Nebraska vs. Kansas: Five Things To Watch, Plus Key Matchups

Mike WehlingAnalyst INovember 10, 2010

LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 30: Coach Bo Pelini  leads his Nebraska Cornhusker football team on the field against the Missouri Tigers at Memorial Stadium on October 30, 2010 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska Defeated Missouri 31-17. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images

Nov. 14, 2009 

The Cornhuskers had just won their game last week against their longtime rival Oklahoma.  Nebraska won the game using the their stifling defense and mediocre offense.  The offense did what they had to do, and the defense forced Oklahoma's offense to stall, and had five interceptions, winning 10-3.

Kansas started off the season hot, before dropping the next four games, including their last game against Kansas State 17-10.  The Jayhawks were supposed to challenge for the Big 12 North title, but now were looking to become bowl eligible.  Kansas had a good offense led by three year starter Todd Reesing, but were turnover-ridden throughout the season.

Nebraska's anemic and conservative offense opened up during the game, starting with a 35 yard pass from the first play of scrimmage to Niles Paul.  Nebraska would win 31-17.


Nov. 13, 2010

Turner Gill comes home to Nebraska, as the head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks.  The former Nebraska great replaced Mark Mangino over the off-season for Kansas.  Nebraska is looking for their third straight win over their longtime conference foes.  While Kansas is looking for bowl eligibility again, and one last shot at Nebraska before they leave for the Big Ten.

The Jayhawks have had a bad season, that started with a loss to North Dakota State.  They then won against then ranked No. 16 Georgia Tech, and New Mexico State.  They also suffered blowout losses to Baylor, Kansas State, and Texas A&M, before showing some life against Iowa State and Colorado.

Nebraska comes into the game ranked eighth in the BCS standings.  They are on top of the Big 12 North, and they still have a shot at a national title with some teams ahead of them losing.  They have the best chance of the Big 12 North contenders at a Big 12 title and a BCS-bowl bid.


1. How Will Taylor Martinez Perform In His First Game Back?

Taylor Martinez has been gone for a game and a half, and the offense, has not looked that great during his absence. The last two games were all about Helu and Burkhead, defenses realized that and they just load the box.  With Martinez he can run, which means defense have to put an extra man on him, and pass to the open guy that was supposed to be covering the wide out but was too worried about Martinez running.

2. Will Nebraska's Two Leading Rushers Crack 1,000 Rushing Yards During the Game?

Roy Helu Jr. has 906 yards, while Martinez has 886 yards.  Having two 1,000 yard rushers would be a tremendous accomplishment; not just for the players, but also for the program and the offensive line that dominated the trenches.  The last time this happened was in 2001, when Eric Crouch and Dahrran Diedrick both rushed for over a thousand.

3. Can Nebraska Hold On To The Ball?

Nebraska fumbled the ball five times last game, losing two of them.  Their total of the year is 31 fumbles, and losing 11 of them.  Those 31 fumbles are the most in the country.  While some of those fumbles are caused by the opposing defense, a lot of those have been offensive miscues.  The second highest team is Vanderbilt with 28 fumbles, and they are sitting at 2-7.  Nebraska needs to improve on that if they want to run the table.

4. Will Turner Gill Engineer Another Season Killer?

Kansas beat then ranked No. 16 Georgia Tech, and the Yellow Jackets have not recovered since.  Then behind the greatest comeback in school history, Kansas upset Colorado.  That game changed Colorado's AD to fire Dan Hawkins before the end of the season. 

Obviously, Pelini is not going to get fired for losing, but a loss to the Jayhawks would eliminate them from BCS contention, unless they when the Big 12 title, and cut their lead in the Big 12 North.

5. Can The Huskers Avoid Another Fourth Quarter Collapse?

Nebraska was up 24-10 going into the fourth quarter of the Iowa State game.  The defense then gave up a touchdown to cut the lead to seven, then Niles Paul fumbled and Iowa State capitalized to tie up the game.  The offense only got 30 yards that quarter. If Nebraska can jump out to a big lead early, it won't matter, but they can not expect to win every game when they struggle in the fourth.

Bonus: Will The Series With Kansas Be Revived?

Like all of our former rivals in the Big 12, no one really knows whether Nebraska and Kansas will play again.  Nebraska and Kansas have played 116 times, with Nebraska winning 90 of the 116 matchups.  The series is the longest continuously uninterrupted played series in FBS history with the two teams playing every year since 1906.  For the foreseeable future NU and KU will not play each other.



Nebraska Offense vs. Kansas Defense

Nebraska is averaging 288 yards per game on the ground, the main source of their offensive production; while the passing game is averaging 154 yards per game. 

However, when Taylor Martinez is not in the game, the offensive production goes down.  Martinez is a dual-threat QB and forces defenses to account for him either running or throwing. 

When Cody Green is in, Watson and Pelini limit him to handing the ball off to Burkhead or Helu.  They do not have the faith in Green like they do with Martinez or Lee.  If Martinez is not completely ready to go, we may even see more of the wildcat with Burkhead.

The Kansas defense is giving up 415 yards per game, and rank as 108th in defending the run.  They were losing big to Colorado last week, because Hawkins was having Rodney Stewart run the ball all over Kansas, then for some reason decided to abandon the run in favor for the pass.  The Kansas secondary ranks 59th in the country, but are giving up 212 yards through the air.

Nebraska should be able to exploit the weak Kansas run defense, with Maritnez, Helu and Burkhead.  The passing game won;t be featured as much as the running game, but the receivers should be able to get some openings and get some big yardage.

Edge: Nebraska

Nebraska Defense vs. Kansas Offense

Kansas's offense has been opposite of its past few seasons.  They rank 87th in total offense per game, averaging 338 yards per game.  Kansas is starting their third quarterback of the season with Quinn Mecham. 

Mecham is completing 73 percent of his passes for 401 yards. Their passing ranks at 82nd averaging 189 yards per game.  For the run game, their most impressive player is James Sims, a true freshman who has 558 yards so far. 

The Nebraska defense is 23rd in the nation, giving up 315 yards per game.  Their biggest strength is the passing game, where the secondary has created havoc for quarterbacks.  The defense is weakest defending the run, giving up 161 yards per game on the ground.  The run game has been an issue for Nebraska in most of their games, as teams will adjust to attack them on the ground.

Kansas will be hard pressed to get yards through the air.  Kansas will most likely adjust to this, and have Sims and their other running backs to hit the Blackshirts on the ground.  They will get yardage, but they will eventually have to go the air and it will cost them.

Edge: Nebraska


Prediction:  42-13 Nebraska