Friday, December 13, 2002
ABC's analysts break down Miami-Nebraska
ABC Sports Online
In preparation for the Rose Bowl Presented by AT&T on Jan. 3 between Miami and Nebraska (ABC, 8 p.m. ET), ABC's analysts broke down what each team needs to do in order to win.
ABC studio analyst
Whether you think Nebraska was the best pick to play in this championship game or not (according to the latest USA Today poll, most people do), the winner of this game is guaranteed to win the Sears Trophy and the ESPN/USA Today national championship.
If you want my personal opinion, it will be a consensus championship regardless of who wins in Pasadena. Sorry Oregon and Colorado, that's just what I think.
I am not going to change my opinion since the college preseason that Miami has the most talented team in the country, and that if the Hurricanes play their best football, nobody can beat them. In this game against Nebraska, I feel the same way.
Therefore, my game plan for the 'Canes is simple: Play your best game, don't turn the ball over and you will win the game. Period.
Now, for a little deeper analysis, let's see what Nebraska must do to upset the 'Canes.
1. Correct that problem they had against Colorado.
|Clinton Portis has been at his best during Miami's biggest games.|
You know, the one I am talking about between the defensive tackles, where there were holes that looked like they were made by a Daisy Cutter. The good thing for Nebraska is that for 11 games, they didn't have this problem, and I believe with five weeks to correct it, they will be fine in the Rose Bowl. They will need to make that improvement because if they don't, Clinton Portis will eat them alive.
That said, the defense still is going to have to play its best game. The thing that makes Miami so tough to defend is that the Hurricanes are so adept at both the running and passing phases of the game. You cannot focus your defense too much on stopping one area, otherwise they will kill you in the other. Miami's offensive line, which is the best in the country, is just as effective pass-blocking as it is run-blocking. And it is massive.
2. Running the ball
What I really like about Nebraska's chances is that the Huskers are the nation's best running team, and if there is one area where Miami has not been dominant it is in stopping the run, where they rank 40th in the nation. Still, if I'm Nebraska and I'm the underdog, I would use the five weeks leading up to this game to put in a few new wrinkles, change a couple blocking schemes, run plays out of different formations and use a few play-action passes you haven't used before.
Miami will be practicing for five weeks on things that Nebraska has used all season, and if the Huskers can come out in the first half and show the 'Canes something they haven't used before, it might be worth a touchdown or two. In a game like this, that might be all that makes the difference.
The one thing that I will always remember about Nebraska is that with its inside power game and its outside option, that if you don't figure them out and correct it early in the game, you may never stop the Huskers at all. That's why an early offensive drive or two that lead to scores by the Huskers is vital to their success.
3. Be special
|Nebraska hopes Dahrran Diedrick can celebrate a few touchdowns in the Rose Bowl.|
Finally, if I'm coaching Nebraska, I spend every moment that I can finding ways to make points in the kicking game. Unlike the regular season, these coaches have time to spare getting ready for this game. That's perfect for putting in a new punt block scheme, fake field goal.
The key is that Nebraska take the normal approach, which is not to have any breakdowns in the kicking, but to actually score points on special teams.
Finally, I cannot talk about Nebraska without mentioning Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch. Forgotten in the Colorado blowout was that Crouch put up 168 yards rushing. Of all the keys to Nebraska, Crouch's performance is the biggest one in order for the Huskers to win this game. If he can rush for more than 100 yards, and have success in the passing game, the Cornhuskers could just be walking away with that Sears Trophy.
Of course, I did say could walk away with the Sears Trophy. That's only if Miami doesn't play its best.
Nebraska wants Eric Crouch and Dahrran Diedrick to run the ball. The Huskers want their big guys up front blocking. If they execute, they feel they can get the yards even if Miami knows what's coming. And if they are able to run the ball effectively, they can score some points, eat up the clock and keep Miami's offense off the field. When they have to pass, Crouch can be -- and has to be -- effective. When you run the option, it forces a lot of man-to-man coverage, and they believe they can exploit that.
Defensively, Nebraska has to follow what Boston College and Virginia Tech did. They had success getting pressure on Ken Dorsey. Boston College forced four interceptions, while Virginia Tech got a couple of sacks on him. Both teams outnumbered Miami up front and took away the run, and took their chances in the passing game. In both instances that was successful.
Nebraska has to outnumber Miami up front. The Huskers are big and strong inside. They are going to force their cornerbacks to play man coverage. If they can't cover them man-to-man, they will have some problems. But they believe Keyuo Craver and DeJuan Groce can do that.
|Ken Dorsey struggled when BC and Virginia Tech put some pressure on him.|
The 88th edition of the Rose Bowl has it all. This is better than a well-scripted soap opera. We have drama, intrigue, controversy and best of all, its real. This is as good as it gets, we're talking made-for-TV movie material -- or at least instant ESPN Classic consideration. Will Nebraska upset Miami and throw the nation into a tumultuous and chaotic cry for reform? Or will the Hurricanes dismantle the Cornhuskers in a way that has all of Boulder and Eugene bellowing, "We told you so?"
This is an experience that will not come around for at least four more years. So Rose Bowl purists need to embrace this temporary alteration of your New Year's Day tradition.
If it's the uncertainty that has you all wound up in knots of anxiety then let me simplify it for you. If Miami beats Nebraska on Jan. 3, then you just witnessed one of the most balanced teams in a long time beat a traditional powerhouse on its way to another national championship and an undefeated season. Not a bad way to spend the first Thursday of 2002.
However, if the Huskers come to town with their Heisman Trophy winner and spoil the show for the 'Canes, then just think of the mess we will have. And you will have witnessed it.