Nebraska vs USC primer

Nebraska (9-3) will battle in basically USC's (8-4) backyard on Saturday with a Holiday Bowl win on the line.

Nebraska (9-3, 5-3) vs. USC (8-4, 6-3)
Saturday, 7 p.m. CT on ESPN
Holiday Bowl – San Diego, CA


* The Huskers are looking for their first 10-win season since 2012 and their fourth since 2009.

* Nebraska will be led by interim head coach Barney Cotton after the firing of Bo Pelini in early December.

* Senior running back Ameer Abdullah needs 280 yards to become Nebraska’s all-time career rushing leader.

* Nebraska is 0-3-1 in program history against USC.

LINCOLN, Neb. - Saturday’s matchup will feature the nation’s No. 15 passing offense versus the nation’s No. 3 passing efficiency defense.

USC quarterback Cody Kessler has arguably been one of the best quarterbacks in college football in 2014. His 9-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio means the Trojans don’t make many mistakes through the air. When the chances are there - Nebraska will have to find a way to capitalize.

“It’s going to come down to us making plays on the ball,” said junior cornerback Daniel Davie. “Kessler has a talented enough arm to fit it into tight spots and let his guys make plays.”

The last time Nebraska found themselves in the Holiday Bowl was 2010. Their opponent – Washington, coached at that time by current USC head coach Steve Sarkisian. The Huskers actually played Sarkian’s squad three times from 2009 to 2010.

“It helps on some level, we have a bit or familiarity with Coach Sarkisian’s offense,” Nebraska defensive coordinator John Papuchis said. “I’m sure they’re going to have a unique plan this time though.”

It won’t be just on the defensive backs to make opportunities. The Trojans are No. 95 in the country in sacks allowed, giving up more than 2.5 a contest. With a lot of their work coming through the air, the Nebraska defensive line knows they have a chance to put their ears back.

”When you are facing a pocket throwing quarterback like Kessler, who isn’t afraid to throw it 40 times a game, it makes it a 1-on-1 thing,” said defensive end Greg McMullen. “It comes down to me versus the tackle. It’s an opportunity to get after it and have some fun.”

Courtesy: Nebraska Media Relations

Nebraska interim head coach Barney Cotton

Nebraska D.C. John Papuchis

Nebraska O.C. Tim Beck

Harvey’s keys to the game:

1.) USC is giving up 77.17 yards per game (No. 118 in the country) in penalties. The Trojans are prone to mental mistakes and Nebraska has to find a way to capitalize off of them – especially on defense. Nebraska is No. 8 in the country on third down conversion defense. It’s very likely USC has some long ones on Saturday.

2.) Nebraska’s makeshift offensive line has to hold together. Sarkisian said Ameer Abdullah will be the best running back the Trojans have faced this season. The statement is likely very true, but the offensive line won’t be - not with the injuries up front. Abdullah has the power to make an average offensive line look good, Nebraska needs to be just average.

3.) People tend to say Nebraska has played well over the years when backed into a corner. That might be true, but in some of their biggest games they have flopped. Saturday’s contest should be one with no pressure. Most fans don’t’ expect the Huskers to win. Vegas doesn’t expect them to win. The game will feature more USC fans than Nebraska fans. Saturday is a free pass for the Huskers. The players need to be play like it. The outgoing Nebraska coaching staff needs to coach like it.

Big Red Report/ predictions:

Josh Harvey, - USC: 41, Nebraska: 31

Bryan Munson, BRR staff - USC: 27, Nebraska: 17

Brandon Huffman, - USC: 38, Nebraska: 21

Greg Biggins, - USC: 34, Nebraska: 27

Greg Powers, - USC: 31, Nebraska: 20

Derek Young, - USC: 42, Nebraska: 27

Beth Long, - USC: 24, Nebraska: 21

Joe Quinn, ESPN AM 590 - USC: 34, Nebraska: 14

Brett Edwards, KLKN-TV - USC: 38, Nebraska: 27

Matthew Svoboda, BRR contributor - USC: 34, Nebraska: 27

Josh Webb, - USC: 35, Nebraska: 27

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