Lincoln, Neb. — Nebraska and Oklahoma have been laying it on the line all season. That would be the defensive line.
The Cornhuskers’ Nda-mukong Suh and the 20th-ranked Sooners’ Gerald McCoy are the best known of the men in the middle, but they’ve gotten plenty of help as their teams’ defenses have developed into a couple of the nation’s best.
No doubt, the boys up front will be a focal point when the teams meet tonight.
“It’s the battle of the best,” Suh said. “We want to prove we’re the best.”
The Huskers (5-3, 2-2 Big 12) have their strongest defensive front since All-Americans Jason Peter and Grant Wistrom were winning national championships in the 1990s. The Sooners (5-3, 3-1) have a line comparable to those headed up by All-American Tommie Harris and Dusty Dvoracek earlier this decade.
The central figure at Nebraska is Suh, who has 13 tackles for loss, five sacks, 14 quarterback hurries and a team-leading seven pass breakups.
McCoy, a fellow Lombardi Award semifinalist and Outland Trophy candidate, hasn’t put up the same numbers as Suh, but he can be just as disruptive. Twelve of his 19 tackles have been behind the line of scrimmage, and he leads the Sooners with eight hurries.
Suh and McCoy are projected to be top 10 picks in next spring’s NFL draft, and they’ve been treated as such by opposing offenses that double-team them. All that’s done is provide opportunities for others.
Last week, Suh’s linemate, Jared Crick, recorded a school-record five sacks and a career-high 13 tackles in the Huskers’ 20-10 win at Baylor. Suh wasn’t exactly quiet: He had five tackles and a sack.
Crick earned two national defensive player-of-the-week awards for his performance against Baylor, just as Suh did for his dominating showing against Missouri a month ago.
“We were hoping throughout the season that if you double-team Suh, I’m going to go at it and try and make plays,” Crick said. “After the last game, I would hope that teams would kind of start shading my way more and let Suh have the opportunity to make plays.”
Defensive ends Pierre Allen and Barry Turner also have done their part. Allen has three sacks and nine tackles behind the line and Turner two sacks and seven tackles for loss.
“It’s going to be a huge battle up front,” OU offensive lineman Stephen Good said.
Nebraska’s offensive line will get its biggest test of the season going against McCoy, Adrian Taylor and ends Jeremy Beal and Auston English.
“They’re very aggressive up front,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. “Obviously, to play good offense you have to have some control of the line of scrimmage. To me, that’s where it starts.”