October 17, 2009

Callahan's take: Huskers must start fast


Nebraska will take the field today at 2:30 pm against Texas Tech to try and erase some bad memories they've had against the Red Raiders in tough losses in 2004, 2005 and 2008. The Huskers haven't beaten Tech since the 2001 season and NU is 4-11 against Big 12 South competition since 2004.

As things get closer to kickoff for Saturday's match-up, here are the keys to a Husker victory over the Red Raiders. Nebraska will enter the game as an 11 point favorite.

NU can't afford a slow start

I think the biggest thing for Nebraska in this game is they can't afford a slow start on offense. Last week at Missouri the Huskers got off to a sluggish start and put themselves in a 12-0 hole going into the fourth quarter.

If NU gets off to that type of start against Tech, that hole could be much bigger because the Red Raiders obviously score at a much higher clip than Missouri. The biggest thing for the offense is to establish some early continuity. Quarterback Zac Lee has also shown he plays much better at home than he does on the road.

Establish the ground game early

Last year at Texas Tech the Huskers racked up 471 yards offense and both running backs Roy Helu and Marlon Lucky put up decent numbers on the ground in a 37-31 overtime loss.

Tech has shown this year they are vulnerable with their rushing defense and it will be important for Helu and the offensive line to get things going early to take pressure off of Lee. Lee struggled at Missouri last week when he faced predictable downs and situations.

Don't let Tech run

This might sound crazy, but one of the biggest keys to stopping Tech's offense is to shutdown their rushing attack.

Red Raider running backs Baron Batch (5.9 yards per carry) and Harrison Jeffers (6.9 yard per carry) really give Tech head coach Mike Leach an added dimension to his offense. The two of them have scored nine total touchdowns on the ground and they've done a great job of putting Texas Tech's offense in better situations on second and third down.

Keep Sheffield off-balanced

Before being inserted into the New Mexico game on Oct. 3, Red Raider starting quarterback Steven Sheffield was a scout team player. However, over the last two games he's thrown 718 yards and 10 touchdowns leading the Red Raiders to two wins.

I think the biggest thing for Sheffield is today will be his first road start. He's never seen an atmosphere like Memorial Stadium before and he hasn't faced a defense as good as Nebraska's. I think NU can really confuse him with different coverage schemes, which would force him to play off-balanced.

Front-four pressure

The key to beating any team that runs the spread offense is front four pressure on defense. I think NU has proven over the first five games of 2009 that they have one of the best front fours in the nation led by defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

Even though Sheffield has decent mobility, that hasn't been a problem for NU in games against Virginia Tech, Arkansas State, Louisiana Lafayette and Missouri, which all featured dual-threat quarterbacks. I expect the Huskers to get to Sheffield early and often and they should be able to force some early turnovers and pull out the win to move to 5-1.


Callahan's Prediction:Nebraska 31 Texas Tech 23
Season Record: 5-0 overall; 3-2 vs. points




 

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