Breakdown: Nebraska

Each week, I give you my breakdown of the upcoming Iowa State game and how the Cyclones match up with their opponent. In addition, I offer my prediction of the outcome. Here are some of my thoughts about the game against Nebraska…

ISU run offense vs. Nebraska run defense: The Huskers' defense is certainly improved over last season. However, two weeks ago, Nebraska gave up 211 yards rushing to Missouri and an average of 4.8 yards per carry, so it is possible to control the ball against them.

The Cyclones moved the ball a little better in the second half against Texas and freshman tailback Stevie Hicks was a big reason for that. Hicks picked up 67 yards on just 11 carries against the Longhorns. Look for Hicks—a Nebraska native—to get the ball more often in Lincoln. Advantage: NEBRASKA.

ISU pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense: Coach Frank Solich's team is coming off a victory over Texas A&M in which the Huskers held the Aggies to a pathetic 9 of 27 passing day for 109 yards. Now THAT'S bad. "Gigli" bad.

Iowa State is turning its offense over to freshman Austin Flynn again after giving Cris Love a brief opportunity. Not surprisingly, Flynn has been inconsistent this season, but he's still thrown for 1,050 and five touchdowns. Here's a Cliff Claven "little known fact" for you: The top-rated passer on the Cyclone roster is Michael Wagner, who has a 427.6 rating (1 for 1 for 39 yards). Advantage: NEBRASKA.

Nebraska run offense vs. ISU run defense: Quarterback Jammal Lord is the Huskers' leading rusher with 560 yards and eight touchdowns. Two Nebraska running backs—Josh Davis and David Horne—have over 400 yards on the ground this season. That gives NU three guys who have 400+ yards rushing this season already. Nice.

Iowa State held Iowa's Fred Russell to 75 yards on 26 carries five weeks ago, but the Cyclones haven't been very healthy since then. Last week, Cedric Benson ran for 140 yards and three TDs in Ames. Advantage: NEBRASKA.

Nebraska pass offense vs. ISU pass defense: For 27 straight seasons, the only pass play in the Husker playbook was to fake a handoff to the fullback, fake a handoff to the tailback, fake a handoff to the flanker in motion…and then lob a 20-yarder to a WIDE OPEN Tracey Wistrom in the middle of the field. Nebraska ran this play one time each half and it worked every time. Well, Wistrom is gone now.

Jammal Lord has thrown 85 passes in Nebraska's first seven games. That is the same amount of passes that B.J. Symons threw in the first half of a game earlier this season. Or something. Advantage: NOT APPLICABLE.

Special Teams: This area hasn't exactly been a strength for Iowa State this season. However, Tony Yelk drilled a 51-yard field goal last Saturday, which could prove to be a valuable weapon during the rest of the season.

The Huskers' Jason Carter returned a kickoff 89 yards for a TD last week. Nebraska actually has a kicker, David Dyches, who has made 3-of-4 from 40 to 49 yards out. Of course, Dyches is also only 4-of-6 from 30 to 39 yards away. Advantage: NEBRASKA.

Coaching: Dan McCarney has done a tremendous job with the ISU program during the past decade. Some Cyclone fans are starting to grumble about the lack of victories in the last 12 months. Frank Solich is 55-17 (76%) in his sixth season in Lincoln and thousands of Husker fans have doubted him all along the way. Nobody in America gets their pants hiked any higher on game day than Solich. Advantage: PUSH.

Intangibles: The Huskers have revenge on their minds after last season's 36-14 loss in Ames. Although Nebraska is favored, the Huskers may look at this as a "statement game" before they play at Texas next Saturday. On the other hand, Iowa State is reeling right now after five straight losses. A team without total confidence usually doesn't fare very well in Lincoln. Advantage: NEBRASKA.

PREDICTION: With so many things in Nebraska's favor on paper, I'm inclined to believe that this game could be much closer than many people expect it to be. What if Austin Flynn has a breakout game, with over 100 yards rushing and 200 yards passing? What if Stevie Hicks gives the Cyclones a 100-yard effort? What if ISU's defensive line holds its own against the Huskers' offensive line? What if Nebraska is looking ahead to its big game against the Longhorns and gets a little sloppy on Saturday, turning the ball over a few times? What if ISU's special teams makes a couple of big plays? What if Yelk nails another LOOOOOONG field goal at the end of the game?

Anything can happen, my friends. That's why they play the games. After all, nobody ever predicted heroics for Marv Seiler, right? I look for a great effort from the Cyclones, although they'll probably come up short. FINAL: NEBRASKA 23, IOWA STATE 19.

(Marty Gallagher founded the popular web site IowaSportsOpinions.com. You can e-mail him at Marty@IowaSportsOpinions.com.)


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