Three Keys to Victory: Nebraska

Iowa State will be fighting for first place in the Big 12 North Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium when they host Nebraska.'s senior writer offers up his three keys to a Cyclone victory.

Match emotion from start to finish

The key in Iowa State's victory over Nebraska in 2002 was the fact it was hungrier than its opponent from the opening kickoff to the closing second. John Skladany's defense forced the Huskers three-and-out on their opening possession, which just so happened to be three run plays. Physically standing up to them early led to plenty of momentum. If the Cyclones win the opening coin toss, I wouldn't be against them starting Saturday's game in a similar scenario.

Against an evenly matched opponent, the Cyclones will need to match the emotion displayed by Nebraska. Both sides will be hungry to earn a spot in the Big 12 North's driver's seat. Just as ISU's defense did last week against Kansas, starting with some big plays and showing some emotion will get the fans into it right away.

Force Huskers to weakness

This just in… Nebraska quarterback Joe Dailey isn't suited to run the West Coast offense. The first-year starter has completed just 7-of-29 passes for 142 yards and no touchdowns the past two weeks, and his coaches have finally started going back to the ground game. On the other hand, Cory Ross has become a bigger piece to the offensive puzzle in Lincoln, rushing for 194 yards and two scores last weekend. He also has three other 100-yard games to his credit.

Realizing they are facing an inferior passing quarterback, ISU's front seven must play physical football and keep Ross in check. Holding Ross to fewer than 80 yards rushing – which has already been done by Pittsburgh, Texas Tech, Baylor, and Kansas State – is a good barometer for success.

Dealing with the loss of All-Big 12 tight end Matt Herian – the Huskers' leading receiver with 24 catches – to a broken leg, Nebraska should be even more apt to focus on its ground game.

Three's the magic number

The Cyclone defense has been very opportunistic in recent weeks, forcing four turnovers each in wins over Kansas and Baylor. In doing so, they are now a plus-four in turnover margin and rank sixth in the Big 12. Nebraska, meanwhile, has been terrible in the ball security category. They have committed 27 turnover as a team, with 17 coming by way of interception.

ISU will need to continue its trend of making plays on defense, especially since this figures to be a low-scoring affair. Defensive tackle Brent Curvey has scored on fumble recoveries in each of the last two weeks, and each touchdown has proved crucial in back-to-back wins.

If the Cyclones can force at least three turnovers in this game I like their chances, especially since the offense has been more efficient. Barney Cotton's unit is now taking much better care of the ball, as quarterback Bret Meyer has thrown just two interceptions in the last five weeks.

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