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by Matt Fargo - 10/08/2009
Missouri was catching a point in some places and two points in most shops when this number came out on Sunday. The line has been driven up to three points across the board and that is where it will likely stay until we get closer to gametime.
The total opened at 54.5 to 55 and has been brought down to 54 and in some cases 53.5 so the early money is on a low scoring game.
There are no significant injuries to report on either side.
It looks like a perfect fall night in the midwest with mostly clear skies and a temperature of 63 degrees with hardly any wind in sight.
Return of the Blackshirts
Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini has seemed to have brought some fight back into the once proud Huskers defense. They allowed 37.9 ppg and 476.8 ypg in 2007 which were both school records and neither of which they were proud of. In 2008, they dropped those averages to 28.5 ppg and 349.9 ypg which were certainly not great but it was an improvement.
Through four games in 2009, the ‘Blackshirts’ are back as they have allowed only 7.0 ppg and 285.5 ypg, 1st and 21st respectively in the country. Playing three teams from the Sun Belt has had a lot to do with this but it held Virginia Tech to 16 points, it lowest output of the season, and only 278 total yards.
A strong defensive performance on the road against one of the league's best offenses would at least be a sign that the Huskers are returning to their glory days, or at least no longer embarrassing themselves.
If someone was asked who would be leading the Big XII in passing efficiency a quarter of the way into the season, the answer would probably have a last name of Bradford, McCoy, Robinson or even Reesing. Not Gabbert.
The Gabbert being referred to is Blaine of the Tigers who is leading the conference in pass efficiency as he’s thrown for 11 touchdowns with no interceptions and 1,161 yards through four games. Where did he come from? He actually is the highest recruit for a quarterback Missouri has even gotten and ironically, he originally committed to Nebraska but backed out after the firing of head coach Bill Callahan.
Does that make this game bigger? “I’m looking forward to playing them like all of my games,” Gabbert said. “But the fact it’s Nebraska doesn’t make it any bigger or more important for me.” I beg to differ.
New King of the Mountain
Nebraska used to rule this series as it had defeated the Tigers 24 straight times from 1979 to 2002, by an average of more than three touchdowns. Since then it has been the complete opposite as Missouri has won four of the last six meetings including three straight at home.
This also includes a Tigers win in Lincoln last season by a score of 52-17, which was their first win at Memorial Stadium since 1978. The Huskers did not take it well and coach Pelini was “embarrassed” and apologized “to the state of Nebraska [and] everyone associated with Nebraska football.”
That makes 93 points allowed to the Tigers over the last two seasons so Nebraska is really hoping the early success of the defense is no fluke. If so, another apology may be in store after Thursday.
Rushing Dogs No More
While the passing game has been efficient, the Tigers running game has been a huge disappointment. A year ago, they averaged 5.2 ypc including 5.8 ypg in its four non-conference games, but this year, it's down to 3.8 ypc. Even though they are averaging eight more carries per game, they are averaging 143 ypg which is 51 yards less per game than at this point last season.
Missouri has changed its blocking schemes this season, going to a zone system, and Tigers head coach Gary Pinkel said the transition is taking longer than they had expected. Now that conference action is underway, it had better come around quickly.
Conversely, the Huskers averaged 155.5 ypg on 4.8 ypc during non-conference action last season. Through four games this year, they have averaged 183.8 ypg on 5.7 ypc.
Both teams have been cashing tickets this season with Nebraska a perfect 4-0 ATS and Missouri not far behind at 3-1 ATS. Both teams have kept the scoring down more than expected as they come in with identical 3-1 records to the ‘Under’.
The Huskers are 4-1 ATS in their last five road games while the Tigers are 1-4 ATS in their last five home games.
The home team has covered six of the last seven meetings in this series.