DATE: NOVEMBER 24, 2006
TIME: 2:30 P.M. CST
LOCATION: LINCOLN, NE
The Colorado Buffaloes enter their season finale against Nebraska following a 33-16 victory over the Iowa State Cyclones two weeks ago. The Buffs average 290.91 yards in total offense, placing them 102nd in the nation. Colorado also ranks 117th in passing (117.36 ypg), 116th in passing efficiency (95.39 rating), 27th rushing (173.55 ypg), 105th scoring offense (16.55 ppg), and 24th in turnover margin (+ 0.55). The strength of the Buffs is in their rushing attack, with three capable backs.
QB: Jr. Bernard Jackson (97 of 196, 1167 yds, 6 TDs, 7 INTs) has been improving every week, mainly because of his dual threat capabilities. Bernard had one of his best days of the season against Iowa State two weeks ago, throwing for 200 yards and 2 touchdowns, while rushing for another score. Jackson ranks second on the team in rushing, having rushed for 661 yards and 7 touchdowns on 143 carries this year . With Sr. James Cox (11 of 30, 124 yds) out with a thumb injury, RFr. Patrick Devenny is Jackson's back-up.
RB: Colorado has a trio of running backs, led by Jr. Hugh Charles (134 carries, 718 yds, 1 TD). Charles is a solid runner, however, Sr. Mell Holliday (97 carries, 445 yds, 1 TD) has looked very good in the past two games, getting more carries in this two back offense. Colorado's number three back is Jr. Byron Ellis (32 carries, 104 yds, 1 TD), a taller back that has good hands. Combined, these three backs have averaged 4.82 yards per carry on the season. Having the backs catch the ball hasn't been an imposing part of the offense, however, Charles has caught 9 passes for 85 yards, while Ellis has caught 4 passes for 26 yards. At FB, So. Maurice Cantrell hasn't rushed the ball this season, however, has 2 receptions for 38 yards.
WR/TE: The Buffs have a good group of receivers to work with, but haven't put up the numbers this year that were expected. Colorado's top wide-outs are Jr. Alvin Barnett (19 catches, 222 yds, 1 TD) at "Z" and So. Patrick Williams (17 catches, 229 yds, 1 TD) at "X". Both are averaged sized receivers at 6' and 6'2", respectively. Instead of relying on height to make big catches, they use their quickness to get open. Top back-ups include Jr. Dusty Sprague (11 catches, 179 yds) and So. Cody Crawford (10 catches, 143 yds). The Buffs lost a pair of great tight ends from last season in Joe Klopfenstein and Quinn Sypniewski, however, RFr. starter Riar Greer (23 catches, 247 yds, 2 TDs) has done a nice job in filling the void as he leads the teams in receptions and yards. Jr. reserve Tyson DeVree (4 catches, 36 yds, 1 TD) has ideal tight end size at 6'6" and 245 lbs.
OL: The Colorado offensive line has done a passable job this season. The Buffaloes' line is paving way for the ground game to average 4.43 yards per rush. Through eleven games, the line has allowed 27 sacks. Starting on the line at tackle is Jr. Tyler Polumbus (6'8", 285 lbs) at left, and Sr. Jack Tipton (6'3", 295 lbs) on the right. At guard is Sr. Brian Daniels (6'4", 300 lbs) on the left side, while So. Daniel Sanders (6'3", 310 lbs) starts on the right. Starting at center is Sr. Bryce MacMartin (6'2", 285 lbs). This is one of the smaller offensive lines in the Big XII conference this year both in height and weight. They are a better run blocking unit than pass blocking, as QB Bernard Jackson has made many plays on his feet for the team rather than in the pocket.
Entering game twelve of the season, Colorado's defense ranks 60th nationally in total defense (329.36 ypg), 88th pass defense (224 ypg), 86th pass efficiency defense (135.14 rating), 25th rush defense (105.36 ypg), and 49th in scoring defense (20.91 ppg). They are a tough nosed defense in stopping the run, however, Kansas State did compile just under 200 yards on the ground three weeks ago, so they aren't impenetrable.
DL: After eleven games, the Colorado defensive line is allowing opponents 3.18 yards per rush. Against Kansas State, that average was 4.9 yards per carry. It should be noted that Kansas State had two big rushing plays in that game for 30 and 34 yards. Starting at defensive end is Sr. Abraham Wright (55 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 1 FF, 16 QBH, 3 PBU) on the left, and Sr. Walter Boye-Doe (44 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2FF, 7 QBH, 2 PBU) on the right. Wright is an animal, getting past his opposing lineman more often than not. Top back-ups include Jr. Alonzo Barrett (10 tackles) and So. Maurice Lucas (14 tackles, 1 sack, 2 QBH). In the trenches, Sr. Alex Ligon (7 tackles) starts at DT, with So. Brandon Nicolas (51 tackles, 2 FF, 4 QBH) starting at NT. Top back-ups at the interior line are So. George Hypolite (49 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 FF, 2 FR, 7 QBH, 3 PBU) and RFr. Taj Kaynor (1 tackle).
LB: A strong suit for the Buffaloes, the linebacking crew is one of the more talented in the conference. Starting at middle linebacker for the Buffs will be Sr. Thaddeus Washington (96 tackles, 0.5 sack, 1 INT, 1 FF, 4 PBU) with TFr. Michael Sipili (24 tackles, 1 QBH) serving as his back-up. On the outside, Jr. Jordon Dizon (118 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 FF, 2 FR, 2 QBH, 1 PBU) at WLB, while So. Brad Jones (67 tackles, 0.5 sack, 1 INT, 1 QBH, 1 PBU) starts at SLB. Dizon is backed up by RFr. Jeff Smart, with Jones being backed up by Jr. Joe Sanders (4 tackles). Dizon and Washington are good candidates for all-conference selections this season. Against Kansas State, Washington continued to play despite breaking two teeth early in the game. He is a warrior on this Buffalo defense.
DB: Colorado's defensive backfield has really struggled to defend the pass over the past two games against Kansas State and Iowa State. It won't get any easier against Nebraska this week. Starting at cornerback is Sr. Terry Washington (42 tackles, 1 FF, 2 PBU) at LCB and Jr. Terrence Wheatley (51 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 5 INTs, 1 FF, 2 FR, 2 QBH, 10 PBU) at RCB. Top back-ups include Sr. Lorenzo Sims Jr. (29 tackles, 4 PBU), TFr. Cha'pelle Brown (35 tackles, 1 INT, 2 PBU), So. Gardner McKay (4 tackles). At safety, Sr. J.J. Billingsley (46 tackles, 1 INT, 4 PBU) starts at SS, with Jr. Lionel Harris (56 tackles, 1 INT, 2 PBU) serving as his back up. So. Ryan Walters (56 tackles, 2 INTs, 1 FF, 1 FR, 3 PBU) starts at FS, and backing him up is So. Benjamin Burney (23 tackles) .
Colorado Special Teams
The Buffaloes' special team units have been very average season, outside of outstanding kicker Mason Crosby. Colorado currently ranks 40th in net punting (36.06 yd avg), 100th in punt returns (6.05 yd avg), and 94th in kickoff returns (18.30 yd avg).
K: Sr. Mason Crosby has hit on 19 of his 27 attempts, with a long of 56. Crosby arguably has the strongest leg in the nation, which has tempted coach Dan Hawkins to let him attempt from what is usually considered outrageous ranges. However, he is 0 for 3 from beyond 60 this year.
P: RFr. Matt DiLallo has punted 42 times for an average of 43.6 yards. 13 of his 42 punts have been downed inside of the opponents' 20.
KR/PR: Jr. Stephone Robinson (15 returns, 17.4 yd avg), Sr. Terry Washington (7 returns, 19.9 yd avg), and Jr. Byron Ellis (2 returns, 21.5 yd avg) handle kickoff returns duties for the Buffs. On punt returns, Jr. Stephone Robinson (15 returns, 5.1 yd avg) and Jr. Chase McBride (4 returns, 9.8 yd avg) have been the top return men.
Coverage: The Colorado kick coverage team is allowing 23.8 yards per return off of 15 kickoff return attempts. Opponents are also averaging 5.9 yards per punt return on 36 returns.
Nebraska is coming into Friday's game with Colorado following a 28-27 victory over Texas A&M in College Station, TX. The Huskers escaped with a win following a Zac Taylor to Maurice Purify touchdown pass with just 21 seconds left in the game. With the win, the Huskers have clinched the Big XII North division. Nebraska's 430.91 yards places them 9th nationally in total offense. The Cornhuskers also rank 19th in passing (248.27 ypg), 6th in pass efficiency (163.64 rating), 19th in rushing (182.64 ypg), 10th in scoring offense (33.64 ppg), and 24th in turnover margin (+ 0.55).
QB: Sr. Zac Taylor (177 of 287, 2540 yds, 22 TDs, 4 INTs) has had a nice 2006 season. He now holds nearly every Nebraska single season and career record for passing. Taylor has a habit of staying in the pocket too long, sometimes forces throws into double coverage, and throws behind and over receivers. When he is on target, however, he has the ability to pick apart any opposing defense. Zac also has one of the best touchdown to interception ratios in the nation. He led a fantastic game winning drive last week against Texas A&M, throwing crisp passes to his receivers. So. back-up Joe Ganz (6 for 12, 93 yds, 2 TDs) has looked decent in his three attempts at mop-up duties, but hasn't seen action since the Troy game.
RB: Nebraska has four outstanding backs in their arsenal, and it is not unlikely to see all four get carries in a game. Jr. Brandon Jackson (134 carries, 739 yds, 6 TDs) has separated himself from the pack, showing excellent cut back abilities as well as an ability to break tackles and run over opponents. So. Marlon Lucky (112 carries, 619 yds, 6 TDs) has established himself as the solid second back, showing great hands out of the backfield. So. Cody Glenn (71 carries, 370 yds, 8 TDs) now appears to be an exclusive short yardage or third-down back, scoring two touchdowns against Texas A&M from inside the 10. Jr. Kenny Wilson (71 carries, 321 yds, 3 TDs) has also played well, but remains 4th on the depth chart. The backs are a critical piece in the passing game as well, as Brandon Jackson has caught 20 passes for 249 yards and 1 touchdown, while Marlon Lucky has caught 24 passes for 272 yards. Sr. FB Dane Todd (2 catches, 9 yards, 1 TD) is a solid lead blocker that rarely sees the ball.
WR/TE: Nebraska's receiving crew, top-to-bottom is one of the better groups in the Big XII conference, with a mix of quality deep threats and possession receivers. Jr. Maurice Purify (27 catches, 533 yards, 7 TDs) is the team's biggest target and has become the go-to guy for QB Zac Taylor. Jr. Terrence Nunn (33 catches, 500 yds, 2 TDs) leads the team in receptions, a solid threat while running medium routes. So. Nate Swift (16 catches, 289 yds, 1 TD) has not been as big a part of the offense as he was last season, but has great hands. Jr. Frantz Hardy (13 catches, 299 yds, 3 TDs) is a real speedster, a key threat in the open field. So. Todd Peterson (17 catches, 235 yds, 2 TDs) has become a key receiver, catching 7 passes against Texas A&M. His sure hands are giving him more field time. Tight ends have become less of a factor in the offense as the season has gone along. Sr. Matt Herian (12 catches, 150 yds, 2 TDs) has played tentatively when running after the catch after missing a year and a half due to a broken leg. Jr. J.B. Phillips (12 catches, 75 yds, 2 TDs) has been a decent second option at tight end.
OL: Nebraska's running backs are averaging 5.28 yards per carry. The Husker's offensive line is young, and improved over last season's line. However, they still get beat, especially by quick, athletic defensive linemen. Through eleven games, the line has allowed 24 sacks. Starting at the tackle positions are Jr. Chris Patrick (6'4", 290 lbs) at LT, and So. Matt Slauson (6'5", 335 lbs) at RT. So. Lydon Murtha (6'7", 315 lbs) and Jr. Carl Nicks (6'5", 325 lbs) will also shuffle in and see a lot of work, especially if Slauson isn't ready to go after suffering an ankle injury against Texas A&M. Sr. Greg Austin (6'1", 295 lbs), who has started at LG, injured his knee a few weeks ago, and is out indefinitely. Taking his place is So. Andy Christensen (6'3", 300 lbs.) at LG and RFr. Jacob Hickman (6'4", 280 lbs.) has started at RG, in place of So. Mike Huff (6'4", 305 lbs). Starting center, Sr. Kurt Mann (6'4", 290 lbs), has struggled with a viral infection for over a month, and is close to 100% now. Jr. Brett Byford (6'3", 300 lbs), will remain the starter in his place until Mann is ready to go at full strength.
Nebraska's Blackshirt defense comes into game twelve ranked 73rd nationally in total defense (351.27 ypg), 93rd pass defense (227.91 ypg), 39th pass efficiency defense (117.08 rating), 44th rush defense (123.36 ypg), and 32nd in scoring defense (18.55 ppg).
DL: Nebraska's defensive line is anchored by Sr. Adam Carriker (41 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 INT, 11 QBH, 3 PBU, 1 blkd kick) at base end, and Jay Moore (35 tackles, 4 sacks, 5 QBH, 3 PBU) as the open end. So. Barry Turner (17 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 FR, 5 QBH, 1 PBU, 1 blkd kick) is a quick end, plays often and can get into the backfield in a hurry. Sr.'s Ola Dagunduro (20 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 blkd kick) and Barry Cryer (23 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 FF, 1 QBH, 3 PBU) start at nose tackle and defensive tackle, respectively, doing a nice job this season plugging up the middle. Back-up sophomore tackles Ndamukong Suh (18 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF, 1 QBH) and Ty Steinkuhler (16 tackles, 0.5 sack, 1 FF) have looked good this season, especially Suh, who is seeing more action as the weeks go by. Nebraska's opponents currently average 4 yards per carry on the season, a number that has been rising over the past month. This is one of the better defensive lines in the country, however, consistency from game to game has been an issue.
LB: Nebraska's linebacking corps has been riddled with injuries all season, attributing to some of the problems this defense has faced this year. Jr. Corey McKeon (49 tackles, 1 FF, 1 FR, 2 QBH, 2 PBU) starts at MLB for the Huskers. McKeon has been slowed by injuries this season, but after a bye week, should be close to 100%. Jr. Lance Brandenburgh (37 tackles, 0.5 sack, 1 FF), McKeon's back-up, plays very well in his absence. Jr. Bo Ruud (59 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 INTs, 3 FF, 1 FR, 2 QBH, 2 PBU) starts at WLB, with Jr. Steve Octavien (21 tackles, 1 FF, 2 PBU) currently serving as his back-up. Octavien has also been slowed by injuries this season. He is a dynamic player on the field, always flying to the ball, and has a real presence when he is on the field. Sr. Stew Bradley (64 tackles, 2 FF, 3 FRs, 1 PBU, 5 QBH) starts at SLB, and rarely comes out of the game. Bradley's listed back-up, So. Clayton Sievers (1 tackle), has been injured most of the year. Lance Brandenburgh has also served as Bradley's back-up this year.
DB: Nebraska's much maligned defensive backfield has been the biggest weakness of the defense. Cortney Grixby (41 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FF, 1 FR, 9 PBU), a three year starter at WCB, is often picked on because of his 5'9" frame. Jr. Andre Jones (53 tackles, 1 INT, 7 PBU) starter at SCB, is a JUCO transfer that has done a fair job this season, but hasn't turned into a shut down corner just yet. Both corners tend to give up first downs, due to soft zones, often allowing a 5-8 yard cushion to the opposing receiver. Jr. Tierre Green (58 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FR, 2 PBU) starts at SS and Sr. Andrew Shanle (49 tackles, 3 INTs, 1 FR, 3 PBU, 4 QBH) is the starter at FS. Safety play has been below par this season, often taking poor angles and making poor decisions in coverage. True freshmen Major Culbert (9 tackles), Rickey Thenarse (4 tackles, 1 INT, 1 PBU), and Corey Young (11 tackles) are getting more playing time as back-ups, breathing some new life into the backfield. Depth is a major concern as injuries have riddled the defensive backfield, so the experience of these younger athletes is critical for the future success of this defense.
Nebraska Special Teams
Nebraska's special teams play has been very average this year, not as prolific as they were a season ago. The Huskers rank 18th in net punting (37.57 yd avg), 62nd in punt returns (8.65 yd avg), and 98th in kickoff returns (18.20 yd avg).
K: So. Jordan Congdon is 5 for 7 on field goals, with a long of 40. So. Jake Wesch now handles kickoff duties. On the season, he has averaged 60.5 yards per kickoff, with 7 of his 23 attempts going for a touchback.
P: So. Dan Titchener has played well through eleven games this season. He is averaging 39.7 yards on 51 punts with a long of 58, having 18 punts downed inside the opponents' 20. He has a great leg, and his consistency is improving.
KR/PR: Jr. Brandon Jackson has a 19.2 yard average on his six returns, So. Marlon Lucky has returned five kickoffs, averaging 19.8 yards per return, and Jr. Tierre Green has returned three kickoffs for an average of 19.7 yards. Punt returning has also been underwhelming. Jr. Terrence Nunn averages 8.5 yards on 18 punt returns, So. Nate Swift has returned 3 punts for an average of 16.7 yards, Jr. Cortney Grixby has averaged 8.2 yards per return on 8 returns.
Coverage: Nebraska's coverage teams have been mostly solid this season, with just a few busted plays this season. The Huskers kick coverage unit is allowing 17.3 yards on 52 kickoff returns, while the punt return coverage team is allowing just 6.2 yard average on 11 punt returns.
Nebraska's Offense vs. Colorado's Defense
This season, the Nebraska's offense has come out of the gates with fireworks, yet seems to fizzle out for most of the second half. Against Texas A&M, Nebraska jumped out to a 21-7 halftime lead. The second half opened and the Huskers' execution went South. The offense wouldn't mount a scoring drive until Texas A&M leaped ahead to a 27-21 advantage. Following a blocked field goal attempt, QB Zac Taylor led the Cornhuskers in a near picture perfect two minute drill. The drive was finished off with a 9 yard TD pass to WR Maurice Purify with just 21 seconds remaining. Nebraska's offense has not scored in the third quarter since the Kansas State game on October 14th. Nebraska does sport one of the Big XII's better 3rd down conversion percentages at 48%.
The Colorado defense has been better than the team's 2-9 record would lead you to believe, however, are susceptible to teams with good offensive balance. The Buffs have one of the poorest 3rd down defenses, with opponents converting for a first down 42.9% of the time. The pass rush has been solid from the defensive ends, accounting for 15 of the team's 24 sacks this season. In addition, the defense has amounted for just 69 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. They will be up against a very young and inconsistent Nebraska offensive line that gave up four sacks against Texas A&M two weeks ago.
Nebraska could have trouble running the football against the Buffs stingy rush defense. Kansas State, however, with their version of the West Coast Offense racked up 211 yards on the ground against Colorado two games ago. Nebraska has excellent talent at running back, however, the running game is only as good as the blockers up front. Nebraska's offensive line has been spotty this season, sometimes looking great, and at other times quite poor. Against Texas A&M, the Husker running backs averaged 4.45 yards per carry, although as a team that average was 3.2 yards per carry.
Nebraska should be able to toss the pigskin around against one of the worst pass efficiency defenses in the nation. In their last two games, Kansas State and Iowa State each threw for over 200 yards against the Buffs. CB Terrence Wheatley has been the team's top ball hawker, picking 5 passes off this season. Offensive balance will be the key for Nebraska. QB Zac Taylor completed 60% of his passes against Texas A&M, however, that number should have been higher. Nebraska's receivers had trouble catching passes, many of which hit them in their hands. Dropped passes kill drives and momentum. If Nebraska's offensive line can keep the heat off of Taylor, he could be positioned for a big day.
Colorado's Offense vs. Nebraska's Defense
Colorado's offense has been hit or miss this season, mostly missing. QB Bernard Jackson had a nice day against Iowa State, compiling 200 yards passing and two touchdowns through the air, as well as 69 rushing yards and a score on the ground. Colorado was able to put up 471 total yards against Iowa State, one of their best performances of the season. However, there have been too many occasions where the Buffaloes flirt around 200 yards of total offense in a game, something that will kill their chances in Lincoln on Friday. Colorado's third down conversions are near the bottom of the conference, at 32.9%.
The Nebraska defense will need to keep QB Bernard Jackson from breaking loose from the pocket for big gains. Against teams with mobile QB's, the Huskers have had problems. The Husker defense couldn't stop Oklahoma State QB Bobby Reid from running all over them in the second half of their game, and against Texas A&M, QB Stephen McGee broke free on an option for 57 yards and a TD. Assuming the Husker defense is mostly healed from their minor injuries, there should be better performance through four quarters. Nebraska's defense has one of the better 3rd down defenses in the Big XII, allowing opponents to convert on just 33%.
Colorado's rushing attack is the strength of the offense, and has been the only form of offense in games in which Bernard Jackson's arm is struggling. The Buffs will run two to three different backs, with Hugh Charles and Mell Holliday being the top backs in the offense. Jackson is the team's top threat, however, with his quick feet and good acceleration, if he gets outside the pocket, he can be difficult to get after. Nebraska's typically good rush defense has struggled against quick backs this season, while power backs seem to be less effective.
In the passing game, Jackson will have to do provide a carbon copy of his Iowa State performance for the Buffaloes to beat the Huskers. The Cyclones didn't force him into any interceptions, and poor throws were few and far between. The issue with comparing Iowa State to Nebraska is not in the freefall that the Iowa State team has been in this season. Nebraska's defensive backfield is still far from the nation's best, so it isn't unlikely to see Jackson have a decent day. The real key will be the pass rush Nebraska's front seven can put on him.
Keys to the Game
For Nebraska to Win:
1.) Ground game needs to be a focus. The running game against A&M was less than excellent.
2.) Colorado QB Bernard Jackson needs to be kept inside the pocket with pressure from the outside.
3.) Pass Protection has to be there for QB Zac Taylor. Blocking was, at times, abysmal against A&M.
4.) Win turnover battle by forcing Colorado into mistakes.
5.) Better tackling needs to be present. This Nebraska defense has tendencies to arm tackle and not wrap up. This has given opponents big gains that could have been stopped behind the line of scrimmage.
For Colorado to Win:
1.) Get after Nebraska QB Zac Taylor. Texas A&M was able to force him into some ill-advised throws, one being an interception two weeks ago.
2.) QB Bernard Jackson must be "on" and not make mistakes.
3.) Ground game must also be effective. Without balance, the Buffaloes will be in trouble.
4.) Devise plays to get QB Bernard Jackson involved in designed rushes.
5.) Keep penalties to a minimum on the road.
Weather Report for Nebraska vs. Colorado
Latest Line - Nebraska by 14.
Special Teams: Even
CB - Zack Bowman - knee - out for season
CB - Isaiah Fluellen - knee - out for season
MLB - Phillip Dillard - knee - out for season
OLB - Nick Covey - knee - out for season
OG - Greg Austin - leg - out indefinitely
C - Kurt Mann - virus - questionable
OT - Matt Slauson - leg - questionable
WR - Nate Swift - head - probable
QB - James Cox - thumb - out for season
CB - Vance Washington - knee - out for season
S - Dominique Brooks - knee - out for season
OL - Erick Faatagi - knee - out for season
RFr. Michael Katchmer - knee - out for season
RFr. Devin Shanahan - knee - out for season
S - J.J. Billingsley - knee - day-to-day
DT - Marcus Jones - concussion - day-to-day
LB - R.J. Brown - concussion - day-to-day
C - Mark Fenton - shin - day-to-day
LB - Marcus Burton - leg - day-to-day
Game Breakdown & Outlook
The Colorado Buffaloes are taking the trip to Lincoln, Nebraska this week to play the Nebraska Cornhuskers for the 64th time in series history. Nebraska currently enjoys a 45-17-2 record over Colorado, with Nebraska winning last year's meeting 30-3 in Boulder. Colorado last defeated Nebraska two seasons ago in Lincoln, 26-20. This is the first meeting between first year Colorado coach Dan Hawkins and Nebraska coach Bill Callahan. Callahan is currently 1-1 against the Buffaloes. An interesting stat to note this week is that the home team has not won since 2001 in which Colorado defeated Nebraska 62-36 in Boulder.
Nebraska and Colorado do not match-up well statistically on paper. However, Colorado has been improving as the season has moved along and games are not won on paper. Nebraska's offense averages 140 yards more per game than Colorado, which is the difference between 2nd and 12th in the Big XII in total offense. Although these two teams do not share similar stats on offense, their defensive units have put up similar numbers this season.
Nebraska's offense will be the most balanced offensive attack Colorado has seen this season. With a good mix of running backs Brandon Jackson and Marlon Lucky, the Colorado defense will have to be at their best to shut them down. Nebraska's run game was slowed down by Texas A&M, as the offensive line couldn't handle the pressure. Filling the box with 8 men has been effective for teams that have a strong defensive backfield to deal with man coverage. QB Zac Taylor will look to have another big day against the Buffs, as last season he threw for 392 yards. A big day like that would get him very close to the 3,000 yard mark for the season. The Husker receiving crew needs to be more consistent, though, as they were dropping many passes two weeks ago against Texas A&M. Against Missouri, they caught nearly everything thrown to them, helping to defeat the Tigers. A few dropped balls can be the difference between a win and a loss, especially when those drops occur on third down.
Colorado, whose offense has been pretty abysmal this season, put together a nice game against Iowa State showing great balance. However, this may not be seen as a great accomplishment, considering the Cyclones' struggles this season. Nebraska's defense is quite a bit better than Iowa State's defense, as the Cyclones rank 102nd nationally in total defense compared to Nebraska's 73rd ranking. Colorado's receiving corps isn't as talent rich as many of the teams Nebraska has played this season, but they are not without their playmakers. If Colorado's QB Bernard Jackson can find his rhythm, the receivers are more than capable of hauling in the passes and putting points on the board. The Husker corner backs have been playing better, but the safety play isn't where they'd like to be. It is rare to see safeties unwilling to square up and hit someone, but that has been the case this season for Nebraska. The Buffaloes will need to get their ground game established first to get a friendly pace going. This can open up big plays in the passing game, leaving the Nebraska defense looking for answers. The big question though is whether or not Colorado's offense can get consistency from Jackson.
With Nebraska clinching the Big XII North division after their win over Texas A&M, the Huskers will have to be careful not to lose focus this week against a 2-9 Colorado team with upset on their minds. There is still much to play for, however, for the Huskers including their top 25 ranking, bowl consideration and the fact that it is Senior Day in Lincoln. The last reason being a big reason this team will be fired up out of the gates. The problem Nebraska has had this season, though, hasn't been in quarter one, but quarter three after half-time. The Huskers will need to find a way to come out of halftime with the same enthusiasm as they come out in for the opening kickoff. Colorado is hoping that a win over the Huskers could be a nice springboard for the 2007 season, and since they have nothing to lose, they will try everything in their power to win this game.
From the onset, expect Nebraska to work their ground game first, looking for weaknesses in the Colorado front. If Nebraska is able to have success on the ground against the Buffs, the Huskers will put up big numbers on the scoreboard due to the fairly shaky secondary of Colorado. The Huskers' passing attack will likely find success against a fairly suspect Colorado defensive backfield. A lot will depend on how much pressure Colorado is able to put on Nebraska QB Zac Taylor. If they can't get to him, Nebraska will wrap this game up in a hurry. Colorado is going to have to play mistake free football. Nebraska is a much better team at home than they are on the road, and other than a few positions, the Buffaloes don't match up head-for-head with the Cornhuskers. The key for Colorado is obviously in the play of QB Bernard Jackson. His success rate throwing the football will directly correlate with how well the run game develops. If his arm is off, like it has been many times this season, the Huskers should be content to blitz and force him into mistakes.
The only real advantage Colorado has is they have the "luxury" of throwing every trick in the book at the Huskers with nothing to lose, in trying to pull a very unlikely upset. The bye week these two teams had should help Nebraska a bit more than Colorado. The Huskers have had multiple starters banged up through this season that really needed the rest. This should result in better performance over four quarters from the Huskers, possibly mending the issue of Nebraska's lackluster 2nd halves. Look for Nebraska to beat the Buffs by about two touchdowns, capping off the home careers of the Husker Seniors.
Nebraska - 31
Colorado - 17