Like old times: Oklahoma vs. Nebraska in spotlight
Friday, October 27th 2000, 12:00 am
News On 6
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ Oklahoma is in the college football spotlight again, and look what's happened: Ticket demand is up, way up, and this showdown with Nebraska suddenly has a whole new life.
``People can't wait to see it,'' Nebraska guard Russ Hochstein said. ``To be back in that kind of atmosphere, as college players we eat that up. We love every minute of it.''
Some people are asking for, and getting, $400 apiece for tickets to Saturday's game between the third-ranked Sooners and No. 1 Cornhuskers.
Nebraska has won the last seven games in this series, including 69-7 in the last meeting in 1997 and 73-21 in 1996, the last game in Norman.
Nebraska (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) is No. 1 in the Bowl Championship Series standings while Oklahoma (6-0, 3-0) is No. 2. It is the BCS standings that determine which teams play for the national title.
Because Nebraska is in the Big 12's north division and Oklahoma in the south, it's possible the teams could meet again Dec. 2 in the conference championship game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
The buildup to that game, provided Saturday's loser wins its remaining regular-season games, would no doubt be immense. Such is the case with this game _ Oklahoma's media relations office has issued about 600 credentials, four times more than for a usual game. The game is being televised to about 80 percent of the country. Networks have been in Norman all week interviewing players and coaches.
``I love this opportunity, to be in this kind of game,'' Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. ``But let's face it, we've had a couple already. Texas and Kansas State were pretty special.''
It was the Sooners' victories in those games that got them to this point. They defeated Texas 63-14, and the next week went on the road and beat then-No. 2 Kansas State, 41-31.
Nebraska began the year ranked No. 1, but slipped one notch for one week before regaining the top spot. The Cornhuskers have played inconsistently at times _ Missouri gained 492 yards against them, Iowa State threw for 346 _ but they appear to be rounding into form.
Nebraska beat Texas Tech 56-3 two weeks ago, then tuned up for the Oklahoma game by beating Baylor 59-0.
``I don't think I've been around a team, maybe ever, that has been so confident that we're going to get the job done,'' senior receiver Matt Davison said.
``It took a few games to get all of the kinks out and really feel comfortable, but I think you're really seeing the team now that we knew we could be.''
Oklahoma is equally confident after handling Texas and Kansas State. And, the Sooners were off last week, giving them extra time to prepare for Nebraska.
``I feel we're in better shape mentally, as well as a little more fresh and ready to play this week,'' Stoops said. ``I feel good about our preparation. I really like our plan offensively, defensively, what we're looking at in special teams.''
The play of the quarterbacks, Eric Crouch of Nebraska and Josh Heupel of Oklahoma, will be critical in this meeting of contrasting offenses.
Heupel has completed nearly 70 percent of his passes while directing an offense that is rated fourth nationally overall and No. 1 in scoring. The Sooners have run more than they did last year, but prefer to throw _ Heupel is averaging 315.7 yards per game.
Nebraska, as it has for decades, will keep the ball on the ground most of the time. The Cornhuskers lead the nation in rushing and are second in scoring. Crouch is the fourth-leading rusher in the Big 12.
But Stoops, for one, says too much is made of schemes and formations.
``Players win and lose for you,'' he said. ``There's a lot of ways to play either offense or defense. It still gets down to blocking, tackling, covering or getting open. It's who executes the best.''