Football at 7000 Feet
War Memorial Stadium in Laramie, Wyoming is the highest division I FBS stadium at 7215 feet (2199 meters) above sea level. At this level, the effects of altitude are no longer negligible, even to elite athletes. Any amount of preparation in Lincoln will not be fully adequate with such a limited window of acclimation to the elevation before the game. The altitude will adversely affect the Huskers, but exactly how much will it cause a problem will only be visible on Saturday.
Above 7000 feet, the body's ability to make the best use of the oxygen in the air begins to drop. When the team arrives in Wyoming, the body will immediately attempt to adjust with an increased heart rate, and suppression of bodily functions like digestion. The party line from coaches and players is one of little concern.
"I think it's more mental. If you play the right way, it's not a big deal. Hydration is going to be a big thing, but our strength and conditioning staff is going to have us ready to go. The altitude and elevation won't play a factor." --Kenny Bell
"I don't give that much thought to it. I have a lot more important things to worry about." --Tim Beck
"A few of our strength coaches and our nutritionist, they've been talking about the high altitudes and stuff. It shouldn't really matter. We only play the game for two or three hours. It's not really a big difference." --Taylor Martinez
The strength and nutrition coaches have worked out a plan to try and deal with the immediate issues. Players this week are very likely increasing fluids, carbohydrates, and iron supplements to prevent altitude sickness.
In 2009, many of the players on this team went to Boulder, Colorado and won in a 28-20 effort. Rex Burkhead had a then career day with 100 yards and a touchdown. The elevation in Boulder is 5430 feet. Altitude sickness commonly occurs in people at levels above 8000 feet, but some are affected by it at much lower altitudes, with flu-like or hangover-like symptoms. Whereas the affects of the games in the Colorado were minimal, the differences between Boulder and Laramie are greater so than the differences between Lincoln and Boulder.
The thinness of the air has a major impact in the body's efficiencies, but it also has an added benefit. Bodies and objects are able to move with greater ease due to the less resistance. The effect in the kicking game may be immediately obvious, but if the athletes cannot cope with the deficiencies in oxygen, it will not be enough to offset this positive effect.
The Huskers cannot be at 100%, but will still perform around a 95% (in terms of max oxygen consumption) at this altitude with little acclimation. If the conditioning of the Huskers does not show any issues in the first half of the game, the depth and rotation of Nebraska may still be too much for the Cowboys to overcome, even with the altitude in the way.