Friday, September 17, 2010

No. 8 Cornhuskers travel west to face Washington

The Cornhuskers spent the first two weeks of the season cleaning up on Western Kentucky and Idaho before a sea of red, piling up impressive stats on their way to a pair of blowouts.

There will still be plenty of red inside Husky Stadium on Saturday, but facing Washington on the road is clearly the first challenge of Nebraska's season.

"We need to play well Saturday. I can tell you that. We expect to play very well Saturday, and I think we've been a pretty good road team," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. "I like our approach on the road. I like the way our team comes out and the attitude they take. This will be a different kind of challenge going farther away, but I think our guys are ready to play. Our guys are looking forward to this game."

Saturday's intersectional matchup will help determine whether the Cornhuskers (2-0) are worthy of their lofty early season ranking. A true assessment won't arrive until Big 12 play starts next month, after Nebraska closes out its nonconference slate next week at home against South Dakota State.

That makes facing Washington (1-1) the lone opportunity for getting a true gauge of the Cornhuskers. Are they the dominant force that scored 87 points in their first two games with redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez darting around the field like Eric Crouch and Tommie Frazier in years past? Is this the same team that in its last game versus a BCS conference opponent shutout Arizona 33-0 in the Holiday Bowl last December?

Or will it be the team that hasn't won a road game against a BCS conference team, outside the Big 12, since a 2007 win at Wake Forest?

"The first two opponents were good teams, but going against a team like Washington, we're really going to see how far we've come and what we're made of," Nebraska defensive tackle Jared Crick said. "It's going to be a great challenge. If we can come out of there with a 'W,' it's going to tell a lot of things for us."

Washington also has a streak it would like to see end and has a bit of eerie similarity on its side. Take away a 2007 win over Boise State and a handful of Pac-10 victories and the Huskies have not beaten a ranked team from the other five power conferences - plus Notre Dame - since a 2001 win over Michigan to open the season. They're 0-9 during that stretch with losses to Ohio State (twice), Oklahoma (twice) and Miami, to name a few.

The Huskies got attention with their upset of then No. 3 Southern California a year ago. A win over Nebraska could return even more respect.

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