2007 Opponent Previewâ€¦USC
You've got to beat the best to be the best. That's a saying in sports that goes back as far as anyone can remember. It's been especially true in college football. In 2005, Texas beat #1 USC to win the national championship. In 2002 it was Ohio State over Miami. This year the consensus going into the season is that USC is the best team in the country. If Nebraska were to take out the Trojans in week 3 (and assuming the Huskers were unbeaten prior to the game) the Huskers could well assume the top spot in the country and might be favored in each of their remaining games until they lose.
That's the dream anyway. But USC is ranked #1 for a reason. They look awfully good. Lindy's rates their defensive line, linebacking corps, and secondary each individually as tops in the nation. That makes their defense tops in the country â€“ by a mile. It's not like their offense is chopped liver either. Their offensive backfield is ranked third in the country by Lindy's and their offensive line second. Only their receiving corps doesn't merit a top ten ranking. Does that make their receivers a â€œweaknessâ€?? Hardly. USC can roll out 5-star recruits in wide receivers Patrick Turner and Vidal Hazelton and tight end Fred Davis as well as a bunch of three and four-star guys. What they lack in experience they make up for with loads of talent.
So how do you beat a team that is seemingly unstoppable? Do it with defense. Sure, Oregon State hung 33 on the Trojans in their victory, but 7 of those points came on a long punt return and another 6 came on field goals from the 30-yard line and beyond. On top of that, the Beavers got four takeaways. You can try to make those things happen, but it's a losing bet that the stars will align perfectly like that.
But UCLA got it done with defense. The turnover margin was even. The Bruins hung tough and ran the ball 36 times (against only 21 passes) to gut out a 13-9 win. It wasn't pretty. It wasn't daring. It was mostly just patient mistake-free football. The UCLA defense didn't play great all year, but they did play well when they had to against the Trojans. That's probably Nebraska's (or anyone's) best chance and playing a night game at home can allow the crowd to become almost an extra defender that can intimidate and stifle the USC offense's communication with noise. Regardless of how highly you regard Texas, or whomever you think Nebraska could face in the postseason, USC is the best team that the Huskers will face this season. Win that game and the sky's the limit, because nothing will be harder to accomplish.