While looking at Arkansas State, I see a team that has the ability to make some plays, and make things difficult for its opponents on both sides of the ball.
They will be coming to Lincoln with a proven quarterback in senior Corey Leonard, who in 2008 broke his own school record with 2,863 yards of total offense. Leonard also tied his school record with 16 TD passes while amassing a personal best 2,347 yards passing.
Those numbers should increase this year considering that wide receivers Brandon Thompson, Jahbari McLennan, Jarriel Norman, and Taylor Clements are all returning in 2009 to form the core of a very experienced receiving corps for ASU.
Running back Reggie Arnold also returns to add to his already 3,000 career rushing yards.
On defense the Red Wolves are very strong up front with a corps of defensive lineman returning, lead by Sun Belt Conference defensive player of the year Alex Carrington.
Some of the question marks for this team are..
1) Lack of depth at numerous key positions. Numerous second team guys are sophomores or redshirt freshman that have yet to see any extended playing time. A number of redshirt freshmen may get a chance to play in the offensive line, the defensive line, and at linebacker.
2) The offensive line may be the biggest question mark of all since Arkansas State will be looking to replace four lineman who saw regular playing time in 2008.
Regarding the head to head match up of Arkansas St vs. Nebraska:
I see some potential serious matchup problems for ASU because of their weakest link, the offensive line, going against the Husker's possible best unit on the team, the defensive line.
This will impede the running game for the Red Wolves because they will struggle all day keeping Suh, Allen, Turner, Crick, and company out of the backfield, which will then free up the young, but speedy Nebraska linebackers to stop the run game.
When the Red Wolves do drop back to pass, I expect to see a mad rush to the quarterback, one that accounts for four or five sacks, numerous hurries, tipped balls, and probably an interception or two, considering the bodies that will be collapsing the pocket around Leonard.
All in all, I don't see the Red Wolves offense making many plays against a revved up Blackshirt unit, but I will still give them 14 points because there will invariably be some breakdowns in pass coverage.
On offense, I expect the Nebraska offensive line to take control of the game and look for Roy Helu to have a big game running the ball.
Zac Lee will get his opportunities and will be looking downfield to get guys like Menelik Holt, Niles Paul, and Chris Brooks involved in the passing game before the big game down in Blacksburg, Va. the following week.
I expect a Husker victory to the tune of 45-14.