Holiday Bowl Preview: Nebraska Offense Vs. Arizona Defense
Despite all of the hype behind the matchup of the AP Player of the Year Ndamukong Suh against the Arizona offense, it is easy to forget they will be switching sides and playing football with the other half of their teams.
Nebraska's offense has not been as good compared to their defense.
They rank 102nd out of 120 BCS schools, averaging 316 yards a game, and 80th in scoring offense, putting up 24.5 points each contest.
Their quarterback play has been erratic. Junior Zac Lee has been effective at times, but despite almost throwing for 2,000 yards, he has also thrown 13 touchdowns to 10 interceptions.
Lee does have a short leash, though, as head coach Bo Pelini will pull Lee for freshman Cody Green. Green is a threat to run the ball every time he touches it, but he has not had a lot of game experience.
Nebraska's running game is the strength of its offense. Junior Roy Helu, Jr. was the leading rusher for the Huskers this year, rushing for 1,139 yards and nine TDs. Helu, Jr. was third on the team in receptions as well, with 19. A duo of freshmen relieve Helu Jr.: Rex Burkhead and Dontrayevous Robinson get the bulk of the carries as backups. They are also inexperienced and young.
The Nebraska passing game has its shortcomings. Their leading receiver, Niles Paul, has 36 catches. To put that in perspective, Arizona has four receivers with at least 39. Junior tight end Mile McNeill leads the Huskers with four touchdown grabs.
Arizona's defense is solid, ranking 21st in the nation and allowing 316 yards a game, which is second in the Pac-10.
The run defense ranks 22nd and only gives up 112 yards a game. They were also able to limit Heisman Trophy runner up Toby Gerhart to only 123 yards, his third lowest output in games he wasn't pulled due to blowout.
Arizona has the Pac-10 leader in sacks, junior Ricky Elmore (10.5), and senior Earl Mitchell leading a defensive front seven that fly all over the field. Senior linebackers Vuna Tuihalamaka and Xavier Kelley are not the biggest guys, but they use their speed and tenacity in order to get to the ball carrier and break up passes.
While the linemen and linebackers might be undersized, they are fast and will throw caution to the wind with their bodies.
The secondary is one of the best in the Pac-10. Senior Devin Ross is a shut down corner and was hardly challenged all season. This led to sophomore Trevin Wade getting balls thrown in his direction. Wade ended the season with five interceptions.
The safeties are solid. Senior Cam Nelson is smart and will make sure to keep guys in front of him, while sophomore Robert Golden is always looking to make a big hit. Both have a good nose for the ball, as they both used to play corner.
While this matchup seems one-sided, it could very easily turn the momentum of the game if Nebraska is able to put couple a big drives together or if Arizona is able to make turnovers into points.
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