Nebraska vs. Idaho State this Saturday is clearly a gross mismatch as Nebraska competed for a Big Ten conference crown a year ago while Idaho State won one game in the always-competitive Big Sky conference. Yet in the midst of this undoubtedly lopsided matchup are five reasons every Cornhusker fan should tune in this Saturday.
Running back and Heisman dark horse Rex Burkhead compiled 68 yards and a touchdown on three carries before leaving the season-opener against Southern Mississippi with a sprained ligament in his left knee.
Coach Bo Pelini has announced that Burkhead will make his return this Saturday against Idaho State.
Burkhead will probably not match his 23 yards-per-carry average from his season debut, but it will be intriguing to see if he is running at 100 percent heading into Big Ten conference play.
If he is, the Big Red will again be able to claim the best stable of running backs in the Big Ten.
Last week’s halftime disappearance of Coach Pelini was mysterious, to say the least.
At last check, mild flu-like symptoms do not require a trainer taking your pulse and being taken by ambulance to the hospital.
Add Pelini’s unquestionable devotion to his team, and one must be concerned with the coach’s health.
Although everyone surrounding the program has downplayed the situation at every chance, it will be interesting to see if he is a little more reserved and calm on the sidelines this Saturday.
Two weeks ago, UCLA’s spread attack exposed the lack of speed and tackling troubles in the open field for the Cornhuskers defense.
In an attempt to add more speed to the lineup, defensive coordinator John Papuchis increased playing time for JUCO transfer linebacker Zaire Anderson.
But days after helping the Huskers' defense concede only six points to Arkansas State, Anderson has been sidelined for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. The Big Red’s linebacking corps is now looking especially feeble and will likely rely more on newcomer David Santos and senior Sean Fisher, who has seen less playing time this year after a poor 2011 showing.
Even against an FCS opponent, the slow, poor-tackling and now slimmer ranks of the Nebraska linebackers should be paid special attention.
Any fan of Nebraska football has to feel for sophomore running back Braylon Heard.
A highly touted recruit out of Youngstown, Ohio, Heard was heralded as the future of the Cornhuskers' rushing attack.
But after being lost in a star-studded depth chart, he was briefly switched to defensive back before returning to running back in time to reap increased touches due to Burkhead’s injury.
Now, after averaging 6.8 yards per carry in the last three games, Heard’s niche in the Huskers offense is unclear, even though he has proven himself a very capable back.
The Cornhuskers began the year against last year’s Conference-USA champion, PAC-12 South Division champion and Sun Belt Conference champion.
Next week, they begin a brutal six weeks featuring contests with Wisconsin, Ohio State, Northwestern, Michigan and Michigan State. But nestled in between are the Idaho State Bengals, who finished 1-7 in the Big Sky conference a year ago.
One would expect a blowout, as Darin Pike is predicting, but how much passion will the Cornhuskers really be able to muster for this snoozer?