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Valley college players give opinions on title game.

January 03, 2002|By ERIC GALVAN

Sports Writer

Leading up to tonight's Bowl Championship Series game between No. 1 Miami and No. 2 Nebraska in the Rose Bowl, just about every Monday morning quarterback and his mother will be giving his or her 2 cents on the matchup, the strategy and the expected outcome.

Instead of asking friends or neighbors what they think, how about getting some insight from current and former Division I football players in breaking down "The Granddaddy of Them All"?

Three Imperial Valley natives took time to help examine the game, giving their perspectives, analyses and predictions.

On one side is University of Utah long-snapper Ryan Brand, of El Centro, a diehard Nebraska fan, on the other is former University of Oregon wide receiver Marshaun Tucker, also of El Centro, and in the middle is Brawley's Kurt Rubin, who just wrapped up his collegiate playing days as a safety at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.


"I'd tell anyone that I'm Nebraska's No. 1 fan. I've been a fan since I was a kid growing up, so I'm really going for them," said Brand. "I think what it's going to come down to, is whoever goes out and can truly be physical. Nebraska's a real physical team and if Miami can't deal with that, then Nebraska will probably win.

"Offensively for Nebraska, I haven't seen a team that runs that well. If they keep that up, then there's a number of things for Miami to worry about," said Brand. "And both teams have really good defenses and they'll both probably play a pretty tough game."

Rubin agreed that the defenses will play a huge role and could dictate the game.

In the Cornhuskers' last game, a 62-36 hammering by Colorado, they gave up 582 yards of offense, 380 on the ground. Nebraska's defense, known as the Black Shirts, is traditionally one of the best units in the country and entered the Colorado game as one of the top in the nation, giving up only 11 points per game.

It was the performance, or lack thereof, against the Buffaloes that Rubin thinks will serve as motivation.

"I think after that game, the way their defense got beat, their defense is probably going to want to make a statement," said Rubin. "It's going to be an interesting game. I mean, both have good offenses and both have good defenses. But I think Nebraska's defense might be able to pull it off."

While Rubin and Brand pointed to both defenses controlling the game in a relatively low-scoring affair, Tucker thinks otherwise. As much as he thinks both Ds could play a factor, he believes the game could erupt in offensive explosions.

Even though he's expecting a high point total, he's almost torn between who he thinks will win and who he wants to win.

"Nebraska's a good team overall and I hope they win, because that'll help Oregon. I really don't think Nebraska deserves to be playing for the national championship. It should be Oregon in there. So that's why I want Nebraska to win," said Tucker. "But I think Miami has everything. They have a good quarterback, good receivers, good defense, everything. And I think Miami's defense is better than Nebraska's."

The three did agree the quarterbacks would play huge roles in determining the outcome.

On one side is Nebraska's option quarterback Eric Crouch, who won this year's Heisman Trophy on the strength of 1,115 yards rushing, 1,510 yards passing and 26 touchdowns. On the other, is Ken Dorsey, a more traditional drop-back quarterback who threw for 2,652 yards with 23 TDs, had a 57.9 completion percentage and was a finalist for the Heisman.

"Both quarterbacks are going to play a big part in the game. Crouch is a flat out slasher with his running ability. And Dorsey's more of a drop-back guy with good receivers and backs to throw to," said Tucker. "I know Miami's defensive coordinator is probably game-planning to stop Crouch. If Miami's defense can stop Crouch, stop that option, then they'll have no problem."

Said Brand: "I think it will definitely come down to the quarterbacks. If Miami can't stop Crouch, then he'll just run all over them."

That left the three with the business of making predictions.

"I think it'll probably a close, tight game with both defenses playing tough. And I think Nebraska will win by three," said Brand.

Rubin's prediction: "Miami's a big favorite, but I definitely think Nebraska has a great shot at winning. What I think it'll come down to is one of the defenses making a play. Maybe a defensive score could turn the game. I'm not real big in predicting things like this, but I think Nebraska will win by a field goal."

So with Brand and Rubin both picking Nebraska by three, that leaves Tucker.

"I think Miami's just a better overall team than Nebraska. All they have to do is stop that No. 7 (Crouch) and it'll be over," said Tucker. "Personally, I think it's going to be an offensive shoot-out with both teams scoring a lot. And in the end, I think Miami will win by six, by a touchdown."

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