LINCOLN, NEB. Before Nebraska can worry too much about playing No. 3 Oklahoma, the top-ranked Cornhuskers have to deal with Baylor.
This week will be a test in concentration for the Huskers (6-0 overall, 3-0 Big 12).
Baylor (2-4, 0-3) finished 1-10 last season and is already a 48 1/2-point underdog for Saturday. Oklahoma, meanwhile, is back among the top powers in the country after beating Kansas State 41-31 last week.
The Sooners' win fueled the anticipation for next week's Nebraska-Oklahoma game, which was already going to re-establish the rivalry between the two teams that almost annually decided the Big Eight. Now Big 12 supremacy and a shot at the national title are also riding on it.
"That game is in two weeks. Right now our concern is winning the next one," coach Frank Solich said Tuesday. "Everybody sees the Oklahoma game as a very big game, which it is. But it won't be quite as big if we don't get this one."
Nebraska is glad to have the Bears ahead while Oklahoma has the week off. The extra time will give the Sooners a chance to heal from K-State and prepare for their first game against the Huskers since 1997, but it is also a long time to wait between games.
"I like the game-week routine much better," NU guard Russ Hochstein said. "Sometimes in an off week you get a little laissez-faire attitude or get lackadaisical and you can't afford to do that."
The Huskers are hoping they started a trend last week against Texas Tech when they finally played like the No. 1 team, dominating the Red Raiders in the 59-3 win.
Nebraska's first true rout of the season came after a players-only meeting called last week by the team captains.
"We hit a point in our schedule where we needed to step back and take a look at where we really were and where we are going. Sometimes it's good when that is coming from a coach, but I think there are those times when it's even better coming from the players," Solich said.
Rush end Kyle Vanden Bosch, one of three defensive co-captains, said it was time to get some things cleared up and start playing like the Huskers were expected to.
"We needed to come in with a little bit more of a Nebraska attitude be a little bit mean, be a little more aggressive in the games and really make things happen," Vanden Bosch said. "We really want to come out and be a dominant team and not let teams hang around with us in the fourth quarter."
Vanden Bosch said now that the Huskers finally have something going on both offense and defense, they need to keep the attitude they had last week.
"We know we've got Baylor this week and then we've got Oklahoma. We need to keep the intensity up and keep getting better," he said. "We've got the meat of our schedule coming up."
The Tech game was more than a confidence booster. It also gave a lot of Nebraska's younger players some game experience. Among them was No. 2 quarterback Jammal Lord, who had played sparingly in just four games.
Lord played most of the fourth quarter and gave starter Eric Crouch a much-needed break, something he hadn't been able to do much this season. Nebraska's games had been close enough that Solich has left his starters in until very late.