While I am not a fan of FBS facing FCS teams much like Bo Pelini I understand why it sometimes happens. That being said it was actually good preparation for Nebraska's defense to see Arkansas State and what I would call a little unorthodox, little strange offense they run because of the passing aspect.
Here are the things I will be watching in today's game:
1. Superman returns - Rex Burkhead returns to the lineup for the first time since spraining a knee ligament in the first quarter of the season. It's unlikely that Burkhead will jump right into the 20 rushing attempts and 5 receptions end of the pool. Expect it more to be like 10 rushing attempts and 2 receptions or so or about a dozen touches. Without Burkhead around Ameer Abdullah has shouldered the load and is averaging 122.3 yards per game. Between Taylor Martinez, Braylon Heard and Imani Cross they have put up about 135 yards between the three of them. The offensive backfield is loaded, that's for sure, but what Burkhead does few can. He just does everything and every little thing…right…for the lack of better words. From running the ball to catching the ball to pass protection; he's an extension of the coaching staff on the football field.
2. Nebraska's pass defense/Idaho State's offensive intentions - Idaho State isn't why about what they want to do. There might be some records falling today…the last time any quarterback had 60+ passing attempts against Nebraska was Kliff Klingsbury in 2001. Nebraska won that game in Lincoln that day against Texas Tech, 41-31. The Huskers were rated No. 3 in the land and Coach Frank Solich was still in Lincoln. Idaho State's staff has said that they want to throw the ball…wait for it…80 times today against Nebraska. If there is one thing to be said about Nebraska's defense it might be that the teeth of their defense is in the secondary. I think that it should also be noted that Nebraska did well against what I would call an offense that was really built around the pass in Arkansas State with defensive scheme and getting pressure on the quarterback. I expect Nebraska will have to find ways to get pressure on Idaho State and be sound tacklers in one on one situations to keep big plays from happening.
3. Tempo of the game - These are the types of games that when you lose tempo you can stress out both sides of your football team. This is the type of game that when Nebraska wants to do something quickly they have had a tendency to get out of the scope of the game plan, force some things, have to give the ball back to the other team and put their defense back out on the field that just got off the field three plays ago. The defensive side of the football is likely to face substitution issues like they did last week against Arkansas State. They will also need to substitute because going against the pass as much as what Idaho State wants to throw the football would test any team's conditioning. Nebraska has some depth and they will want to use it today.
Nebraska will want to run the ball right at Idaho State and ruin their day on defense. What Idaho State will want to do to Nebraska is dink and dunk the ball filling the air with footballs with pass attempt after pass attempt. They will try to ruin Nebraska's day on defense similarly, but in a different way.
I thought Nebraska played their best game of the season last week against Arkansas State. They are definitely improving as a unit. One area where I saw the best improvement was in the area of tackling. I thought that the defensive backs that had tough open space tackles to make typically did a good job in doing so.
Another area where Nebraska excelled last weekend was with forcing some turnovers. Nebraska will need to do the exact same thing today to break Idaho State's intentions of screens, slants, etc. and have to go a little longer to even things up and get some quick scores. This is when Nebraska will have to capitalize and take the ball away.
Watch for more wrinkles on offense too. I think that Nebraska will give Wisconsin a few more things to plan for next weekend by giving another look or two. I will be watching the fullback position. After starting out strong Mike Marrow has faded over the last two games. All that being said, Nebraska wins today 59-21.