KICKING THE TIRES: The University of Nebraska

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Kansas State Wildcats (4-0 | 1-0) VS. #7 Nebraska Cornhuskers (4-0)

The Day of Reckoning
Bill Snyder Family Stadium — Manhattan, Kan.
Thursday, Oct. 7, 2010 — 6:45 PM CST

ESPN

 

We come to it at last — the great battle of our time.

Everything is on the line: The North Division. Bragging rights. Pride.

But most of all, two disparate visions of the way forward that will not be reconciled except by blood or death.

Only one way can survive. Only one nation will leave tonight satisfied. And never again shall we meet.

This is it. The final conflict. The last clash. The ultimate struggle.

Tonight, there are only two choices: Victory, or oblivion.

Let the best man win.

Key Players

 

K-State

Passing
Carson Coffman (46 of 76, 639 yards, 5 TD, 2 INT)

Receiving
Brodrick Smith (14 catches, 191 yards, 3 TD)

Rushing
Daniel Thomas (105 carries, 628 yards, 6 TD)

Wild Cards
Brandon Harold (26 tackles, 6 TFL, 2 sacks, 2 PBU, 2 FF, 1 FR)
Alex Hrebec (39 tackles, 1 TFL, 4 PBU)
William Powell (12 carries, 134 yards, 2 TD)
Aubrey Quarles (10 catches, 164 yards, 2 TD)
Terrance Sweeney (16 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 INT, 6 PBU, 1 FF)

 

Nebraska

Passing
Taylor Martinez (34 of 57, 532 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT)

Receiving
Brandon Kinnie (17 catches, 215 yards)

Rushing
Taylor Martinez (53 carries, 496 yards, 8 TD)

Wild Cards
Prince Amukamara (14 tackles, 4 PBU)
Rex Burkhead (41 tackles, 304 yards, 3 TD)
Jared Crick (20 tackles, 5 sacks, 2.5 PBU)
Lavonte David (44 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 PBU)
Dejon Gomes (30 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FF)
Roy Helu Jr. (43 carries, 305 yards, 4 TD)
Alex Henery (2-2 FG, 43.9 yards per punt, 7 punts inside 20)
Niles Paul (10 catches, 144 yards, 1 TD)
Baker Steinkuhler (13 tackles, 4 sacks, 3.5 PBU)

 

Key Stats

Rushing Offense
Nebraska (4) > K-State (22 | -11)

Passing Offense
Nebraska (102) > K-State (103 | -1)

Total Offense
Nebraska (14) > K-State (65 | -21)

Scoring Offense
Nebraska (11) > K-State (50 | -24)

Rushing Defense
Nebraska (53) > K-State (102 | -19)

Pass Efficiency Defense
Nebraska (1) > K-State (5 | +11)

Total Defense
Nebraska (11) > K-State (57 | +10)

Scoring Defense
Nebraska (7) > K-State (39 | +26)

Net Punting
K-State (26 | +8) > Nebraska (53)

Punt Returns
Nebraska (47) > K-State (94 | -11)

Kickoff Returns
K-State (11 | -3) > Nebraska (12)

Turnover Margin
K-State (34 | -1) = Nebraska (34)

Pass Defense
Nebraska (3) > K-State (13 | +30)

Passing Efficiency
K-State (28 | -2) > Nebraska (34)

 

Analysis

K. Scott Bailey already had a pretty good preview of this game and the different ways it can unfold, as well as how our season might proceed from here on out, so I don't want to reinvent the wheel too much in this preview.

In looking at the numbers, it's striking how much these two teams are clones of each other. Both are among the 25 best rushing offenses in the nation and both are in the bottom 20 in terms of passing offense. Don't expect a high-flying shootout in this one. In fact, both teams pretty much will be daring the other to pass first, I suspect.

That prediction is reinforced further by both teams' top-five pass efficiency defenses. Both Carson Coffman and Taylor Martinez likely will be prone to throwing interceptions if they air it out too much against the exceptional cornerbacks who will be featured in the game.

The most significant difference between the two teams appears to be their respective rushing defenses. Although Nebraska's is not nearly up the standards of last year's suffocating defensive front, it still ranks almost 50 spots higher than K-State's, which repeatedly was gashed by large gains from Austen Arnaud and Jeffrey Godfrey.

But look a bit closer and there is hope. Nebraska accumulated those statistics against vastly inferior competition to the teams K-State has played, and despite that fact, has allowed two rushers to exceed 100 yards in a game, let South Dakota State control the line of scrimmage, and has posted lower-than-normal sack and TFL averages.

Now consider that the Huskers will be facing their biggest challenge of the season — Daniel Thomas, who posted 99 yards rushing last season in Lincoln against a much stronger defensive front. If the offensive line can get better push than they did against UCF and keep Nebraska honest, it will allow Coffman more time to throw down the field.

Of course, Nebraska — which runs a 4-2-5 bend-don't-break look similar to K-State's — probably doesn't need to bring more than one safety into the box because it has two of the best cover corners in the league in Prince Amukamara and DeJon Gomes.

Bill Snyder will need to get creative with his play-calling if we are to have any passing success.

Since this is such a close match-up in so many phases, especially when you factor in K-State's coaching and home-field advantages, the game likely will swing on two factors — special teams and turnovers.

Nebraska has one of the best kicker-punters in the country, Alex Henery. But the Huskers currently are much worse net-punting team than K-State. However, that advantage is somewhat offset by the Bugeaters ranking higher in punt return average. If either team can break a big punt return, possibly for a score, it could decide the game.

The teams are back-to-back in kickoff return yardage, so this factor is a complete toss-up. It sure would be nice if William Powell finally takes one to the house, though. Likewise, the teams are tied in turnover margin, so who knows how this one will play out?

The bottom line, though, is that K-State probably will not have too much offensive success against the front of Jared Crick and Baker Steinkuhler or the conference's third-leading tackler, Lavonte David (who nearly ended up wearing purple, by the way).

Thus, I think we need to manufacture "cheap points" with a blocked kick or punt, a long return or a turnover brought back for points. Otherwise, I fear my prediction below will come to pass.

One thing's for sure, however: We are going to cover this damn spread. Win or lose, the Huskers are going to leave town with a few missing teeth and knowing they were in one hell of a dogfight. I expect nothing less of a Bill Snyder-coached team.

If you're going to the game (unfortunately, I can't make it due to work obligations), please yell like you never have yelled before. Focus all of your rage and your pride into one concentrated, three-hour-long blast. I'll be doing the same thing at my TV, I assure you.

Be Loud. Be Proud. Be Purple. Go State!

Prediction: Nebraska 19, Kansas State 15

 

BracketCat's Projected Starters

QB: Carson Coffman
FB: Braden Wilson
RB: Daniel Thomas

WR: Brodrick Smith, Tramaine Thompson
TE: Travis Tannahill
OL: Manase Foketi, Zach Kendall, Wade Weibert, Kenneth Mayfield, Zach Hanson

DL: Antonio Felder, Raphael Guidry, Prizell Brown, Brandon Harold
LB: Jarell Childs, Alex Hrebec
DB: Stephen Harrison, David Garrett, Ty Zimmerman, Tysyn Hartman, Terrance Sweeney

KOS: Anthony Cantele
PK: Josh Cherry
P: Ryan Doerr

KR: William Powell
PR: Tramaine Thompson

 

Elsewhere in the Big 12...

An Upset Alert has been issued for Lafayette, La. We've seen this before, from both angles: Louisiana knocking off a Big 12 team at home, and Oklahoma State losing a tough weeknight road game against a scrappy Sun Belt school on ESPN2.

The Cowboys should prevail, but frankly, their defense is bad enough to keep any opponent in it until the fourth quarter.

Iowa State has road games looming against Oklahoma and Texas, so it would be really nice for the Cyclones' hopes of bowl eligibility if they can steal one in Ames against a top-10 Utah team. If Jordan Wynn is back, I don't like the match-up, but facing Terrence Cain would give the 'Clones a slight chance.

Arkansas doesn't have much of a defense. Texas A&M's defense, in my opinion, is a fraud. That should make for some entertaining fireworks in Jerryworld as Ryan Mallett and Jerrod Johnson sling it to and fro. But Mallett is slightly less prone to mind-numbing turnovers and Pig Sooie should prevail much as it did last year.

Missouri's going to smack Colorado upside the head with some Division I football and send the Buffs back to the intramurals. Colorado's Big 12 season will be roughly akin to a blanket party as the dirty hippies learn that this conference only has one team as crappy as Georgia, and they have to play that team in Lawrence.

The Cotton Brawl will be an interesting game, perhaps the most competitive of the week. Based on how dominant Baylor looked against KU, the Bears seem to be the favorite, and honestly, they should have beat Texas Tech last year. Now Mike Leach is gone and the Red Raiders are licking their wounds.

But how will Baylor handle success? Can they live up to the mantle of favorite, with bowl eligibility so close they can taste it? And how will Tommy Tuberville's bunch handle the adversity of an 0-2 start now that there's no pirate to swoop in and swing their sword?

Oh, and by the way: I was wrong last week. This is the last week in which all of the conference's games are televised.

 

#22 Oklahoma State at Louisiana (ESPN2)
Cowboys 40, Ragin' Cajuns 17

#10 Utah at Iowa State (FCS)
Utes 23, Cyclones 14

Texas A&M vs. #11 Arkansas (ABC)
Razorbacks 25, Aggies 17

Colorado at #24 Missouri (FSN)
Tigers 26, Buffaloes 16

Texas Tech vs. Baylor (FSN)
Bears 24, Red Raiders 23

 

All helmet images are courtesy of The Helmet Project. Check it out — it's pretty cool.

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