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40AS Non-Conference Game of the Week: USC at Nebraska

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Week two is in the books so it's time to look ahead to week three. Once again there is a game we would like to do (Michigan v. ND) but will not because one of the teams was involved in last week's preview. If Ohio State hadn't laid such an egg against Akron, OSU vs. Washington would be our game of the week because we love what Ty Willingham is doing--especially after his questionable end at Notre Dame. Pat Forde has some great thoughts on that. (Tangential rant: At Notre Dame, when Charlie Weis has two relatively successful years [albeit with no signature wins] with Willingham's players, the national media dubs him a genius. But at LSU, when Les Miles has two more successful years with Nick Saban's players, the national media says he's not a great coach, he 's just doing well because of Saban. Now that Miles is winning largely with his own players and Weis is losing with his...why has there not been a re-think of these analyses?) Our next thought is to go with USC @ Nebraska, and tiring of excuses for not going with games, we'll do that one. #1 USC vs. #14 Nebraska (AP).

Like every matchup of top 25 opponents in college football, this game means a ton for both teams. For Nebraska, a victory would signal the return to national prominence that Husker Nation (Corn Nation?) has been eagerly awaiting for some time now. And USC, which has LSU and OU nipping at its heels for that top ranking, needs to make a powerful statement that a so-so performance against Idaho is not all they have to offer.

Not necessarily-football-related reasons to like USC: It's hard to think of nice things to say about Southern Cal. They are perennially one of the country's best teams and they always seem to get the most love from the likes of Kirk Herbstreit and all of ESPN's other talking heads, making them in a lot of ways college football's Yankees. Unless you are a legitimate SC fan, you probably feel something between mild animosity and outright hate for the Trojans. BUT: the fact remains that when you cut through all of that, you still have an excellent football team with a whole heck of a lot of offensive weapons and an even better defense, with one of college football's best coaches. It's hard not to see USC as the favorite in almost any game they play. Plus, this is a program full of tradition that has been the most recognizable name in West Coast football for a hundred years. As for non-football reasons, LA is a nice place to spend some time. Not a lot of time, mind you, but some. In fact, when we were in town for the '06 Rose Bowl, we got to go to CBS Studios and be in the live studio audience for a taping of Craig Ferguson's late-night show. That guy is underrated. And Fred Willard was the guest, which was very cool. And Ferguson picked Texas to win the game purely based on a comparison of the school logos.

Not necessarily football-related reasons to like Nebraska: Nebraska fans are thirsty for a big win--you may recall that they just about got it last year when the Longhorns visited Lincoln. So don't underestimate home-field advantage at a football-crazy place like NU. And there is reason to suspect that last week's uninspiring performace at Wake could be attributed to looking past the Deacons to this week's Biggest Game in the Nebraska Players' Lives to-date. But "emotion" and "intangibles" alone are simply not enough to hang with USC. Marlon Lucky has a lot of ability in the backfield, and so does QB Sam Keller--as he showed in spots at Arizona State before transferring. However, this is going to have to be Keller's breakout game. He failed to do much against a WF secondary that looked suspect the week before against Boston College--and the Trojan DBs are faster and taller than those of the Deacs. Nebraska's defense is very good against the pass and sort of bend-but-don't-break against the run, which could be a recipe for success against SC if they can frustrate John David Booty's forays into NU territory. But you should also like Nebraska because of loyal fans who have a great reputation as a classy bunch. They love their football, and like Arkansas it is a one-team state--no pro team, no other major college program. It's all Huskers, all the time.

Why Texas Fans Should Care: Big XII pride, for one! Don't forget, folks, that at 2-0 Texas is most definitely still in the chase for a national title. But with the BCS being what it is, the Horns will need some folks who started the season ranked higher to get beat. Texas has a chance to take care of its own business on October 6 in Dallas to knock off OU--but that still leaves a few squads between Mack's boys and the Top Two. Obviously the most significant of these are USC and LSU. So a Nebraska win on Saturday would be Huge with a capital "H" for the Horns' BCS championship hopes.

The Battle of the YouTubes:

Apparently being in the Rose Bowl Stadium is generally disorienting for the Song Girls, no matter if it's vs. Texas or UCLA...

Omaha: Trying to Distance Yourself?