On October 31, the Cornhuskers head south to the Lone Star state to face the Baylor Bears.
Is it going to be a Halloween nightmare that Husker players and the faithful Big Red followers remember as one filled with angry, aggressive and marauding Bears?
Or, can the Cornhuskers keep their focus on the task at hand and tame the wild beasts from Baylor?
Unlike Baylor teams of the past, this game can't be chalked up as an automatic "W" for the Cornhuskers. I see this as a huge trap game for the Cornhuskers. Why? Because they are going on the road to face a team that returns nine starters on offense and defense the week prior to Oklahoma coming to Lincoln.
There is clearly a transformation going on at Baylor and it starts with Head Coach Art Briles. These Bears are not the Bears of the early days of the Big 12.
They are talented and have some players. What they may not have that some other teams do is established and experienced depth behind those front line players.
No, they aren't likely to dominate anyone. But, given the right circumstance, like being at home and catching an opponent napping they could be a dangerous foe.
Their isn't a returning starter more important to this team than quarterback Robert Griffin. He is the sort of fantastic and talented athlete that gives Defensive Coordinators week long headaches leading up to the game.
How is it best to contain this kid?
He proved last year that he can throw the ball from the pocket very efficiently and with great accuracy. So, as a defensive coordinator do you have your defensive line rush him with ideas of staying in their lanes and keeping him in the pocket?
Or, do you play with fire, let the ends crash in trying to pressure him, and hope that he doesn't break containment? That is a scary thought.
Because Griffin is a world class hurdler who will out run just about any defender to the end zone.
I think it has got to be a defensive package that mixes up lots of different looks for Griffin to look at. Can't let him get comfortable with knowing what he will be facing every down.
Mix up zone and man coverage, rush him from different angles, keep him guessing.
I think Nebraska's linebacker play may be very important this game. Can the young guys who are likely to play fill gaps and run down Griffin when he escapes the rush?
The Bears defense has at least two players that would start at any other Big 12 school. The entire linebacker corp returns and they are led by MLB Joe Pawelek. Behind the linebackers they have a tremendous safety in Jordan Lake.
Both of these guys were All Big 12 conference selections last year and rightly so. They are very physical and active and lead a strong defense for the Bears.
Nebraska defense Vs the Baylor offense
I will be watching the trenches closely in this match up. I know, I know. That is always where games are won and lost. But, Nebraska will be throwing a strong, athletic group of experienced defensive lineman at a Baylor offensive line that is replacing two outstanding offensive tackles, one, Jason Smith that was taken very high in the NFL draft.
If they can get consistent pressure with four guys and keep Griffin from busting containment too often I think they will go along way toward corraling the Bears offense.
If they get this pressure, it should help in stopping or at least corralling both phases of the Bears offense. Although, I do see Griffin being able to make enough plays to at least keep the game close into the late second half maybe even the entire game.
Slight advantage to the Nebraska defense.
Nebraska offense Vs the Baylor defense
This match up could prove to be a very very physical and brutal match of a physical running game and a physical defense.
The Bears are very strong at the point of attack and up the middle with Pawelek and Lake. Look for Watson to give the Bears a healthy dose of Helu and Castille, in addition to opening up the speed packages with multiple wide receiver formations, multiple sets to test the Bears defense on the outside and deep down the field.
Nebraska has some speed at wide receiver now and in a game like this it may be best for them to go over the top of those great players that patrol the middle of the field for the Bears.
Between the power running of Helu and Castille, and Zac Lee running some spread option, and hitting some wide receivers deep on go routes and deep patterns I think they have just enough to beat the Bears.
Slight edge to the Cornhusker offense.
Nebraska special teams Vs Baylor special teams
Nebraska's special teams unit this year will see a huge influx of speed and talent from last year's class of red shirts and younger players.
Add placekicker Alex Henery to the mix and I think they have a decided advantage over the Bears in the special teams department. An advantage that I think will decide the game in the Cornhusker's favor.
Ultimately, though I think this game could come down to which team is deeper and has more play makers on offense and defense.
I see Nebraska winning a close, exciting game on a late Alex Henery field goal.
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