For Nebraska fans watching the game against Kansas State (Thursday, October 07, 2009, 6:30 p.m. central, Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, KS, ESPN):
YOU'LL BE HAPPY IF ...
- The Purples Get Off Schedule: Kansas State has one gear offensively - punish the other team by handing the ball off to Daniel Thomas. They aren't a quick-strike, home-run-hitting offense, but instead have to slowly and methodically matriculate down the field. The Wildcats are successful when they can go from first and ten, to second and five, to third and short, to another first down. If Nebraska is able to get them off schedule and into second and long or third and long situations, Thomas becomes less of a weapon and the onus falls on quarterback Carson Coffman and the rest of the Purples offense to be successful.
- NU Doesn't Need A T-Magic Ingredient: K-State comes into this game without stellar numbers defensively, meaning that Nebraska has the potential to get their offensive playmakers going. Obviously, quarterback Taylor Martinez has stolen the show early in the season, but NU has a number of other dangerous weapons in running backs Roy Helu and Rex Burkhead as well as receiver Niles Paul. Particularly after the disappointing game against South Dakota State and that K-State will likely be keying on Martinez, getting the other weapons going will keep the Purples defense honest and give NU options to be successful on offense.
- The Red Are Road Warriors: In two-plus years under Bo Pelini, Nebraska has developed a number of habits, some good and some bad. But one thing NU has shown itself to be is a good road team, particularly in conference. NU hasn't lost a conference road game since the 2008 disaster in Norman, and played easily their most complete game this year in Seattle against the Huskies. Given the level of disdain the People in Purple have for Nebraska, particularly now that they feel that NU is rejecting them for the Big Ten, they'll need all the road-savvy skills they can get.
YOU'LL BE SAD IF ...
- The Rock is Dropped: In four games, Nebraska has fumbled the ball fourteen times, and lost eight of those fumbles. Think about those numbers for a minute. That averages out to 3.5 fumbles per game, losing two per game. If NU has three or four fumbles and loses two in Manhattan, the crowd becomes that much more a factor and NU's challenge gets that much greater.
- Trickeration Is A Treat: No one loves trick plays quite like Bill Snyder, and there's no question he will have a few in the bag waiting for Nebraska. While it's always a challenge to prepare for those kind of tricks (to expect the unexpected, as Douglas Adams would say), K-State has the potential to use those tricks to get the big plays their offense outside of Thomas doesn't have the talent on its' own to produce.
- The Rabbits Weren't Just A Trick: For the most part, NU's lackluster performance against South Dakota State was chalked up to a lack of effort and considered a one-off result by most observers. But Snyder will have studied the tape, and realized that NU hasn't put together sustained scoring drives all season. Admittedly, in most games it was because NU scored too quickly to need such drives. But if Snyder can take the big play away (as SDSU did) the Purples can force NU to be patient and drive the ball in a hostile environment. NU has yet to prove that a freshman quarterback can lead the team on a methodical, patient drive without making enough mistakes to prevent them from scoring.
THE BIG PICTURE
Few people are disputing that Nebraska is a superior team to Kansas State in terms of the athletes available on the field. But, as we saw against FCS-opponent South Dakota State, just being physically superior doesn't guarantee anything. NU will be playing a nationally-televised game in what will be, mark my words, the most hostile environment they will face all season. Mistakes from Nebraska or big plays from K-State early have the potential to swing momentum in favor of the Purples and make NU ripe for an upset bid. Pelini and his staff, though, are well aware of that danger, and the shoddy outing against the Jackrabbits should ensure NU is sharp and ready to take on a one-dimensional offense and a suspect defense.
FEARLESS FORECAST: Nebraska 27, Kansas State 13
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