With both squads coming off a bye, the No. 21 Cornhuskers and 24th-ranked Tigers open their conference schedules at Faurot Field on Thursday night.
Oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made Alabama -17 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Thursday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 85% of bets for this game have been placed on Alabama -17 (View College Football bet percentages).
"Now the season starts. Right now. That's the way we look at it,'' Huskers coach Bo Pelini said after a 55-0 win over Louisiana-Lafayette on Sept. 26. "Time to put the foot on the gas pedal and go. We have a long season and challenges in front of us.''
The Huskers (3-1) faced few challenges during nonconference play, defeating Sun Belt Conference foes Florida Atlantic, Arkansas State and Lafayette by a combined 142-12. Nebraska's loss came at then-No. 13 Virginia Tech on Sept. 19, when the Hokies scored with 21 seconds left for a 16-15 win.
The Huskers bounced back from that stunning loss with the lopsided victory over the Ragin' Cajuns, allowing a season-low 222 yards in their first shutout since 2006.
The offense had another solid performance with Zac Lee passing for 238 yards and a TD in just more than a half of work, while running back Roy Helu scored twice.
Nebraska is 19th in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 440.0 yards per game and ninth with 39.3 points a contest, but the defense has been even better.
The Huskers are first in FBS in scoring defense (7.0) and their 28 points allowed are their fewest yielded through four games since 1990.
"We've made progress but we're nowhere near where I believe we need to be,'' Pelini said. "We're in the right galaxy now. Last year we were a few solar systems away. We're playing well in some areas, we're playing inconsistent in some other areas. We'll find out."
In Pelini's first year as Huskers' coach last season, the defense allowed an average of 28.5 points.
Nebraska opened conference play with a 52-17 loss to then-No. 4 Missouri last Oct. 4 in its most lopsided defeat at Memorial Stadium since 1955. The teams went on to tie for first in the Big 12 North.
Missouri (4-0) was led by Heisman Trophy contender Chase Daniel last season, but Blaine Gabbert has prevented the Tigers from experiencing much of a drop off at quarterback this year.
Gabbert passed for 414 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-21 win at Nevada on Sept. 25. He has thrown for 1,161 yards and 11 TDs with no interceptions this season.
The sophomore directs an offense that ranks 15th in FBS in points per game (36.8) and 16th in yards per contest (453.0), although he has yet to face a defense that is nearly as talented as Nebraska's.
The combined record of Missouri's four opponents is 6-12, with Football Championship Subdivision team Furman accounting for three of those victories against its Southern Conference foes.
"Nebraska has a bunch of good playmakers, and they have a great scheme under coach Pelini, so we're just going to go out there and compete," Gabbert said.
The Tigers should have an advantage playing at Faurot Field. Missouri has won 23 of 27 home games and taken three straight over Nebraska at Faurot.
Nebraska has lost seven in a row and 14 of 15 road games against ranked opponents.
"This is it. This is the road to the Big 12 championship, and it starts with us and Nebraska on Thursday night," Missouri defensive lineman Jaron Baston said. "There's no better way to start it out than on a Thursday night in front of a national crowd to show people that we're still here to stay."
Posted: 10/5/09 9:48PM ET