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November 5, 2012

Husker Buzz: NU needs to find a new winning formula



The last few weeks have been fun. There have been magical fourth quarter comebacks and countless big plays.

However, the last few weeks for Nebraska are not a realistic championship winning formula. Yes it's worked out in come from behind wins against Wisconsin and at Northwestern and Michigan State, but in all reality you can't win a championship with this type of week-to-week formula.

Bo Pelini knows that, as do the players on the Husker football team. Take what you want away from these last few weeks, but in order to close this season out strong Nebraska has to limit their turnover margin and penalties.

The Huskers currently rank last in the Big Ten in both numbers, and Pelini said the turnover margin number is the one that is his biggest concern going forward.

"I think it's the No. 1 thing that equates to winning and losing," Pelini said. "We've been able to overcome that a few times. We talk about it every week, but turnover margin and penalties - winning those areas and getting your explosion on offense and limiting explosion on defense.

"I've studied a lot of football for a lot of years and those are three things that highly equate to winning and losing. We've been fortunate to overcome that a couple of times in the last couple of weeks. Percentages show that you aren't going to be able to overcome that a lot."

The scary thing about this week's match-up with Penn State is the Nittany Lions rank first in the Big Ten in turnover margin at plus nine, while Nebraska ranks last at negative nine. Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin has only thrown one interception in his last five games and he has just three interceptions on the season.

With all the off-field distractions and depth issues PSU has been able to win six of their last seven games because they don't beat themselves.

Anybody that watches Penn State and Nebraska play would probably tell you the Huskers are the better team and they are much more explosive. However, I think the numbers prove that if you win the turnover battle you are going to win more often than not.

Luckily for Nebraska they've been able to put it together when the game is on the line. Going forward you can't expect this to be a consistent winning formula.

"When we are good we are a pretty good football team," Pelini said. "We just have to avoid putting ourselves in some tough situations. There's not any magic potion to avoid that. You just keep stressing it and keep working on it and try to continually strive for a higher level of execution. It's a tough game."


Players have fun with Bell run

When Michigan State running back Le'Veon Bell completely trucked Husker safety P.J. Smith I tweeted "Nebraska better get the smelling salts out."

I don't think I can ever remember a Nebraska player getting run over like that, but to Smith's credit he made the tackle and didn't even have to come out of the game.

"I haven't stopped hearing about it yet," Smith said on Monday. "That's all they're talking about. I've got so many people calling and texting me about it. I'm like 'the game was over three days ago, can we let it go.'"

Senior linebacker Alonzo Whaley said following the game everyone on the team watched the clip of the run on the plane ride home. Whaley joked that it made for some good entertainment.

"I don't think he's heard the end of it," Whaley said laughing. "I made a joke in the locker room this morning that his dad took his jersey off in the stands once he got ran over like that. He hasn't heard the end of it."

Big Ten scheduler friendly to Husker fans

When Nebraska first joined the Big Ten the fear was the Huskers would be stuck with possibly six or more 11 am kickoffs per season - the "Pam Ward special" as I liked to call it after watching countless 11 am Big Ten games while NU was in the Big 12.

On Monday the Minnesota kickoff was set for 2:30 pm on the Big Ten Network, which means NU will only play two 11 am games in 2012 - Arkansas State and at Iowa on Nov. 25.

Last year Nebraska played four 11 am games, but two were on the road in the Eastern Time zone and only two were at home - Michigan State and Iowa.

Overall I'd say the Big Ten scheduler has been pretty friendly to Husker nation. All of the big home games have been night kickoffs the last two years - Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan. 2:30 pm seems to be the ideal kickoff time and I'm sure Athletic Director Tom Osborne is pleased that the Big Ten has given NU six games in that time slot this season and only one 11 am home game.

Around the state

***My prediction is we'll see a Millard North vs. Omaha North state final in Class A. The Vikings are playing some unbelievable football right now and Calvin Strong is the best running back in the state in my opinion.

***In Class B I know I'm partial to my alma mater Omaha Gross, but to take down Skutt twice in three weeks speaks volumes about how they're playing. I'll take Gross over Elkhorn, and I like Norris to pull the upset over Aurora. Last week Norris handled Gretna, who many considered as one of the favorites going into the playoffs.

***I'm hearing strong talk that since the Shrine Bowl can't be played in Memorial Stadium anymore per NCAA rules that Nebraska-Kearney has made a bid to host the game. I don't think it would be a bad move at all to play the game at UNK. The other option right now would be Seacrest Field in Lincoln.

Three and out

***Pelini said the Huskers are still in the market for junior college defensive linemen, but like always they aren't just going to take a JUCO player just to take one. That particular player must fit exactly what NU is looking for.

***Count me in the club of people surprised with how Penn State has played this season under Bill O'Brien. The pro coach to college move has rarely worked. When PSU started off 0-2 I didn't think there'd be any way this team could contend for 8 or 9 wins this season. Major props to O'Brien and the job he's done.

***I predict we will see running back Rex Burkhead one of these final two home games. I can't imagine what this offense would look like right now with a healthy No. 22 back in the mix.

Sean Callahan can be reached at sean@huskeronline.com and he can be heard each day at 6:50 am and 4:50 pm on Big Red Radio 1110 KFAB in Omaha during the football season. He can also be seen on KETV Channel 7 TV in Omaha during the fall and each week he appears on NET's Big Red Wrap Tuesday's at 7 pm.



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