Once a top rivalry in college football, the last time Oklahoma and Nebraska played, the current crop of players on both programs were in elementary school.
So Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley and Nebraska coach Scott Frost have educated their players on the history of the rivalry, once known as the “Battle of the Big Reds,” in advance of Saturday’s matchup at Norman, Okla.
“We talked about doing a video, and then it honestly felt a little like: How do you pick just one? It almost minimizes it,” Riley said. “So I visited with them about it. We had a little slide prepared that showed the history of it, when it started, highlighted some key games, all the different players, all the different (No.) 1 vs. 2 matchups, all the significance for conference and national championships.”
This game between No. 3 Oklahoma and Nebraska might not have the buildup like so many of the others, but there still will be plenty on the line.
For the Sooners, it’s a final nonconference tune up before beginning Big 12 play next week and a chance to solidify their status as a College Football Playoff contender after an up-and-down first two games.
In starting 2-0, Oklahoma was tested in a 40-35 victory over Tulane before stomping an overmatched FCS Western Carolina team 76-0 last week.
For Nebraska (2-1), it’s a chance at a signature win in Frost’s fourth season.
The Cornhuskers are 15-21 under Frost, including 0-7 against ranked opponents.
Nebraska’s last win over a ranked team came early in the 2016 season. Its last win over a top-five team came way back in 2001 in one of the last classics of the Nebraska-Oklahoma series, when the No. 3 Cornhuskers knocked off No. 2 Oklahoma 20-10 in Lincoln, Neb.
“We are going to prepare like it’s any other week,” Frost said. “That’s what we do but I think the emotion is going to take care of itself. I don’t think there is going to be a lot of motivational speaking that’s going to need to be done.
“These guys know how good of a team we are getting ready to play and they’re going to be in the spotlight nationally. I think the guys are excited and we’ve gotten a lot better over the last few weeks. We need to keep that going.”
After opening with a loss to Illinois, the Cornhuskers have played much better, outscoring opponents 80-10 the last two weeks.
Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez struggled in the opener, completing just 50 percent of his passes. In the last two games, Martinez has completed more than 71 percent of his throws. He also has averaged 7.5 yards per carry this season.
Riley said containing Martinez, especially with pressure from the interior defensive line, will be a key.
“Obviously you’d love to get rush on the edges and all that but if you really wide up the edges, you can open up big holes, whereas that interior pass rush, sometimes it’s hard to get away from,” Riley said. “You’ve got to be really disciplined when you rush the passer against this guy.”
The Sooners are expected to be without reserve wide receiver Brian Darby, while cornerback Woodi Washington is questionable after both sustained injuries in last week’s win.
Frost hopes the Cornhuskers will get some help back soon, especially on offense where receivers Oliver Martin and Omar Manning, as well as tight end Travis Mokolek, missed last week’s game, while receiver Zavier Betts and tight end Austin Allen left the win over Buffalo with injuries.
Saturday’s game was scheduled to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the “Game of the Century” between the two schools, a 35-31 Nebraska win at Oklahoma on Nov. 25, 1971. Multiple of players from both rosters of that game are expected to be in attendance.
–Field Level Media