For fans of Nebraska watching the game against the South Dakota State Jackrabbits (6:00 p.m. central, Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, NE, FSN PPV) on Saturday ...
YOU'LL BE HAPPY IF...
-NO ONE GETS HURT: Yes, there's been a rash of FCS teams that have beaten FBS teams, including one Big XII team, in recent years. But the Jacks are no Appalachian State, James Madison, or Northern Iowa. SDSU comes to town 0-2, fresh off a 24-14 home loss to Illinois State. And Osiris Eldridge wasn't even playing for the Redbirds (that's bonus humor for our Missouri Valley Conference basketball fans).
The game should not be a contest athletically, but there's a risk of injury in any contact sport. NU fans will be cheering, but holding their breath, whenever phenom quarterback Taylor Martinez carries the ball in a game whose outcome should never be in doubt.
-IT GETS LATE EARLY: The best way for Nebraska to avoid injury is to get a prohibitive lead early, allowing the benches to clear and the players down the depth chart to take the field. Cody Green could certainly use some snaps to gain confidence after his disastrous performance in Seattle, and there should be no reason to expose the starting units to injury risk any more than necessary.
-NU TAKES THINGS SERIOUSLY: Upsets happen. The players wearing the white helmets with the red N are college kids. If Nebraska comes out not ready to take care of business against SDSU, thinking they've already accomplished something with all the great media coverage they've received, danger awaits on Saturday.
Head coach Bo Pelini is well aware of this danger, and will need to use his powers of persuasion to keep his team's collective feet on the ground and do their job on Saturday. As Tim the Enchanter said - "Well, that's no ordinary rabbit! That's the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rodent you ever set eyes on! That rabbit's got a vicious streak a mile wide! It's a killer!" Pelini would do well to make sure his team takes the advice of a gratuitous Monty Python reference to heart.
YOU'LL BE SAD IF...
-IT'S A COMPETITIVE SECOND HALF: Keep in mind, we're less than a year removed from the eight-turnover Iowa State debacle. Against Idaho, Nebraska put the ball on the ground eight times. Turnovers, a lack of focus, and a sense of entitlement could allow SDSU to shorten the game and at least be within shouting distance at the half.
-NU GETS TRICKY: There's a part of me that would like to see offensive coordinator Shawn Watson break out a gadget play or two against the Jacks to put it on film and give Bill Snyder something to worry about. But, ultimately, NU would be well served to put SDSU to the sword early and use the second half as an extended Spring game.
-NOTHING. THERE IS NO THIRD THING: Look, this game is an embarrassing schedule-filler for Nebraska and a paycheck for South Dakota State. The Jacks were a top 10 FCS team to start the season, but have started to unravel already.
This might be the biggest mismatch in Memorial Stadium since the Pacific Tigers came to town in 1995, which means this game is as much of an exhibition as it is a game. It's uncomfortable to say that, given some of the shocking upsets we've seen in college football lately. But the talent gulf between the teams is so huge that even a 60-70 percent effort on Nebraska's part should produce a comfortable win.
THE BIG PICTURE
The Jackrabbits' appearance on the schedule is one of the final legacies of the Steve Pederson era as athletic director, and puts NU in a difficult situation. Anything less than a dominating win will put a tarnish on the great momentum gained in Seattle. There's no reason such a win shouldn't happen, but stranger things have happened.
Well, OK, maybe things as strange as an SDSU-win have occurred. Things close to that strange. Or, maybe not.
(NOT ALL THAT) FEARLESS FORECAST
Nebraska 51, South Dakota State 10
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