Where Can I Watch The Nebraska Football Game Today The Conundrum that is Brad Smith

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The Conundrum that is Brad Smith

As we reach the midpoint of the Big 12 season, the title game picture is crystal clear in the South, but still murky in the North. Until Saturday, most people agreed that Colorado and Nebraska were by far the class of the Big 12 North. Sure Missouri was 2-1, but their wins came against in-state allies Iowa and Oklahoma and now they had to play Nebraska! Many assumed that Nebraska’s vaunted defense would shut down the Tiger offense and return to the top 25. But someone forgot to tell Brad Smith.

The sometimes outstanding, sometimes maligned senior guard decided to play arguably the best game of his career on Saturday. In throwing for 234 yards, plus a touchdown pass, and rushing for 246 and 3 touchdowns (setting a Mizzou record for total yards with 480), Smith single-handedly propelled Missouri into contention for the North title. The performance followed a week in which Smith’s backup, freshman Chase Daniel, received support for the quarterback job. The highly touted Daniel stepped into Missouri’s game against Iowa State in place of an injured Smith and led them to a 27-24 overtime victory, throwing for 185 yards on 16-of-23 passing. Yet this week, the only thing Chase Daniel did was disrupt Missouri’s momentum. After four straight touchdowns by Smith to start the game, Daniel tacked on the first drive of the 2nd quarter only to see nothing materialize. That drive turned out to be a big swing for Nebraska. Although this was a premeditated maneuver that was supposed to be a 1-of-2 move for Daniel, Smith’s performance dictated that he stay in the game.

Brad Smith’s years at Missouri were full of ups and downs, usually resulting in results that didn’t live up to expectations. As a true freshman in 2002, Smith replaced incumbent starter Kirk Farmer and the Tigers posted a 5-7 record. With heightened expectations for 2003, Smith led the team to an 8-5 record and a berth in the Independence Bowl (loss at Arkansas), behind 1,310 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns on the season. Going into 2004, Smith was getting a fair amount of Heisman publicity, and he did nothing with it. He was one of the bigger disappointments of the 2004 high school football season. Many attribute his decline to coach Gary Pinkel’s mismanagement, but the decline in his numbers was severe. Although his passing yards increased, his completion percentage fell from 60.6 to 51.8 and his rushing yards fell to 553.

While it seems like Brad Smith may never leave Missouri, now is his senior season. 2005 is the year that Brad Smith can finally fulfill his enormous potential. In Saturday’s run against what was once the nation’s top-ranked rushing defense, Smith cemented his job and put Missouri in the hunt for the Big 12 North. His performance made him just the sixth player in NCAA history to throw for 200 yards and pass for 200 yards in a single game (first since Indiana’s Antwaan Randle Ell in 2000). In addition, he is currently the leading rusher in the Big 12 and the 10th leading rusher in the NCAA this season, having already surpassed his 2004 total.

But serious obstacles still stand in the way of both Smith and Missouri. This week they visit Kansas for the annual Border War. Kansas has won the last 2 meetings and proved to be a big problem for Smith. In the last two games against them, Smith has rushed for a whopping -8 yards on 30 carries, and the Kansas defense he will face this season currently ranks first in the Big 12 against the run. If they can somehow shake off the demons in Lawrence, they still have back-to-back games with current North favorite Colorado and Kansas State, which they haven’t beaten since 1992.

I’m hesitant to put my money on Smith, who has shown flashes of absolute brilliance before, rushing for 291 yards and 5 touchdowns in a 2003 win over Texas. He has been one of the most inconsistent players in college football over the past few years. The question is, did he turn the corner Saturday against Nebraska or was it just another flash of brilliance? You have to wonder if he’ll ever pull it all together.

As for Missouri, I just don’t think they have a team capable of winning the North. Other than Brad Smith, they still aren’t that good. They currently rank 10th in the conference in total defense, allowing 375 yards per game, their schedule is playing poorly, and Gary Pinkel is still their coach. Missouri will only go as far as Brad Smith carries them. If he plays even 80 percent of the rest of the season as well as he did in the Nebraska game, he might give Vince Young the run for Big 12 MVP and lead Missouri to their first Big 12 championship game. But if he doesn’t, he could just as easily to disappear into oblivion after this season. Now is the time for Smith to either establish himself as a great quarterback or become the current version of Notre Dame quarterback Ron Paulus, a four-year starter who was never able to live up to his full potential.

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