It seems like forever since Miami fans have gotten to look forward to playing Nebraska. Most of the students on campus right now couldn't stay up late enough to watch the entire 2001 Rose Bowl, which is the last time these two programs met. You typically don't consider a team that you have only played five times since 1983 a major rival, but when those five meetings include a few national title games - yeah a matchup with Nebraska matters. Ask your parents they will tell you...here are some past big game highlights.
Both teams have fallen off since their meeting in the national title game in 2001. These two proud programs have racked up over a decade of mediocrity since last having national relevance; and both are looking to use this early season match-up to get a win against a big name out-of-conference opponent.
FUN FACT: Miami and Nebraska have a combined record of 84-12 in the four seasons they have met since 1989.
Looking closer at both teams
Miami: For Miami, it's still up in the air on who will be their QB when they travel to Lincoln. Ryan Williams tore his ACL during the spring. There was some talk that he was shooting for a return in time to play Nebraska. We will get more info on how his recovery is going once camp starts up - but if you plan on him not being ready in time, that leaves you with the real possibility either a RS or True Freshman QB starts. In what should be a hostile environment... Sweet. Ken Dorsey ain't walking through that door, so Duke Johnson is going to have to set the tone running the ball.
While yes, QB is a huge question mark, most consider Miami's offense too talented to not be at-least an above average group. The defense though...the defense is where the panic lies. Their struggles have been well documented but there is some improved talent on that side of the ball. It's going to be wait and see if that will equal any real improvement. Miami has had zero luck stopping the run. Nebraska has one of the nations top running backs. If UM's season opener against Louisville doesn't show the complete picture on if the defense is improved or not; by the end of September 20th we should have an answer.
Nebraska: Including a victory over Georgia in their bowl game, the Huskers went 9-4 last season. Nebraska is still Nebraska, so the running game is their strength. Last season they averaged over 200 yards a game on the ground (with 215ypg) while throwing for just under 200 yards a game. Leading that running game for Nebraska is senior running back Ameer Abdullah. Last season Abdullah averaged six yards a carry, and ended his season with 1,690 yards rushing and 9 rushing TDs. It's easy to see why this season he is listed on every major college football award watch list. He is a workhorse, with multiple twenty-plus carry games, so Miami will have their hands full.
While the running game alone should be enough to test Miami's hopefully improved defense, Neb. does possess the ability to make teams pay for cheating toward stopping the run. 37 year starter Taylor Martinez has moved on at QB, leaving Tommy Armstrong under center. Armstrong saw plenty of action last season after Martinez was injured and led the team to an impressive 7-1 record. He only threw for about 100 yards a game, but can hurt you running the ball because - NEBRASKA. WR Kenny Bell (the one guy you may know from TV because of his giant afro) comes into the year poised to set the all time Nebraska records in receptions and receiving yards. He's their big play/go to receiver who Miami cannot lose sight of while trying to stop the run.
If Abdullah is Nebraska's Duke Johnson, then Randy Gregory is their Denzel Perryman. Gregory plays DE, but comes into the season with just as much hype. Last season he had 10.5 sacks 66 tackles and 18 QB hurries. As Nebraska's defensive MVP last season, he had a three sack game against Michigan, something UM cannot allow to happen with it's current quarterback situation. He's been named to a laundry list of preseason award watch lists this preseason and will be someone UM will have to have hands on at all times.
Summary: This will be a game that features two of the best running backs in the nation, so it's no big surprise that each team's success will ride largely on their running backs' production. Can Miami's defense stop Nebraska? Can whomever UM's QB ends up being get the ball in the hands of their play makers? Miami has struggled in these type of games the past few seasons. and a win would go a long way. Week one against Louisville may be a more important match-up, but Miami cannot afford to lose both, and start the season 0-2 against big name programs.
When: September 20th at 7pm
Where: Memorial Stadium, Nebraska
SOTU will bring you much more on this battle in the future weeks.