Fresno State vs. Nebraska: Believe Bulldogs Boldly Bite Cornhuskers?

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Fresno State vs. Nebraska: Believe Bulldogs Boldly Bite Cornhuskers?
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Will the traveling Bulldogs barks be stronger than their bites? How can Fresno State University walk away with a win from one of the state of Nebraska’s largest cities (Memorial Stadium)?

According to the Nebraska University broadcast team last Saturday on the Big Ten Network, the last time there was a non-sellout there, the minimum wage was $1.25, and Nebraska’s adopted native son, the late Johnny Carson, started hosting the Tonight Show.

That would be some time before I was born. I’m old enough, however, to know about the football Big Red takes to the bank.

They have a huge share in the profitable most-national-titles-since-1970 category: Nebraska, Alabama and Miami (Fla.) are tied with five, Oklahoma and USC have four and Florida and Notre Dame have three.

Of course, there were national titles being played and won before 1970. Oklahoma University had a hand in some of those—they won three and six total—but this is a story about NU.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know shutting down Taylor Martinez in the run game is the key to beating Nebraska. So, I’m sure FSU’s defensive coaches are planning a HAARP attack on NU’s leading rusher. The Bulldogs have the linebackers to do it.

Many have tried, but few have succeeded in stopping the Nebraska ground game. Stopping the passing attack, though, just became easier.

NU’s passing game is similar to chuck and duck. The Huskers already put the Rex Burkhead option-pass on tape for upcoming opponents, but he had to chuck the pigskin wide and duck before a Chattanooga Mocs defender knocked him out of bounds.

The developing young Martinez still struggles in knowing the bounds of his quarterback progressions. After the first option breaks down, then he’s usually ducking defenders, scrambling out of the pocket or chucking the ball off target.

Judging by the first game, the Huskers don’t have a legitimate scary receiving target to succeed Niles Paul. I believe they can still compete for the Big Ten championship without one, but will it work against FSU? The Big Red brothers will have to work it out.

NU is going to have to chew up the clock and rely on their potent defensive front and hard-hitting new safety, Daimion Stafford, to cause turnovers. Good luck, Huskers.

The soon-to-be Blackshirts had a lot of personnel turnover in the defensive backfield. They may be young, but their talent is undeniable. Coach Pelini is usually slow to issue the black jerseys until he sees what he wants during games and not necessarily in practice situations.

Game cornerback Alfonzo Dennard didn’t play last week because of a quad injury. They’ll need him 100 percent healthy for the remaining schedule.

The Bulldogs boast three different receivers who average over 11 yards per reception: Devon Wylie, Jalen Saunders and Marcel Jensen.

That’s one of two areas where, I believe, FSU has an advantage. The other is special teams.

The Bulldogs have a reputation, built over the last 10 seasons, for blocking kicks. They also excel in the return game. So, if the Dogs can bite through the Cornhuskers in these two areas, then they can keep the game close enough to win in the final stanza.

Nebraska’s special teams had a solid first week, but communications need to improve in the return game. NCAA record-setting kicker Alex Henery is with the Philadelphia Eagles, but junior Brett Mauer started his career with a 50-yard field goal in the first quarter to make it 10-0 against Chattanooga.

Mauer ripped a 48-yard strike off the left post to make it 13-0. He’s shown his leg strength is potent enough to consistently project the ball through the uprights from long distance.

I’m now ready to give my distance-covering projection, via the web, concerning this game.

Prediction:

FSU lost 36-21 last week to the California Golden Bears at Cal. But, the Bulldogs led 7-0 in the first quarter and 19-14 at halftime. Midway through the fourth quarter it was 36-14. So, the Bulldogs started strong and faded as the game went on.

I expect them to learn their lesson and play hard for all four quarters this week. Nebraska will also learn from their mistakes, mainly in communications between players on the field, and post an even stronger effort at Memorial Stadium than last week.

The Bulldogs will bark and show their teeth, but I don’t believe they’ll bite enough of the Huskers to score more than 20 points. The Cornhuskers will keep the national title conjecture going strong and my undefeated prediction mark alive.

Nebraska wins, 36-17.

 

Contact Lake Cruise: lakecruise@att.net

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