Oklahoma State vs. Nebraska

The season-opener and it's as big a debut for the Huskers as any in recent or even not-so-recent memory. AFter all the changes that have taken place and the offense Nebraska will be facing, there's much to do about this little to do and the excitement in Lincoln is already at a fever pitch. We take a rundown on the match-up, how we think they stack up and give our insight as to how we think the game will go.

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Head Coach: Les Miles
Career Record: 13-11 in 2 seasons
Career vs. Nebraska: 1-0
Date: Aug. 30th

Starters returning:

Offense: 8
Defense: 5
Specialists: 2

Key Returning players:

QB, Josh Fields
RB, Tatum Bell
WR, Rashaun Woods
SS, Elbert Craig
PK, Luke Phillips

Time: 2:30 p.m.

Oklahoma State

Who's got the edge


Location: Lincoln, NE.

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Running Backs



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Head to Head: NU leads series - 35-3-1 


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OSU Record last year: 8-5 (5-3 in Big XII)


Offensive Line






Defensive Line

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Rush End






Tight End

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The Skinny:

Experienced and explosive offense versus an experienced, but untested defense. Untested in that the new Pelini System has yet to be shown to the public or has yet to be utilized by the team itself.

Expect Nebraska to play heavy zone to keep Rashaun Woods underneath, allowing him short stuff, but doing their utmost to make sure he doesn't get anything deep.

That of course is only going to work if Josh Fields doesn't have the time to sit back there and wait for the clever Woods to figure out where to go. That's where this new defensive duo of Trevor Johnson and Benard Thomas comes in.

Don't expect Tatum Bell to get anything up the middle or between the tackles. This interior unit for Nebraska is stout beyond measure and should have no trouble handling the OSU line, making Bell get anything he's going to get on the outside, but Johnson and Thomas have to be on their game or that success inside is going to be for naught.

Johnson is a returning starter, having subbed for Chris Kelsay due to injury, but Thomas just coming off of a redshirt year is fresh to the fray as a blackshirt. "CrunkJuice" as he is called came out of high school with a considerable  amount of hype and physically, he's a speciment to behold. Now we see if the proof is truly in the pudding.

Between the Rush Ends and the many expected blitzes from either the outside linebacker spots or safeties, NU absolutely has no choice but to get in Fields' face and stay there the entire game. The key to stopping Woods is stopping the run first and then pressuring Fields once you've forced them into being a one-dimensional team.

Woods is going to get his balls and his yards and maybe even a couple of points. It's inevitable with a stud like this, but he alone can't beat Nebraska and if NU can shut the run down cold, they will be set up to make Fields' day a long one.

For Nebraska on offense, the best thing about the defense they are facing isn't who they are bringing back, but who they aren't. Kevin Williams is gone, a first-round draftee and the Husker line couldn't be happier. If there was one difference-maker last year, it wasn't Woods, Fields or Bell, rather Williams was a man amongst boys. He gave NU fits, but the offensive line won't have to worry about him this time around.

What the much-maligned O-line will have to do is something it has managed to do the entire off-season. Not make many mental mistakes. If they don't beat themselves, they stand a good chance at sustaining drives on a defense that should be vulnerable, especially up the middle.

It will come down to old-fashioned Nebraska football to start, if only to get Jammal Lord into a comfort zone, something he didn't get much of last year. If NU can establish the run early, that leaves Lord wide-open to just play his game, utilize play-action passing (that's where he is at his best in the passing dept.) and take what the defense gives him.

Josh Davis will be carrying the load early on for Nebraska and more good news from the off-season is that he's lost some weight, gained some speed and hasn't had a single issue with fumbleitis. If Davis can hang onto the ball, his tough-running, open-field ability and speed will make him a deadly weapon for NU.

While most wonder about what NU will do as far as passing more, that will depend on what they do passing early. Coach Frank Solich already stated that if it's not working, they aren't sticking with it, so if Jammal gets in a funk early, expect some mixing it up by offensive coordinator, Barney Cotton, but it will be a mix up of the run and more than likely, passing only when they have to.

Bottom line is that NU's best philosophy on defense is that NU's offense leaves them off the field as much as possible. While NU should be able to hold up against OSU's potent trio, if NU's offense can't sustain drives, it will only be a matter of time before OSU gets a big play here and there.

Keep the ball out of the offense's hands, sustain drives while NU is on offense and this game could actually be smooth sailing for the Big Red. Lord struggles though and Nebraska gets a few too many three-and-outs, the door will be open for the Cowboys to put some serious points on the board.

While OSU is ranked and NU isn't, NU is favored and for good reason. OSU hasn't won in Lincoln since before any of their players were born and because of all the question marks and hoopla surrounding this Nebraska team, the intensity by the Huskers should be insane. Just so long as the team isn't too up, they should be fine.

Nebraska wins, but it's probably going to be a bit ugly on the offensive side. The defense might lose a battle here and there as well, but they win the war in the end. 

Nebraska takes the season-opener 34-24


Steve Ryan can be reached at huskerconnection@neb.rr.com or 402-730-5619

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