Opponent Preview — Nebraska Cornhuskers

Colorado has beaten Nebraska three of the past four seasons. This year's matchup is in Boulder Nov. 25. Inside, a look at the 2005 Cornhuskers.

Nebraska Cornhuskers
at Folsom Field • Nov. 25 • 1:30 p.m. (MT) • ABC
Head Coach: Bill Callahan (2nd year)
2004 Record: 5-6, 3-5 Big 12

Scheme: Nebraska runs a version of the "West Coast" offense. Pro-I formation, utilizing multiple shifts, sets and motions.

Key players lost: OT, Mike Erickson

Key returning players: Sophomore, WR, Terrance Nunn, Senior, RB, Cory Ross, Junior, WR, Isaiah Fluellen, Junior, C, Kurt Mann

Key newcomers: OT, Brock Pasteur, WR, Tyrell Spain, QB, Zac Taylor, K, Jordan Congdon, WR, Chris Brooks, WR, Frantz Hardy, OL, Jordan Picou, TE, Justin Tomerlin, RB, Marlon Lucky, QB, Harrison Beck

The Huskers will be successful on offense if: Nebraska is going to have to prove they can pass the ball and efficiently throughout the course of a game. Nebraska was amongst the nation's worst last year in interceptions and that will have to change this year. The Huskers also couldn't complete more than 50 percent of its passes on the season. Between an inexperienced QB not recruited for this system and a host of receivers in the same boat, it was a year of miscommunication and miscues, resulting in one of the most inefficient air-attacks in the country.

And, while Cory Ross topped the 1,000 yard mark on the year, even with turf toe most of it, the running game will have to have the passing game if it's truly going to be effective.

Utilizing the tight end, hitting the open-man, all things considered relatively basic in the west coast offense, were frustratingly difficult for the Huskers to put together one game after another.

Sustaining drives, the big play and being able to push the opponent's secondary back off the line are going to be mandatory for the Huskers to have some success. It could take them some time before everyone is on the same page, but if they don't want a repeat of the first losing season in almost forty years, they'll have to find that page before conference play arrives.

The schedule is favorable, Nebraska's first five games at home and both Kansas State and Oklahoma have to travel to Lincoln. The Huskers play Colorado and Kansas on the road.

Scheme: Nebraska ran primarily "Man" coverage last year, but is switching to primarily "Zone" coverage this year.

Key players lost: FS, Josh Bullocks, CB, Fabian Washington, MLB, Barrett Ruud,

Key returning players: Junior, DE, Jay Moore, Junior, DE, Adam Carriker, Senior, DT, Le Kevin Smith, Senior, DT, Titus Adams, Senior, SS, Daniel Bullocks, Senior, P, Sam Koch

Key newcomers: DB, Zack Bowman, DB, Bryan Wilson, LB, Steve Octavien, LB, Dontrell Moore, DT, Ola Dagundoro, DT, Barry Cryer.

The Huskers will be successful on defense if: For Nebraska to be successful on defense this year, they can't be even close to the same defense they were last year. The secondary was amongst the worst in all of college football and that was with two players in the secondary that went in the first forty picks of the draft. It was no secret that some of the players just weren't buying into what some of the new coaches had to say.

The continuity seems to be there this year, but no matter what, it's going to have to start with the four-man rush, something that Nebraska didn't have enough of last year, getting obliterated at times in the air.

With the entire D-line returning, though, and there actually being some quality depth in the middle, Nebraska should be able to get that vital double-team inside, freeing up at least one of the rush ends and making the blitz more effective.

The switch to zone coverage should be a major benefit for a group that except for the safeties (Bullocks and Andrew Shanle) is across the board, inexperienced. Two years ago, Nebraska ranked as the best pass efficiency defense in the country utilizing that zone coverage and the hope is that they can get back at least some of that dignity this season.

It starts up front, though. If Nebraska can get an effective push from the four-man rush, this defense could see a major turnaround. If they can't, the Blackshirts could end up the black and blue shirts once more.

Key Games:
September 17, Pittsburgh
This is the first major test for the secondary, Tyler Palko coming off a stellar season with Pittsburgh, leading them to a BCS bowl and ranking as one of the top 20 players in the country in total offense. This is where the coaches find out if their lofty number of junior college transfers to the position are worth the effort it took to recruit them.

October 29, Oklahoma
Last year, Nebraska was rebuilding and Oklahoma was on a run to the national title game. Well, this year, Oklahoma loses most of those players that got them to that game and Nebraska, well, they are still rebuilding. With one more year at the helm, however, Bill Callahan and his Huskers should have a little more game for the Huskers' most storied rival. This game is THE game, no matter who has what record coming in.

November 12 - Kansas State
Nebraska hasn't been looking at possibly losing to Kansas State for the fourth time in a row in, well, forever. It's never happened. For so many reasons, the Huskers have to break that minor streak. It's at home, the Huskers got lambasted the last time they played and yes, it's just Kansas State. If Nebraska wants a legit shot at the north, they have to take this one this year.

Buffalo Outlook: Teams switching from a ground-oriented attack to a West Coast offense are typically worse in their second season than first. But Zac Taylor (or freshman Harrison Beck) will be an upgrade at quarterback. The key for Nebraska will be improved play on defense. None of that really matters — Colorado always comes to play the day after Thanksgiving, and Nebraska knows it. — Mark Collins

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