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September 9, 2013
Over the months of September and October Nebraska is only going to face one team that has similar talent to them.
Games against Wyoming, Purdue, Minnesota, Illinois, South Dakota State and Southern Miss are nice, but Saturday's match-up with UCLA is what you call defining.
It's hard to tell a lot about this Husker defense through two weeks, but by Saturday at about 2:30 pm we'll know much more. You can make a case that the Bruins will arguably be the best offense Nebraska will face this season and Brett Hundley is the best quarterback they'll see.
Its games like this that will define the season. Its games like this that determine if you are BCS at-large material.
A year ago Nebraska went out to Pasadena expected to handle UCLA, but they were shell shocked to the tune of 653 yards, including 344 yards rushing. Despite the big yardage numbers the Huskers only lost 36-30, but the loss had some early damage on the overall psyche of the defense.
"Any time you lose a football game, it's hard. It's difficult. These are two different teams in two different times," head coach Bo Pelini said when talking about last year's loss at UCLA. "It's really not going to impact you. You can sit there and do whatever you want. You can get mad or whatever. Both teams are going to be emotional. Both teams are going to want to win. It's going to be whoever goes out and executes to win the football game.
"I'm pretty positive our team is motivated no matter what the situation. It just so happens that we played this team a year ago and it didn't (go our way). If that provides our guys with extra motivation, so be it. I would hope it does. Hopefully that motivation will come in the form of great preparation because that's how you win a football game. It's not about wanting to. It's about wanting to do the things that get you prepared to play great."
From a players perspective junior running back Ameer Abdullah said they aren't making this game any bigger than it needs to be.
"I feel like every game is a statement game," Abdullah said. "Obviously, they beat us last year so we have a little more incentive to win this game and prove something by beating them this year. I feel like every week is a statement game and I don't really look at it like this one holds more value than others, but preparation is key."
After giving up over 600 yards to the Bruins last season, senior cornerback Ciante Evans has a different view on what this game means.
"I think it's a big game and especially for the program and the players," Evans said. "I know the players are anxious for this week and I think that those guys have a high level of focus, especially coming in this week. It's a big game and I hope we are able to play good on Saturday. I don't believe in payback, but we've had it on our minds since the loss so we know what to expect."
Pelini still expects to sub at a high rate
The last two games we've seen Nebraska substitute more than ever before on defense. In some ways the Huskers could get away with that because of the talent level difference between them and Southern Miss and Wyoming.
Going forward this week Pelini said he still expects to sub quite a bit on defense, and doesn't expect to slow it down any time soon.
"This is the ideal situation. We haven't done that in the past couple years," Pelini said. "I wish we would've been a little bit deeper. Like I said, I came out of last year and the biggest mistake I probably made was redshirting some of the redshirt freshmen. Later on in the year when we had some injuries, we didn't have guys that had playing time and had experience. You look at that and say, 'O.K. I screwed it up.' I'm not scared to say that.
"Looking back, I wish I would've done it differently. You have to plan for those things and make adjustments as you go forward. That's what we are doing."
Huskers have strong California flavor
NU will have nine players on their roster from the state of California, which ranks second only two Nebraska and Texas.
For guys like quarterback Taylor Martinez, wide receiver Quincy Enunwa, cornerback Josh Mitchell, quarterback Johnny Stanton and running back Terrell Newby this game has even more meaning.
All of those players are from the Los Angeles area, and Newby even picked Nebraska over UCLA this past January.
"I was either going to wear Red or Blue," Newby said. "I chose Red."
The book all Husker fan must own
Over the off-season I wrote the book "100 things Nebraska fans should know and do before they die." The book will hit local stores around the state this month and can be purchased at all the major online book websites like Amazon.
This is a book every Husker fan will enjoy, and I can promise you it's different than any other Nebraska book out there. It should make a great gift around the holiday's and the price of $15 makes it very affordable for all.
I plan to do several signings this fall and winter and would more than happy to sign copies of the book at any of my Husker Lunch events in Kearney, Fremont, Beatrice and Columbus, or Friday morning's at the Big Red Breakfast in Omaha.
Three and out
***Under Pelini Nebraska is 17-1 at home in non-conference games. Their only loss came in 2008 against Virginia Tech.
***Nebraska will wear a special No. 36 decal on their helmets Saturday in honor of UCLA wide receiver Nick Pasquale, who tragically passed away over the weekend.
***Never thought I'd say this, but count me in as a fan of the new black alternate uniforms. I can live with them for one game a year.
Sean Callahan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and he can be heard each day at 6:50 am and 4:50 pm on Big Red Radio 1110 KFAB in Omaha during the football season. He can also be seen on KETV Channel 7 TV in Omaha during the fall and each week he appears on NET's Big Red Wrap Tuesday's at 7 pm.