Tom Osborne says this year's Nebraska Cornhuskers might rank with the best teams he has coached - if they hold their own against second-ranked Miami tonight in the Orange Bowl.
"This team might have played as well as any, when you look at both sides of the ball, if they play well," Osborne said. "If not, they're just another good team."The sixth-ranked Huskers, 11-1, were eliminated from national championship contention by a 41-28 loss at UCLA in their third game. But they've won nine in a row since and captured the Big Eight Conference title outright for the first time since 1983.
"I think Nebraska could be as good a team as there is in the country," Miami Coach Jimmy Johnson said.
The Hurricanes, 10-1, hope to show they're the best by beating Nebraska. Johnson says a Miami victory, coupled with a win by No. 3 West Virginia against No. 1 Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, might give the Hurricanes their second straight national championship.
The final AP poll will be announced Tuesday afternoon.
"Our biggest challenge is going to be beating Nebraska, not the polls," Johnson said.
The Hurricanes are favored, but Johnson is concerned about how they match up with the Huskers.
"They are one of the more physical teams in the country," Johnson said. "They hammer at you and play what people call smash ball. . . . They'll be running the ball in the first quarter, and they'll be running the ball in the fourth quarter."
Nebraska won the NCAA rushing title for the seventh time by averaging 382 yards per game. I-back Ken Clark rushed for 1,497 yards, including 1,069 in the final six games.
"We're basically a power football team," Clark said. "Nothing fancy about it."
Actually, a few frills are provided by quarterback Steve Taylor, who totaled 998 yards rushing and averaged 7 yards per scramble. But Taylor said Nebraska plans to keep things simple against the Hurricanes, who have allowed only 2.2 yards per carry.
Miami has just as much confidence in its passing game. Wide receiver Pee Wee Smith grunted when asked how Nebraska's secondary matches up with the Hurricanes.
"Please," Smith said. "They're average-speed DBs. I think we can get deep on 'em."