Creature Vs. Creature: Three Keys for Virginia Tech to Defeat Nebraska

Justin CocchiolaCorrespondent ISeptember 18, 2009

BLACKSBURG, VA - SEPTEMBER 01:  The Virginia Tech football team takes the field after a ceremony honoring the 32 victims of the shooting at the school, before the start of the season opener September 1, 2007 at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Virginia. In addition to honoring the 32 students and faculty killed in the nation's deadliest shooting rampage before the game, the university also honored victims' families, those wounded and first responders to the massacre at Norris Hall.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

When Nebraska comes into Lane Stadium on Saturday to face Virginia Tech (you probably haven't heard this is the game with the two highest-ranked teams in the country this weekend), they'll be playing not only for themselves, but for their conferences as well.

Both teams look a bit different on offense compared to last season, but both have been moving the ball pretty well. Whichever defense makes the most plays will likely win the game, but you never know.

Here are three things Virginia Tech must do on Saturday to defeat the No. 19 Nebraska Cornhuskers.


1. Move the Ball Through the Air

The Hokies rushed for 444 yards on the ground last Saturday and had 605 yards of total offense. Although quarterback Tyrod Taylor threw as many touchdowns in last week's game as he did all of last season, he still missed some big plays through the air.

If you take that and compare the Marshall defense to the Nebraska defense, Taylor may have some difficulties this week.

Taylor has already played one of the best defenses in the nation this season, Alabama, and threw for only 91 yards. Nebraska is no Alabama, so I expect Taylor to have more success in this game.

Taylor had a solid game through the air last year against Nebraska (9-of-15, 171 yards) and also added 87 yards on the ground. A performance like this would help the Hokies on Saturday, but the Hokies need to be a little more aggressive through the air if they want to keep the defense on its heels.


2. Virginia Tech Secondary vs. Zac Lee and Receiving Corps

Stephan Virgil is still listed as questionable, but coach Frank Beamer was confident Tuesday the senior would be ready to go. Assuming Virgil is back, Rashad Carmichael (who's played very well so far this season), Kam Chancellor, Davon Morgan, and Dorian Porch will look to shut down the Cornhuskers' receiving corps.

They likely won't be able to shut them down completely, and the secondary's ability to dominate the game will rely on the performance of the pass rush.

If the Hokies' defensive line can pressure Lee into making bad decisions, the secondary will make him pay for his mistakes. Lee has spread the ball around a lot this season, which is always a good thing for an offense facing a tough defense.

Virginia Tech is known for its smash-mouth defense, and if mistakes are made, Nebraska won't have a shot at winning.


3. A One-Two Punch for the Hokies' Backfield

If Virginia Tech plays both Ryan Williams and David Wilson, then the Hokies' chances of winning should go up. Tech running backs struggled last year against Nebraska, Darren Evans running for 72 yards on 21 carries and Kenny Lewis for 50 yards on 17 carries, but neither of those backs will be playing in this game.

The biggest difference between those two backs and the two the Hokies have now is athleticism. Williams and Wilson are both elusive and agile, which is important when you're going up against a tough defensive line.

Williams' biggest advantage is having experience against Alabama under his belt. Alabama's top defensive lineman is Terrence Cody, and Nebraska's defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is very similar to Cody. 

Suh is probably quicker and more athletic, but overall, Nebraska's defensive line is inferior to Alabama's, and Williams was able to break a couple of big runs against the Crimson Tide.


Overall, this should be a very good game.  The Hokies have had to face tougher opponents so far this year, which I think will be a big factor in Saturday's outcome.

Lee is another player to keep an eye on. He is a junior, but prior to this season he threw only two passes. He's never faced a defense like Virginia Tech in the environment he will be entering on Saturday afternoon. Lane Stadium isn't known as a gracious host.

I expect the Hokies to win this one 38-24.