The Huskers lead the FBS in scoring defense this season, only allowing 7 points per game. This could be a product of the lack of offensive talent that Nebraska has faced thus far, but nevertheless it is an impressive statistic.
The key part of this game will that matchup between the struggling rushing attack of the Tigers and the tough run defense of the Huskers. What was thought to be the strength of Mizzou's offense this year has become one of the few dull spots on the Tiger's 4-0 start. Missouri ranks 60th in the FBS in rush yard per game, averaging only 143 yards per game while the Huskers are only allowing 110 yards on the ground per game, good for 35th in the FBS.
Whispers out of Lincoln are that Nebraska is going to run a lot of plays against Missouri in the dime defense. This means the Huskers are relying on their strong defensive line lead by star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to make stops against Derrick Washington and the rushing attack. Will this strategy work?
The Huskers are taking a huge risk by presumably focusing on Mizzou's dynamic passing game while relying on the defensive line to stop Derrick Washington, De'Vion Moore and Kendial Lawrence. Sure, the Tigers' offensive line hasn't been able to block well for the rushing attack this season (Mizzou is only averaging only 3.8 yards per carry), but the focus of opposing defenses thus far has been stopping the run. If opposing defenses start to drop back more people in to coverage because of respect for Blaine Gabbert's ability (it seems like the Huskers want to do this), you could see the rushing attack finally open up.
The Huskers have been hurt by the big play in past seasons, but have kind of kept it under control thus far, only allowing 10 plays over 20 yard in their first 4 games. With that said, the 81-yard completion that was allowed against Virginia Tech was the play that basically caused them to lose their only game so far.
The Tigers have had a lot of big plays themselves this season, recording an astounding 21 plays of more than 20 yards in their first 4 games. The secondary of the Huskers is improved from last season, but if the Tigers can get a couple of big passes against the weakness of the Huskers defense, it could give them the edge they need.
The Huskers definitely have the talent on defense to play a lot of dime coverage while still doing a good job against the run, but if the Tigers have the right game plan they will also have the talent to control the line of scrimmage. It will all come down to who executes better tomorrow.