Osborne willing to let big games clear up poll rankings

(c) Copyright the News & Observer Publishing Co. and The Associated Press, 1994

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- Tom Osborne isn't worried about his team having dropped to No. 3 in the rankings. He figures big games will shake things out and Saturday is Nebraska's biggest.

The Cornhuskers (8-0, 3-0 Big Eight) play host to No. 2 Colorado (7-0, 3-0) Saturday, in what is becoming the Big Eight showdown. Colorado and Nebraska have won or shared the league title since 1988, with Nebraska winning the last two. They shared in 1991.

But this one may also be for the national championship.

"I suppose whoever wins this ball game will have some support in the polls," Osborne said by telephone Sunday.

But how much support depends on how the game is played, how No. 1 Penn State plays against No. 21 Ohio State and ultimately what poll voters think, Osborne said.

Nebraska still has the most first-place votes of any team in the poll (24). Penn State has 19 and Colorado 16. No. 4 Auburn has three.

"I'm not going to worry about it because that's something I can't control," he said.

The nationally televised game also is homecoming for Nebraska. It will be a "big red" day on the Cornhusker schedule for that reason.

Colorado coach Bill McCartney has made this a "red-letter" game on his schedule, designating Nebraska as his team's rival. The Buffaloes point at this game as one to make-or-break the season.

Rival isn't a word Osborne chooses to use.

"It's an important game," he said. "We are their rival, evidently. We don't have a rival."

Osborne said that is meant as no disrespect for Colorado, it's just that he would rather point at opponents as important.

"I don't know how it's going to shake out. Some year it might be Missouri. Kansas State this year was a big game," Osborne said. "It's just a difference of approach, I guess."

Osborne figures to approach this one with all the cards on the table, however. Unlike the last two weeks when he has limited his option game due to a lung injury to quarterback Brook Berringer.

With quarterback Tommie Frazier apparently out for the season with recurring blood clots in his right leg, Berringer had to take controls, and his lung partially collapsed three weeks ago against Wyoming.

Berringer played about a half two weeks ago in the 17-6 win at Kansas State and was limited in his play-calling despite his start and playing much of Saturday's 42-7 win over Missouri.

"It's probably eliminated about a third of our offense," Osborne said.

An option team without an option attack still was good enough to beat then-No. 16 K-State and Missouri.

"It's been a little tough," said Osborne, who credits his defense for carrying the load while the quarterbacks heal.

But just as Berringer is getting back to 100 percent, backup sophomore Matt Turman sustained what Osborne said was a bruise or partial separation to his throwing shoulder against Missouri. Turman is probably out this week and maybe more, Osborne said.

That forced Osborne to pull the redshirt off true freshman Monte Christo, who was coming off the injury list himself. Christo had a hand injury that required surgery. He hadn't practiced for six weeks before this week.

Osborne doesn't have a player he could label No. 3 behind Christo at quarterback right now. And that's bad heading into the Colorado showdown with only Berringer having game experience.

Regardless, Osborne said, there won't be any holding back this week.