Friday, September 2, 2011

Season-ending humble pie should prevent letdown

On paper, there is no reason to believe that Saturday's game involving No. 10 Nebraska taking on Tennessee-Chattanooga should be close. The Huskers open as a 34.5 point favorite.

Though manly fans may bristle at "coach speak," especially involving one team being a heavy favorite to beat the other, momentum can often be fragile because if you let an underdog hang around long enough, the liklihood of an upset increases.

The last time Nebraska faced a Football Championship Subdivision team, they had to endure some teeth-nashing moments in a 17-3 win over South Dakota State.

"I would hope that we never take anybody lightly," coach Bo Pelini said in an Associated Press story Friday morning. "We just didn't play well against South Dakota State last year, especially on offense. I don't know if our guys took them lightly. I don't know about that game, but we will be prepared on Saturday."

Much like South Dakota State, Chattanooga is a middle-of-the road ballclub. The Mocs have gone 6-5 the past two years and are picked to finish fourth in the Southern Conference. Games like Saturday are often referred to as "bodybag games" because Chattanooga scheduled the game for the $475,000 paycheck, but no big underdog can resist imagining the unthinkable happening.

However, when a big name program hosts an FCS school, the game many people frequently refer to is the 2006 matchup when Appalachian State of the Southern Conference beat Michigan in one of the greatest upsets in college football history.

Most people fail to realize, however, that Appalachian State was one of, if not perhaps the best, FCS team in the country that year. The problem with using the past to predict the future is that the "one size fits all" approach is not how the world works. Every game is its own entity and has different circumstances surrounding it.

Entering last year's game aforementioned game in Lincoln, South Dakota State had entered the contest with losses to Delaware and Illinois State. Nebraska was ranked No. 6 in the country and coming off a 56-21 win at Washington. In hindsight (which is always 20-20), the Huskers perhaps had reason to enter the game feeling full of themselves.

Turned out, the Huskers were ripe for a letdown as they struggled to a 17-3 win. Keep in mind, SDSU had two touchdowns called by because of penalties.

The Jackrabbits appeared to score the game's first touchdown, but a video review showed the ball carrier didn't cross the goal line. Down 14 points in the fourth quarter, the Jacks ran back an interception 66 yards for an apparent touchdown, but a penalty nullified the play.

For this game, however, the Huskers have no reason at all to feel full of themselves despite their No. 10 ranking. You know the saying, "You're only as good as your last game." Well, the last time Nebraska took the field they only did so in body in their 19-7 Holiday Bowl loss to Washington. That defeat capped a 10-4 season in which the Huskers closed with three losses in four games.

Looking ahead? Could happen this week but it won't.

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