July 7, 2009

Summer forecast: Arkansas State

In the second installment of HuskersIllustrated.com's new "Summer Forecasts" series, we take a look at Nebraska's game against Arkansas State. The Red Wolves will likely come into the game as heavy underdogs, but that doesn't mean there won't be some key advantages they can't exploit and pull off another upset over a Big 12 foe.

NU's biggest strength: It's front four

Obviously Nebraska's defensive line could be considered its strength for every game on the schedule, but considering the match-up issues it could cause Arkansas State's offensive line, it's especially a big one.

The Red Wolves lost three starters along its o-line from last season, including both of their All-Sun Belt Conference tackles and starting center. In fact, senior guard Dominic Padrta is the only returning full-time starter on the line. Against a Husker defensive front that could be one of the best in the Big 12, that lack of experience could cause some major issues for the Red Wolves' offense.

In their upset win over Texas A&M last season, ASU was able to control the ball behind a strong running game that allowed its defense to stay off the field as much as possible. With this season's inexperienced group having just one game before facing the likes of Ndamukong Suh and Co., the chances of using that same strategy don't seem too likely.

NU's biggest weakness: Managing ASU's offensive balance

If Nebraska only needed to focus on either the run or the pass, there's little doubt it would have little trouble shutting down Arkansas State's offense. However, that will be anything but the case.

The Red Wolves enter the season with one of the best backfields in the Sun Belt. Senior quarterback Corey Leonard is on pace to break nearly every school passing record, and ASU boasts a three-headed rushing attack led by senior running back Reggie Arnold, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards the past three seasons.

Arkansas State's receivers aren't anything to write home about, but if it can establish even a somewhat consistent running game, Leonard has the ability to pick apart defenses and could give NU some problems.

Early HI.com projected point spread: -23

Early HI.com final score prediction: NU 41, ASU 17

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