Time To Move On: Nebraska Vs. Iowa State

Josh KleinCorrespondent IOctober 20, 2009

I know it is tough, but we all must put that Texas Tech debacle behind us and focus on Iowa State. 

Iowa State is coming off of its first Big 12 conference victory in 11 games, with a 24-10 victory over the Baylor Bears at home. 

Paul Rhoads definitely has this team moving in the right direction.  They have a winning record (4-3) halfway through the football season.  And with two more wins this Iowa State team could be bowl eligible for the first time since the Dan McCarney era.

Nebraska is coming off of one of the most confusing losses this season to Husker fans.  It's a loss that has people calling for offensive coordinator Shawn Watson's job and for the replacement of Zac Lee by true freshman Cody Green. 

So how does this weekend shake out?  This is the way I see it, but once again remember, these are just my opinions.  Obviously last week, I was way off.


     Iowa State (4-3 [1-2])

Iowa State is a team that is desperately seeking success, and they don't seem far from it.  Iowa State fans are not delusional; they know that this is going to be a tough road, but on that road Paul Rhoads seems to be making a turnaround more likely. 

The Cyclones are a blocked field goal and completed fourth quarter pass away from being 6-1 overall and 3-0 in the conference with their lone blowout loss to the undefeated Iowa Hawkeyes. 

This Cyclones team is much better than they were a year ago and sees themselves as a danger in this Big 12 North.  And Nebraska cannot look beyond that.  So what are the keys for Iowa State in this game?

Offensive Keys: Iowa State's offense has been flying high all season long.  Their running game and the surprisingly accurate passing of Austin Arnaud has this team clicking on all cylinders and averaging over 26 points per game this season. 

The key for Iowa State is to get the running game going.  Alexander Robinson has turned into an impressive weapon for an offense that is going back to its bread and butter of the past: the power running game. 

Robinson has gained over 700 yards this season with a 5.7 yards per carry average and six touchdowns.  Arnaud has over 400 yards rushing, averaging just over 4.5 per carry. But it has been the success of the passing game that has the Cyclones moving and opening up a decent offense. 

Austin Arnaud has thrown an impressive 1,200+ yards this season with completion percentage of 56 percent and nine TDs with five INTs. 

But, as of right now, the Cyclones have not seen a defense like the Nebraska Cornhuskers besides Iowa.  And Iowa forced a multitude of turnovers and held the Cyclones to only three points the entire game.

Iowa State must get Robinson going on the ground if they are going to have any success in this game.  They need to move the ball quickly and take advantage of all scoring opportunities they get because there won't be many. 

Arnaud must scramble effectively but still challenge the defense down field, while not making any mistakes on the road.  This is a tall task for the Cyclones but it can be done.

Players to watch: Alexander Robinson and Marquis Hamilton

Defensive Keys: The Iowa State defense has been less than reliable this season, however they seemed to turn it around against Baylor last week, and they will need more of the same this week.

The key to this game is playing up to the competition.  Nebraska's offense has been so sporadic that it can make defenses look better than they actually are. 

The key for Iowa State is to take advantage of early miscues by the Cornhuskers just like Texas Tech did. 

Iowa State's defense is the epitome of mediocrity, being ranked seventh in conference in scoring defense.  Iowa State though, must do better than their 10th ranked rushing defense implies they will do against the run.  They will be focusing on stopping Roy Helu and getting to the quarterback, whomever it may be.

Iowa State has to slow down Nebraska's running attack and force mediocre receivers with mediocre quarterback play to beat them.  If they cannot do that, it will be a long day for the Cyclone Defense.

Payers to watch: Jesse Smith and Fred Garrin  


          Nebraska (4-2 [1-1])

Nebraska is reeling from a pathetic looking loss at the hands of Texas Tech Red Raiders but will need to refocus this weekend if they want to get back to their winning ways. 

Nebraska themselves are one play away from being 5-1 and 1-1 in the conference this season; so you could say this is a battle of the blown chances with two teams that blew three combined fourth quarter leads.  So how will Nebraska shake out?  Here's how I see it:

Offensive Keys: All the questions we thought Nebraska had answered in the first four games of the season have resurfaced as the Huskers' offense looked less than stagnant last Saturday afternoon.  So, who will get it going?

The key for Nebraska is the running game. 

Iowa State sports the 10th best run defense in the Big 12, which should be taken advantage of early and often by the Cornhuskers. 

Regardless of who the quarterback is, Nebraska needs to be able to run the football because there are no play-makers in the passing game that can or will open up the running game. 

Roy Helu Junior is a bit banged up, but expect him to see some playing time.  Other than that, look for Marcus Mendoza and Austin Jones to get carries on Saturday. 

The offense needs to blow somebody off the ball and start running some power offense.  Penalties need to be completely cut down on and Ricky Henry has to watch his flailing body.

Nebraska, as a result, needs to have a wide receiver step up in this game regardless of who the quarterback is, and if Cody Green is going to step in, he has to perform well enough to send positive vibes to the rest of the team. 

Whoever the quarterback is, don't look for him to win this game.  It is on the shoulders of the offensive line and running backs.

Players to watch: Zac Lee/Cody Green, Roy Helu Jr., and Niles Paul

Defensive Keys:   Swept under the rug of a horrible offensive performance was a good defensive performance.  Nebraska held the Texas Tech offense to 250 yards of offense and 24 points, which should be enough to beat a Mike Leach coached team.  But the offense wasn't up to snuff.

This defense is still second in scoring behind only Oklahoma in the Big 12 and must shut down a good Iowa State running game. 

Iowa State is the first ranked rushing offense in the Big 12, so Nebraska, coming in ranked third in rushing defense, must slow that down. 

Robinson is the key, but Suh and Crick should be able to contain the middle.  The bonus is on the linebackers and the corner backs on the outside runs of Arnaud and Robinson. 

Conversely, Iowa State is the second worst passing offense in the Big 12, and playing a team like Nebraska, it doesn't look like that will get much better since Nebraska is ranked first in passing defense despite playing the spread offenses of Missouri and Texas Tech.

The key is obviously to turn the ball over and stop the run. 

Nebraska may have the best or second best defense in the Big 12 this season and Iowa State has struggled against good defenses. 

Nebraska needs to stop the run up front and force Arnaud to throw the ball.  If they do this, Nebraska will have their way with the Cyclone offense.

Players to watch: Ndamukong Suh, Jared Crick, Phillip Dillard, and Larry Asante

Final Analysis:

I think Nebraska gets Cody Green some snaps in this game and uses the running game to their advantage. 

It should be a quick-paced game with all the running that will be going on, but Nebraska's defense should control this game from the get-go. 

I see it being close in the first half and Nebraska taking the lead for good and pushing it skyward in the second half.

Nebraska wins 27-13


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