Most pundits had Nebraska rated highly in preseason polls, and pointed to the defense as the reason why. (This was before Taylor Martinez sliced and diced his way into Heisman consideration.) But the Blackshirts definitely haven't been great of late.
In today's first half against Oklahoma State, the Cornhuskers conceded 343 yards and 27 points, breaking the nation's longest streak of games holding the opponent to 21 or fewer points in just 30 minutes on the field. And the Cowboys' damage has come from the air and the ground: Brandon Weeden has 201 yards passing, 129 of them to stud wideout Justin Blackmon (and 80 of those on a flea-flickered hook-up) and Kendall Hunter has 146 rushing yards.
The Huskers still lead, 31-27, thanks to a stellar showing from their offense and a Niles Paul kickoff return for a touchdown, but this defensive decline has been been as sudden as it is troubling.
Last week, Nebraska gave up 20 points to Texas at home. At the time, it didn't seem like many, but the Longhorns struggled mightily against UCLA before seeing the Huskers and did the same against Iowa State today. Today's first half implosion would count as the most yards Nebraska's given up in a game all season. And all-everything cornerback Prince Amukamara, tasked with covering Blackmon, is watching his NFL stock plummet.
In two weeks, Nebraska's gone from a Big 12 front-runner, thanks in part to a stout defense, to a Big 12 also-ran, dependent on its offense to keep a game close. That was not what predictions in August said.