Nebraska couldn't take care of business against UCLA in Week 2, but UN's Week 3 contest provides a solid opportunity to bounce back.
The Cornhuskers welcome Gus Malzahn and the Arkansas State Red Wolves to Memorial Stadium. Malzahn's name gives this ASU team some notoriety, and it is coming off of a Week 2 win over Memphis.
Nebraska can't have another slip-up if it hopes to play in a BCS bowl at season's end. Arkansas State will have upset on its mind.
Let's preview this game from top to bottom.
Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.
When: Saturday, September 15, at 11 a.m. ET
Betting Line: Nebraska (-24.5), according to covers.com
Nebraska doesn't want to lose two games in a row, and it faces an interesting Sun Belt team in Week 3.
The Red Wolves don't have any players that will jump out at you, but their hear coach is former Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn. It's also the school that dismissed former Auburn running back Michael Dyer after he couldn't keep himself out of trouble.
Malzahn is a very good offensive mind. His squad racked up 530 yards on Oregon in Week 1, and the Cornhuskers are reeling.
Don't dismiss this one without tuning in to see what Malzahn cooks up.
Who Might Not Play for Arkansas State (according to USAToday.com)
WR Allen Muse—Questionable (Disciplinary)
WR Tres Houston—Out (Suspended for Season)
Who Might Not Play for Nebraska (according to USAToday.com)
RB Rex Burkhead—Questionable (Knee)
WR Tim Marlowe—Out (Collarbone)
BCS/Top 25 Implications
Arkansas State isn't going to sniff a BCS bowl this season, but the Cornhuskers could if they improve their play.
Nebraska dropped out of the AP Top 25 after its loss to UCLA in Week 2, and that probably won't change regardless of the outcome here.
However, a loss would bury the Cornhuskers deeper down the charts.
What They’re Saying
Nebraska linebacker Will Compton reacted to his team's loss to the Bruins in an Associated Press report (via The Washington Post):
You’ve got to give [UCLA] credit. We didn’t come to play tonight, and it showed. We definitely didn’t plan on this happening, but I definitely feel we’re going to come back strong. We’ve just got to get our rest, take care of ourselves and come out next week even stronger.
The Red Wolves should expect Nebraska to come back stronger. This is the Cornhuskers' first trip outside of the Top 25 in three years, and proud programs don't take those things lightly.
The Associated Press (via SI.com) offered some insight into Malzahn's offensive philosophy before his team's Week 1 contest:
Malzahn's philosophy is no secret. His book, written while still coaching in high school, is titled "Hurry Up, No Huddle.'' His offenses, for the most part, have stayed true to that in college.
He has stayed true to that thus far. The Red Wolves' game against Oregon was a track meet in pads, and their victory over Memphis wasn't any different.
Whom to Watch, Arkansas State: David Oku, RB
Oku is a perfect fit for Malzahn's attack. He's not known for his power, but he can go the distance whenever he touches it.
So far this season, Oku has 211 yards and a touchdown on 37 carries. His 5.7 yards per carry show how dangerous he can be.
Nebraska gave up 200-plus yards to UCLA's Johnathan Franklin in Week 2. Oku won't do that sort of damage, but he could cause problems of his own.
Whom to Watch, Nebraska: Taylor Martinez, QB
With Burkhead questionable, the onus falls on Martinez. He must orchestrate Nebraska's attack and control the clock.
He has 533 yards, five touchdowns and one interception so far this season. He looks like a completely different passer in the pocket, and his 100-plus rushing yards in Week 2 show that he can still move.
Nebraska should win regardless, but Martinez is the hand that rocks the cradle.
Key Matchup: Arkansas State Offense vs. Nebraska Front 7
The Red Wolves won't throw it deep a whole lot, but their short passes can be problematic. You won't find them huddling up, and they don't allow defenders to rest for a second.
Nebraska's front seven must pressure Aplin. If it can dictate tempo in any way, shape or form, this game will be ugly.
On the other hand, Malzahn's attack can keep things interesting if Nebraska's front gets pushed around.
Covering the spread will be tougher than you think, but I expect the Cornhuskers to win the game.They won't be happy after last week's loss, and dropping out of the polls didn't help matters.
It's always fun to watch a unique offensive philosophy take shape, but that's all the fun Arkansas State will have in this one.
Score: Nebraska 42, Arkansas State 21