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Don't expect a 'Game of the Century' out of this otherwise classic rivalry

(c) 1995 Copyright Nando.net
(c) 1995 Associated Press

LINCOLN, Neb. (Nov 20, 1995 - 17:01 EST) -- The Big Eight Conference surely wasn't supposed to end like this.

Nebraska vs. Oklahoma is one of the great rivalries in college football, one that has produced a "Game of the Century" and twice a matchup of the top two teams in the country. The teams have won or shared 32 of the Big Eight's 36 titles.

But few people are expecting a close game when they play Friday in the Big Eight finale. No. 1 Nebraska is rolling toward a third consecutive national championship game, while Oklahoma is simply reeling.

The Sooners (5-4-1, 2-4 Big Eight) have lost three of their last four games and will post their first losing league record in 30 years. Two weeks ago, following a 12-0 home loss to Oklahoma State, Sooner linebacker Broderick Simpson and offensive coordinator Gary Nord reportedly got into a shoving match.

No wonder Nebraska (10-0, 6-0) is favored by 33 1/2 points to stretch its winning streak against Oklahoma to five games, which would be the longest since a six-game run from 1931-36.

The two play again next season when the Big Eight becomes the Big 12. But the annual meetings will end after that, with Oklahoma in the new league's South Division and Nebraska in the North Division.

"I'm a little sad to see it go," Nebraska coach Tom Osborne said. "There's been a lot of good games in the conference, and quite a few of them have been with Oklahoma and Nebraska."

Osborne lost his first five games against Oklahoma as a head coach and eight of his first nine. He is 10-13 against Oklahoma, the only Big Eight team with a winning record against the 23-year head coach.

Oklahoma has upset a top-ranked Nebraska team twice before, but has beaten the Huskers only once in the last seven meetings. In its last six games, Oklahoma has scored 39, 24, 17, 13, 10 and zero points.

"What makes it so frustrating is that we had high hopes at the beginning of the season," Sooner tailback Jerald Moore said. "When the offense didn't work, it all sort of came crashing down. We've lost a lot of fans in the last three or four weeks. I guess I don't blame them."

Moore, who leads the team with 962 yards, has nine of Oklahoma's 15 rushing touchdowns.

"We've always felt that we had enough talent -- and still do -- to compete with anybody and win the game," Oklahoma defensive coordinator Kurt Van Valkenburgh said. "This season is frustrating for everybody.

"If we didn't come in and challenge them, we could have avoided the situation. We could have said this is a long-term project. We would have been cheating the players and the university if we had gone that route."

Van Valkenburgh and his defense will have their hands full.

Nebraska leads the nation in rushing (413 yards per game) and scoring (54 points). Only Florida State averages more yards than Nebraska's 571 per game. The Sooners allow 93 yards rushing and 290 overall per game.

"They are a lot more explosive than people give them credit for," Van Valkenburgh said of the Huskers. "They run very well, of course, and the option game usually leads to big yards."

Running Nebraska's option is quarterback Tommie Frazier, who is locked in a close Heisman Trophy race with Ohio State tailback Eddie George.

Frazier leads the Big Eight in passing efficiency and has completed a career-best 58 percent of his throws. His 569 rushing yards are second on the team and his average of 6.5 yards per carry is better than all but one of the nation's top 20 rushers.

Frazier has scored 30 touchdowns this season, three more than the Oklahoma team.

"He's an incredible talent," Van Valkenburgh said. "People seem to forget that he's a pretty good passer. They are not always pretty, but they get where they have to be."