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Jared Crick Out For Year; Are Nebraska Big Ten Chances Done?

Nebraska defensive tackle Jared Crick has been ruled out for the remainder of the season due to a torn pectoral muscle. Crick suffered the injury during Saturday’s 34-27 win over Ohio State.

The senior entered the year with high expectations. Crick was selected as a preseason first-team Athlon All-American and was widely-regarded as the top defensive tackle in college football.

Through five games, Crick had collected 22 stops, three tackles for a loss and one sack. An injury held the senior out against Wyoming, but was a key cog in the Nebraska defense the rest of the way.

Crick is definitely going to be missed by the Cornhuskers. Even with him in the lineup, Nebraska ranked 80th nationally against the run and tied for 65th nationally in scoring defense. After ranking as one of the best defenses in college football last season, Nebraska has not lived up to the hype and has been one of the biggest disappointments in the Big Ten.

Crick’s absence will add more pressure to the defensive line. Junior Baker Steinkuhler will have to emerge as the leader on the interior. He has 19 stops through six contests. On the edge, Jason Ankrah and Cameron Meredith will also see more attention. Crick’s presence wasn’t always felt through the box score, but rather the double teams he drew from opposing offensive lines.

Senior Terrence Moore and redshirt freshman Chase Rome were listed behind Crick on the depth chart for Ohio State. Both players will see their snaps increase, along with sophomore Thaddeus Randle, who is listed as a backup to Steinkuhler.

Nebraska does catch a break in the schedule, as Minnesota is up after the bye this Satudray. The Golden Gophers have struggled on offense all year and would pose little threat to the Cornhuskers’ defense. After Minnesota, the offenses on the schedule get a little more difficult. Nebraska finishes the year with Minnesota, Northwestern, Penn State, Michigan and Iowa. Northwestern and Michigan would figure to be the most challenging offenses to stop out of that mix.

Despite Nebraska’s loss to Wisconsin in Week 5, it was still considered the frontrunner to win the Big Ten Legends Division. However, Crick’s injury will help Michigan and Michigan State to close the gap.

Nebraska's Big Ten title hopes aren't finished, but it certainly takes a hit with Crick's injury. Even if the Cornhuskers win the Legends Division, a matchup against Wisconsin would be a nightmare in the Big Ten title game. 

Although the defense has had its issues and is losing Crick for the year, Bo Pelini is one of the top defensive minds in college football. And he will need to come up with some answers or different looks over the second half of the season.

Crick is regarded as one of the top defensive line prospects in the NFL Draft. It’s unclear how this injury will affect his preparation for the 2012 draft. 

Even though Nebraska's defense has underachieved this season, there's no doubt Crick's injury makes this unit an even bigger concern going forward.