The two best offensive teams in college football, No. 1-ranked Oklahoma and No. 4-ranked Nebraska, will have their annual showdown today at Memorial Stadium and, as usual, the Big Eight championship, a trip to the Orange Bowl and perhaps the national championship itself is on the line.
The game will be televised nationally (WJLA-TV 7 in Washington) at 12:30.
Nebraska and Oklahoma aren't the only high-powered squads squaring off with each other today. Third-ranked Alabama meets 10th-ranked LSU in Birmingham, sixth-ranked Texas and eighth-ranked Houston tangle in Austin and fifth-ranked Southern California hosts No. 19 Washington.
"This is the game, right here," said Oklahoma Coach Barry Switzer. "It doesn't matter what all of the other teams do to each other.
"Our game with Nebraska is always a big one and I've got to believe that both teams know they are playing for the national championship. If Nebraska beats us, it will move up to No. 2 and Penn State will be No. 1 and they'll play each other in the Orange Bowl for the national championship. If we win, we'll be one-two with Penn State and be playing for the title."
The Sooners, 9-0, and the Cornhuskers, 8-1, dominate the national team offensive statistics. Nebraska is tops in total offense with 515.2 yards a game, with Oklahoma second with a 483.1 average. The Sooners lead the country in rushing with an average of 414.7 yards a game with Nebraska second, 342.7.
The Corn huskers lead the nation in scoring, averaging 41.3 points a game and, you guessed it, the Sooners are second with a 40.4 average.
"This is the best Nebraska team since 1971," said Switzer. "They don't have any real superstar talent like Johnny Rodgers, but overall they are well-balanced. Their quarterback, Tom Sorley, throws the ball well and they have those tough I backs and I.M. Hipp and Rick Berns. They also have a tight end, Junior Miller, and a wingback, Kenny Brown, who can kill you."
Okalahoma has more than its share of bona fide superstars, led by Heisman Trophy candidate Billy Sims, who will be going for an NCAA-record fourth straight 200 yards rushing today.
Sims plays in a dream wishbone backfield with quarterback Thomas Lott, fullback Kenny King and half-back David Overstreet.
Sims, the nation's leading rusher, averaging 155.2 yards a game and 7.9 yards a carry, is also fifth in the nation in scoring with 14 touchdowns. Kicker Ewe von Schamman is 11th in scoring.
The Oklahoma defense is led by All-America linebackers Darryl Hunt and George Cumby and All-America middle guard Reggie Kinlaw.
"Our Players know it's an important game," Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne said. "We've tried not to oversell the game or juice it up anymore than it already is. Oklahoma is a real talented team, but we feel we have better talent than we have had the past few years when they beat us so badly."
In a 63-21 victory over Kansas last Saturday, Nebraska set an NCAA sea-record with 799 yards in total offense. Fourth-string tailbck Craig Johnson scored on a 64-yard run, a 60-yard run and a 78-yard screen pass.
"Do you think you impress the pollsters?" Switzer asked Osborne jokingly at a news confence yesterday.
Sims is not too impressed. "Nebraska is a really super team both offensively and defensively and they've been playing real good since the Alabama game, but they haven't been tested since that game, either," Sims said.
Nebraska opened the season with a 20-3 loss to Alabama and have since won eight straight.
Nebraska hasn't beaten Oklahoma since 1971 and the Cornhuskers were humiliated, 38-7, last year.
In that game and in the last few games of the series, the Huskers became so tight at even the thought of the Sooners that they never settled into their game.
"There isn't that, 'Oh, oh, it's Oklahoma, the end of the world' feeling like there was in the iast," said Nebraska middle guard Kerry Weinmaster. "We're all playing well and we all know what to do."