At tailback, the Hurricanes have Clinton Portis, who gained 1,200 yards. At fullback, the Hurricanes have a question mark with freshman Willis McGahee filling in for injured starter Najeh Davenport. The Cornhuskers give up 116.9 rushing yards a game, which ranks 22nd nationally. Nebraska has held half of its opponents to fewer than 70 yards rushing. In its last game, however, the Cornhuskers gave up 380 rushing yards against Colorado.
Miami pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense
The Hurricanes stress balance on offense, having averaged 250.2 yards a game passing and 204.6 rushing. With the ball in the hands of quarterback Ken Dorsey (a school-record 58 touchdown passes in two seasons, including 23 this season) and the threat of the run ever present, Nebraska will have trouble grounding this high-flying attack. All-American cornerback Keyuo Craver leads a Nebraska unit that led the nation in opponents' completion percentage at 43.3%. The Cornhuskers give up 170.2 passing yards a game, have 19 interceptions and have given up only eight touchdown passes. Nebraska has 39 sacks.
Nebraska run offense vs. Miami run defense
Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch is at the controls of the Cornhuskers' option attack. Burly I-back Dahrran Diedrick led the Big 12 Conference with 1,299 yards and Crouch rushed for 1,115, giving Nebraska two 1,000-yard rushers for the first time since 1997. Thunder Collins, who has gained 647 yards, is more of a slashing-type runner for the Cornhuskers and can also catch a pass. The Cornhuskers led the nation in rushing at 314.7 yards a game. Shutting down the option is never easy, but the Hurricanes had a difficult time against Virginia Tech, which ran the option only 10 times against Miami. The Hokies gained over 100 yards with it and lost by only two points.
Nebraska pass offense vs. Miami pass defense
Crouch is regarded mainly as a running threat, but he has passed for 1,510 yards and seven touchdowns while completing 55.6% of his passes. Receiver Wilson Thomas has a team-best 37 receptions for 616 yards and three touchdowns. Tight end Tracey Wistrom has 21 catches for 323 yards and two touchdowns. Led by safety Edward Reed, who led the nation with nine interceptions, the Hurricanes had the No. 2 pass defense, giving up 138.2 yards a game. Miami's defense has exceptional speed, which it will need to keep up with Crouch.
With 10 touchdowns and 72 points, the Hurricanes led the nation for the second consecutive season in non-offensive scoring, special teams sharing the credit with the defense. If it comes down to kicking, Miami has Todd Sievers, whose 21 field goals and 119 points are school single-season records. Nebraska kicker Josh Brown has made 10 of 14 field-goal attempts, including nine of his last 11, and is 34 of 37 on extra-point attempts. Nebraska punter Kyle Larson ranks 29th nationally, averaging 42.5 yards a kick. Nebraska has blocked two field-goal attempts and two punts. The Cornhuskers gave up an 85-yard punt return for a touchdown against Texas Tech, but that is the only punt return of more than 25 yards. Josh Davis averages 27 yards a kickoff return and DeJuan Groce averages 14.21 yards a punt return.
The easygoing manner of Larry Coker, considered a players' coach, would shock Bear Bryant or Woody Hayes. But then so would the idea of a 53-year-old rookie head coach going unbeaten and winning a national title. Nebraska's Frank Solich is completing his fourth season as head coach and is 42-8 since succeeding Tom Osborne after the Cornhuskers won a share of their fifth national title by defeating Tennessee in the 1998 Orange Bowl. Solich, who calls the plays as the offensive coordinator, is in his 23rd season on the Nebraska staff and has been a part of three national championships.
Those collective smiles on the faces of the favored Hurricanes will fade quickly if Nebraska takes an early lead. There is pressure on the Cornhuskers, who aren't supposed to be here. But there's even more pressure on the Hurricanes, who aren't supposed to lose. The Cornhuskers are in unusual position of being the underdog after losing regular-season finale to Colorado, 62-36. After weeks of answering embarrassing questions about their right to be playing in the bowl championship series national championship game, Nebraska is motivated to knock off unbeaten Miami and prove naysayers wrong.