LAWRENCE, Kan. - Which Nebraska team will show up in Lawrence today? Will it be the one that beat national powerhouse Oklahoma 10-3 last week in Lincoln or the one that struggled in losses against Iowa State and Texas Tech?
As things get closer to kickoff, here are today's keys to victory for the Huskers against Kansas. A win today would put NU in a great position to take home the Big 12 North title.
Which team will show up?
A big question today in Lawrence is which Nebraska team will show up? The last four or five weeks have been completely unpredictable for the Huskers. The only consistent thing has been the play of the defense.
The offense has obviously been the big question as they've only put together a few long scoring drives in Big 12 Conference play. I think a big part of the offense's success will be the health of running back Roy Helu. If the Huskers can get another solid effort out of Helu, it will open up the play action pass and take the pressure of whoever NU's starting quarterback is today.
Get to Reesing early
Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing said Nebraska hasn't seen an experienced quarterback like him all season. Reesing might be right by making this statement, but on the flip side I don't think Reesing has seen a defensive front quite like Nebraska's either.
When a great defense meets a great offense, I almost always give the edge to the defense. If the Huskers can hit Reesing a few times early, NU should be able to get in his head and make him think about trying not to get hit on every play.
Tackling in space
The biggest key for Nebraska's defense today is open field tackling. Once again the Huskers will see a spread look that features four wide receivers on almost every play.
Thus far in 2009 tackling in space has not been an issue for NU's linebackers and secondary players. With a quarterback like Reesing though, you can bet he'll try to find some mismatch situations with his talented wide receivers on Nebraska's defensive backs.
Manage the game on offense
Whoever the Huskers quarterback is today, the most important thing is for them to manage the game. The recipe for success has been laid down for this football team. Play championship level defense and great special teams and just don't screw things up on offense.
If the Huskers can do that for a second week in a row, I don't see how they can lose this game. Last week against OU, Nebraska won the turnover battle 5 to 1. Winning in this area will once again be another key to success, as we all know how hard it is to drive the ball on NU's defense 70 or 80 yards.
Create some explosive plays
I want to see some explosive plays from Nebraska's offense of 20 yards or more. Whether that's a 40 yard run from Helu or deep passes to Niles Paul or Mike McNeill. The Huskers need to find a way to create big plays on offense, as Kansas's defense should give them plenty of opportunities to do that.
I expect Zac Lee to get the start at quarterback today, but I wouldn't be surprised if we saw Cody Green play as well. Also don't be surprised if Menelik Holt and Curenski Gilleylen see some time at wide receiver after spending the last few weeks with NU's scout team.
I'm taking the Huskers 24-13. I think the Blackshirts will once again carry them to another impressive road victory.
Callahan's Prediction: Nebraska 24 Kansas 13
Season Record: 6-3 overall; 5-4 vs. points