Sept. 25. The Tigers are ranked 18th in the coaches poll and check in at No. 24 in the Associated Press poll. The Tigers are among the nation’s most explosive offensive units entering the contest, ranking 16th in total offense.
The game will mark the 102nd all-time meeting between the schools, with Nebraska holding a 63-35-3 overall edge. Missouri has been victorious in the past two meetings and has won three straight at Faurot Field. This will mark the fifth time since the inception of the Big 12 that NU has opened league play against the Tigers, with the Huskers holding a 3-1 advantage in those games.
Nebraska: Bo Pelini (Ohio State, ‘90) owns a 13-5 record in his second season with the Huskers. Pelini guided Nebraska to nine wins in his first season as head coach, joining Bob Devaney, Tom Osborne and Frank Solich as the only Nebraska coaches to win nine games in their first season leading the Cornhuskers. Prior to taking over as the Huskers’ head coach, Pelini served as defensive coordinator at NU, Oklahoma and LSU. Previously, he had stints as an NFL assistant with San Francisco, New England and Green Bay.
Missouri: Gary Pinkel (Kent State, ‘73) is in his ninth season as the Tigers’ head coach. Pinkel has guided MU to a 63-41 record, including a 4-4 record against Nebraska. He has an overall record of 136-78-3 in 19 seasons as a college head coach.
Nebraska is 820-338-40 all-time, one of just seven schools with 800 all-time victories
Nebraska has won five national championships (1970, 1971, 1994, 1995, 1997).
The Cornhuskers have won 43 conference championships.
Nebraska’s 45 all-time bowl appearances rank fifth nationally.
Since 1970, Nebraska has 386 wins, 27 more than any other school.
Nebraska’s 98 football Academic All-Americans lead the nation.
The Huskers have had 106 All-Americans in school history.
Big 12 Slate to Present Many Challenges for Huskers
Nebraska’s 2009 schedule features contests against eight teams that finished with a .500 or better record in 2008 and six teams that appeared in bowl games. Included in that group are games against BCS bowl participants Oklahoma (BCS Championship Game) and Virginia Tech (Orange), along with other bowl teams Texas Tech (Cotton), Missouri (Alamo), Kansas (Insight) and Florida Atlantic (Motor City).
Nebraska’s three games against Sun Belt foes were the Huskers’ first-ever meeting with each school. The last time Nebraska faced three opponents for the first time in the same season was in 1997 when Nebraska faced Akron and Central Florida in non-conference play and met Tennessee in the Orange Bowl. Nebraska last played three non-conference games against the same league in 1998 when the Huskers faced California, Washington and Arizona from the Pac-10.
In Big 12 action, Nebraska will face OU, Texas Tech and visit Baylor from the South Division, along with its full slate of North Division games.
Huskers Bid for Success in Big 12 Conference Opener
Nebraska kicks off Big 12 Conference play with its key matchup against Missouri in Columbia. The Huskers have a history of success in league openers, winning 32 of their 34 conference-opening games since 1975. The only blemishes on that record are a 2002 loss to Iowa State in Ames, and last year’s Missouri victory in Lincoln.
Since Big 12 Conference play began in 1996, Nebraska and Missouri have also met in the league opener in 1999, 2000 and 2001 with Nebraska winning each of those contests.
Nebraska is 92-19-2 all-time in conference openers, including an 11-2 record since the start of Big 12 conference action in 1996.
The Huskers will be looking to end a two-game losing skid in Big 12 road openers, after setbacks at Missouri in 2007 and at Texas Tech in overtime last year. Nebraska is 7-6 in league road openers since the formation of the Big 12 Conference.
Will Recent Series History Hold?
Nebraska and Missouri enter the contest ranked very closely in the national polls and appear to be evenly matched statistically, making a close game a real possibility. However, that would be a rarity in recent series history.
In the past 10 meetings between the two schools, none of the matchups have been decided by single digits. The closest game in that stretch is a 24-13 Nebraska victory in 2002.
The recent history of large victory margins is a series oddity. In the decades of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, 19 of the 30 meetings between the schools were decided by 11 or fewer points.
Nebraska Takes Second Shot at Ranked Foe on Road
Missouri is ranked No. 18 in the USA Today Coaches poll and 24th according to the Associated Press entering Thursday’s game. The meeting will be Nebraska’s second of the season against a ranked opponent, following a 16-15 loss at then-No. 13 Virginia Tech on Sept. 19. The setback dropped Nebraska to 0-4 against ranked opponents under Bo Pelini–all against teams ranked 13th or higher.
Overall, Nebraska has dropped 10 straight games against ranked opponents. The Huskers’ last victory over a ranked foe was a 28-27 victory at No. 24 Texas A&M in November of 2006.
Points Hard to Come By Against Nebraska Defense
Nebraska has allowed 28 points through four games this season, and the 7.0 points per game average leads the nation. The 28 points allowed through four games represent the fewest allowed by Nebraska in the first four games since allowing 21 points in 1990.
The Nebraska defense has surrendered only three touchdowns this season. The Blackshirts did not allow a touchdown until the second quarter of the second game, as the Huskers held their opponents out of the end zone for the first five quarters of the year, the longest season-opening streak since 1994. The 2009 Blackshirts became just the third NU team in the past 40 seasons to not allow a touchdown in the season opener.
The Huskers’ 55-0 shutout of Louisiana-Lafayette marked Nebraska’s first whitewashing of an opponent since a 56-0 win over Troy on Sept. 23, 2006.
Nebraska Run Defense Continues to Slow Opposition
Nebraska has been strong overall on defense this season, including a much improved run defense. The Huskers were at their best against the run against Virginia Tech. The NU run defense held the Hokies to just 86 rushing yards, after VT entered the game 13th nationally in rushing at 254.0 yards per game. The performance highlighted a strong run of success against the run, as NU has limited five of its last seven opponents to 102 or fewer rushing yards.
During Nebraska’s past eight games its run defense has played a key role in the success. The Huskers have allowed an average of just 85.8 rushing yards in those contests. Nebraska allowed an average of 115.8 yards rushing in its first four games of 2009, and has allowed two rushing touchdowns.
2009 Nebraska Defense Building on 2008 Improvements
Scoring defense is the most obvious area where Nebraska is making huge defensive strides in 2009. Nebraska made a big jump in that area a year ago, allowing 28.5 points per game, a 9.1 point-per-game improvement over the 2007 campaign. The Blackshirts are looking for an even bigger improvement this fall, and are currently allowing a nation-leading 7.0 points per game.
Nebraska returned seven starters to its defense this fall. Last year’s unit made big strides late in the year and finished second in the league in total defense at 349.9 yards per game.
Nebraska was among the most improved defenses in the nation last season in several areas. The defensive numbers came just one season after Nebraska finished last in the Big 12 and 112th nationally in total defense at 476.8 yards per contest in 2007.
Nebraska was the national leader in improvement in rushing defense and team sacks. The Huskers improved their rush defense by 115.7 yards per game and 95 spots in the national rankings. NU’s 22-sack improvement tied with Minnesota for the greatest gain in the country. Nebraska’s total defense average was an improvement of 126.9 yards per game, the fourth-best improvement nationally. The Huskers’ ranking in total defense also improved 57 spots in 2008. Through four games in 2009, NU is allowing 285.5 yards per game to rank 21st in the nation.
Nebraska led the conference in third-down defense in 2008, and in Big 12 games only, NU ranked second in the league in total defense and first in pass defense. This year’s opponents have converted 37 percent on third down.
Nebraska registered 35 sacks in 2008, nearly tripling its 2007 total. Among those sacks, 19 came in the final four games of 2008. Nebraska has had 10 sacks through four games and has at least three sacks in six of eight games dating back to last fall.
In its biggest test of 2009, Nebraska held up well defensively at Virginia Tech. Despite coming out on the losing end of a 16-15 decision, Nebraska limited the Hokies to fewer than 30 yards on 11 of their 13 drives, including six Hokie drives of two or fewer yards.
In non-conference play, Nebraska allowed 4.4 yards per play, an improvement of 1.3 yards over its 2008 average of 5.7 yards per play by the opposition.