Nebraska will claim sixth national title in Rose Bowl

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 3, 2002

Sports Editor

While at home this Christmas Eve, as I watched 40 or so of my relatives scurry around the house, a thought came to me – I was the only person there to have seen No. 1 Miami and No. 2 Nebraska play up close and personal.

This was just a thought, after all, and who knows where thoughts come from, they just appear.

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But to me this was a revelation, not like in the book of the Bible when God says to John, "Okay, this is how it all ends and it ain’t pretty," but a revelation about how far the Troy State football program has come in a year.

I mean, this time last year TSU coach Larry Blakeney and staff weren’t being bombarded by interview requests from ESPN and CNN concerning tonight’s national title match-up in the Rose Bowl.

This time last year, TSU’s opening season game with Nebraska seemed like it would take forever to get here, much in the same way that it takes Chevy Chase and family forever to get to Wally World in "National Lampoon’s Vacation".

And this time last year, nobody wanted Troy State apparel, but I received three requests alone this Christmas season, from my sister and two cousins.

With Troy State being the only team in America to have faced both Nebraska and Miami this season, I suddenly find myself in the land of college football’s experts. Herbstreit, Corso and Fowler. Terry Bowden and Beano Cook. It’s a legendary place populated with a variety of personalities, from Keith Jackson to Paul Finebaum. When it comes to college football, everybody, it seems, has an opinion.

Even a lowly novice such as myself.

So let’s take a look at Pasadena to see what’s cooking.

Offense: Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey can pass people silly, but the Hurricanes will miss running back Najeh Davenport. Not much though. With two All-American tackles on the offensive line in Bryant McKinnie and Joaquin Gonzalez, Miami mascot Sebastian the Ibis could be run the ball and pick up enough first downs to keep Nebraska’s defense worried. Cornhuskers’ signal caller Eric Crouch is a better athlete then Dorsey (notice December’s Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York), but he and tailback Dahrran Diedrick will be dealing with 11 ball-hawks on the other side of the ball. Edge: Miami.

Defense: Nebraska’s defense has the coolest nickname around. They’re labeled the "Blackshirts". But after the Colorado loss, when they gave up 62 points, you could call them the "Black and Blue Shirts". Miami’s defense has been consistent, only giving up more then 20 points three times this year. The ‘Canes’ have also made the plays when they needed to be made. Had safety Ed Reed not picked off a pass and returned it for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter against Boston College, Miami could have found itself in Tempe instead of Pasadena. Edge: Miami

Special teams: Miami kicker Todd Sievers is as good as they come. He’s made seven of eight outside the 40 this season. Nebraska’s Josh Brown is average at best. Plus the ‘Canes have Phillip Buchanon, who’s returned two punts for touchdowns this season. Edge: Miami.

Coaching: Ahh, maybe the equalizer for Nebraska. While Miami’s Larry Coker is in his first-year of head coaching a football team, Nebraska’s Frank Solich has five years under his belt in Lincoln. This is, however, the biggest game of both’s careers. Edge: Nebraska.

Favored: Nebraska is a nine-point underdog to Miami. Oklahoma didn’t have a chance last season in the Orange Bowl against Florida State, yet pulled off the win, which goes to prove that oddsmakers just really don’t know what they’re talking about. Edge: Nebraska.

Winner: What the heck. I’ll go with the ‘Huskers in a close one just because the fans in Lincoln are such nice people. Miami’s are about the rudest around. And wouldn’t it be cool to have a split national title so maybe Roy Kramer and his billionaire bunch would start feeling the heat in favor of a playoff system?

Nebraska 21, Miami 17