Nebraska's defense on the other hand is struggling. Rumors of sweeping changes half verified through coaches talking to the public regarding new schemes this week in particular to seeing some 3-4 as well as personnel changes. Nebraska allowed 250 yards after contact against UCLA a week ago on the road and is trying to improve through changes and become more consistent.
Nebraska will likely be tested by Arkansas State, but like Nebraska there are questions on defense for Arkansas State as well. This should be a shoot-out with lots of yards and points tomorrow. Here are the keys to the game that I will be watching tomorrow:
1. Response to loss - It's been a long week for me just being around the Internet, reading the stories, the questions that are being asked of the players and coaches as well as their answers. It's taken its toll on me…I couldn't imagine having to answer the questions over and over again. There should be some resonance though among the players and the staff. Verbal questions about how could a game and a performance happen like that must lead to answers on the field. None of the responses this week will have mattered if a similar performance takes place.
2. Defensive identity - Nebraska must find some answers to allowing 653 yards, 94 total offensive plays and 26 first downs to UCLA. Gus Malzahn is on the record stating that he wants Arkansas State to run 80 offensive plays per game. Nebraska can't afford to give that amount of plays to anyone. Simply put, there must be a strong desire on the football field tomorrow by the defensive players and the defensive staff to be dominant, make plays and get as many three and outs as possible.
3. Offensive game plan complementing the overall game plan - I don't know what happened with Nebraska rushing game after the first drive of the 4th quarter against UCLA, but it seemed once that happened you could have stuck a fork in the game. There is a tendency when it comes to Nebraska's offense to try and do too much. To alleviate the pain of the game the offense tries to come out and score quickly. What's happened far too often in these situations is that Nebraska has had a short drive, had to punt and gave the opposing team good field position. Nebraska can't get away from what they do great and that is run the football, mix it up with play-action, read-option and then hit their big play guys out in space and over the top.
This game has to be well coordinated on both sides of the football for Nebraska. I have little doubt that Nebraska will win on Saturday and realistically I could really care by how much unless Nebraska goes out and scores 50 and pitches a shutout.
This game needs to be one of those games that even if Nebraska only wins by 17 that the game was more out of hand than what the score indicated in favor of Nebraska. It needs to be a dominant effort in front of the Nebraska faithful back in Lincoln.
This will be a test and it will be a test that Nebraska will pass, but it will be a question of how well. The Huskers can't afford to get down early and have to be sharper on special teams. Nebraska wins and the score will be closer than people might like, but on the field it will be more convincing. Give me Nebraska, 48-31.