No. 1 Trojans Expect To Find Out Just How Good They Are
Friday, September 14th 2007, 2:23 pm
By: News On 6
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) _ For Nebraska, a showdown against top-ranked Southern California is another opportunity for the Cornhuskers to reclaim their place among college football's best programs.
The Trojans are looking to make a statement Saturday night, too.
USC's 38-10 season-opening win over Idaho two weeks ago was less than impressive, and the Trojans lost first-place votes to LSU in the AP Top 25 after an idle week. A road win over the No. 14 Cornhuskers should help USC regain support.
Early road games have served USC well in the past. The 2003 national championship team opened with an impressive road win at Auburn. The 2004 team repeated, starting a 13-0 campaign with a win over Virginia Tech at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. The Trojans also have won early road tests against Colorado and Arkansas under coach Pete Carroll.
``They've always imposed a tremendous challenge for us,'' Carroll said. ``We look forward to it, knowing that we need to go out there, get in the situation, find a way to win a football game, and then get the heck out of there.''
The Trojans, who have won seven straight nonconference road games, will meet a resurgent Nebraska team. They also must contend with a fired-up crowd savoring the first visit by a No. 1-ranked opponent since Oklahoma came calling in 1978.
With wins in 60 of their last 66 games, the Trojans are the most dominant program since the Huskers of the mid-1990s won 60 of 63 games and shared or won three championships outright.
Lincoln hotel rooms were snapped up long ago, and ticket brokers are commanding top dollar for arguably the biggest game here since Notre Dame visited in 2001.
``Everywhere we go, every game we play, we get guys crazy to beat us. The fans are nuts to beat us,'' Carroll said. ``We get their best shot, and we expect that, and that makes us who we are. It's something we've come to understand and welcome.''
Nebraska coach Bill Callahan has tried to shield his players from the hoopla this week, consistently telling the media that the Huskers are preparing as if this were just another game.
Cornerback Cortney Grixby said the hype is inescapable, whether he's in class, walking across campus or downtown.
``When you're around it, you've just got to listen to it,'' he said. ``You can't swallow it. You'll die if you swallow it.''
If USC has questions to answer after an uninspiring opening win, so do the Huskers.
Nebraska rushed for more than 400 yards and totaled 625 in a 52-10 throttling of Nevada on Sept. 1. The production dropped to 115 rushing yards and 373 total in last week's 20-17 win at Wake Forest.
Offensive lineman Matt Slauson said some of his teammates may have been looking ahead to the Trojans.
That would be human nature, Grixby said.
``You can't treat them like any other team,'' he said. ``They're the No. 1 team. There is only one No. 1 team. You want to make the most of your opportunity because you don't get them that much. It's going to be set up for us to win and move on.''
Four years into Callahan's tenure, Nebraska believes it is well-positioned to make a move up in the college football hierarchy.
The Huskers came out of the 2005 season off an impressive Alamo Bowl win over Michigan and were 2-0 heading into last year's game at then-No. 4 USC. The Huskers lost 28-10, and Callahan was roundly criticized for calling a conservative game.
Other chances against Top 10 teams came and went. The Huskers were on the verge of beating then-No. 5 Texas, but a turnover late in the fourth quarter resulted in a 22-20 loss. They got behind early in a 21-7 loss to then-No. 8 Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game. More questionable play-calling sunk them in a 17-14 loss to then-No. 10 Auburn in the Cotton Bowl.
Now here comes USC, with a Heisman Trophy contender in quarterback John David Booty, a slew of talented running backs, most of the defensive starters from last year's team and that intimidating record since 2002.
``They are no less than great,'' Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller said.
Keller, who transferred to Nebraska last year from Arizona State, started against the Trojans two years ago and led the Sun Devils to a 21-3 halftime lead before coming undone in the second half of a 38-28 loss.
``They do a lot of the same things on film that I faced, so you just have to be mistake-free,'' he said. ``You have to take what they give you. You have to be smart but you also have to be aggressive. You have to take shots at them.''
Carroll is preparing for the Huskers' best shot.
``It will be extremely difficult and all, but if we can get it done, it's a great accomplishment for our team,'' Carroll said. ``We'll use that throughout the rest of the season. We have very high hopes and expectations.''