CU GAME: Cody or Taylor?

By at November 26, 2010 | 10:40 PM | Print

Man, is it going to be Bo Pelini's kind of week.

The guy fuels his motor with animosity. If Husker fans supplied a healthy dose last week, they'll fall in line behind him this week, as the Big 12, in its infinite impotence, chose not to stage a North Division trophy presentation at Memorial Stadium – with its fans who applaud the opposing team – because league members didn't feel safe here..

Suitable family-friendly words don't truly exist for the foolishness of such a decision, but it plays squarely into Nebraska's hands. Bo excels at trying to create an outside enemy against which his team can wage war. This week, the Big 12 and its commish, Dan Beebe, sticks out its chin and says “well, all right, go ahead, hit me.”

The Big 12's had a pretty rotten fall, by all accounts. Big Bevo took a big 5-7 dump (though, yes, it did take a bite out of NU). Oklahoma failed to provide the league with its preferred national title contender. The three best league games of the year all involved the Huskers. The officiating crews still don't know their rumps from their elbows, and the startling penalty disparity in Nebraska's 9-6 loss to Texas A&M makes it seems as though Beebe is The Judge from “The Natural,” some till-keeping skinflint who hides from the sun behind dusty Venetian blinds.

The league couldn't let the Huskers go quietly, could they? You'd think – I mean, most sentient beings would – that presenting harmony at all costs is in the Big 12's best interests. Why not bilk the Big Red on its way out the door, smiling the entire time while you pat down the Bugeaters for loose change?

But the Big 12 apparently sees it differently. It would prefer, through Olympian efforts of passive aggression, to suggest NU is a villain to be blackballed and punished, indirectly, as if a scandalous character in a Edith Wharton novel. Chasten me for the bizarre analogy – although, hey, Wharton was there before “The Hills” ever was – but, let's face it: The Big 12 and Beebe have been trying to put a moralistic, “family values” spin on things every since the conference nearly blew up over the summer. Talk of “shared sacrifice” and a “stronger unity” – as if these schools were sovereign nations coming together over something more than a Texas power play. Are we negotiating a nuclear treaty here? Is Beebe suddenly the president? Does he need protection to cross Nebraska's state line?

It's the sheer cheese that the Big 12 slathers on the meat of its existence that offends my sensibilities. Safe? Safe? What is this – Hillsborough Stadium? It's just a sports league. We live harsh times, folks. Angry times. But what use is it indulging such garbage as nasty e-mails, increating fractious, knee-nibbling nonsense out of the equivalent of a drunk dial? I'd like to work myself up into a equal, disproportionate-to-reality lather over this latest snub, but there's North and South Korea, the economy, unemployment benefits about to tank, immigration, health care and Bristol Palin to worry about. Nebraska and its fan base, certain to walk around in a kind of trance this week, gobbling up every morsel of Big 12 hate it can find, will, I'm sure, more than compensate for my relative demurral.

In the midst of this sure-to-burn-your-ears-and-salt-your-tears soap opera is a football decision for Nebraska to make in the wake of its 45-17 win over Colorado. There is a week to make it.

Does head coach Bo Pelini – and it's undoubtedly his call – give the starting nod to a healthy Cody Green at quarterback or a semi-healthy Taylor Martinez? Which offense does he pick? Pure power or zone read? Spread pass or playaction?

Maybe Martinez won't recover quickly enough for it to be a choice. If he looks anything like he did in the second half at Texas A&M, he doesn't belong on the football field. He's too good to play so mediocre. He needs his right foot to push off when he runs and to anchor his base when he throws.

But if he can do both of those things reasonably well – does Pelini go back to his well one more time? Does the opponent – whether it's Oklahoma, Oklahoma State or Texas A&M – make a difference?

Should the Aggies slide into the game – only possible if OU beats OSU, and ends only one spot above A&M in the BCS standings – then, yes, Green gets the nod for certain. NU can slow down Mike Sherman's bunch.

But the Cowboys? The Sooners? The two best offenses in the Big 12? Can the Blackshirts realistically keep either of those teams down for four quarters?

Green played his best game Friday. He wasn't explosive or dynamic. Those two adjectives belong to Rex Burkhead. But Green was steady. And he's been surprisingly good – in three games – on third down. Green took a bad sack once against a CU rush, but he otherwise made smart reads, delivered the ball on time, and looked better, frankly, than Martinez did vs. Kansas or A&M.

Based on the formations used today, Green clearly has more access to the playbook. What he lacks, of course, is playmaking ability with his feet. He's not a great runner because he can't change direction quickly. But he's every bit Martinez's equal as a passer. Can he keep his cool? In a pressure situation Friday – a win vs. the surging Buffs was no cinch – Green managed the offense without much trouble. Cowboys Stadium is a cavernous place, a neutral site. Noise won't be much of an issue. Green can operate in there without getting too rattled.

And Burkhead is finally getting hot. He's not a breakaway runner like Roy Helu, but he churns those legs and burns up first-down markers. Remember, folks – Texas didn't want him. Rex got caught in the “numbers crunch” for the Longhorn elites. I'm sure Mack Brown, from that double-wide burnt-orange leather chair I imagine he reclines in, enjoyed watching Burkhead, then Oregon's Lamichael James – also a Texas native – deliver their own “number crunches” in Lincoln and Eugene.

Martinez, as always, remains a wild card. Nobody doubts his physical toughness around here. He's playing through pain. On the field, in the moment, he seems mentally tough enough. The question becomes: Is he healthy enough to win a Big 12 title? Can NU afford to waste a whole half figuring that out?

It's one hot week coming up in the Big 12 fighting pit. We hacks and scribes will sharpen our pencils and fling rhetorical barbs at one another. But Nebraska's hopes – and ultimate redemption for a mucked-up final year in this mouse-trap league – rests on which Husker quarterback can throw the best darts.

See also: More analysis on Beebe

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