Huskers vs Trojans Preview

Check out our latest game preview as the No. 14 Huskers host the No. 1 Trojans.

September 15th, 2007
7:00 PM CT
Lincoln, NE

#1 USC (1 - 0) (0 - 0)
#14 Nebraska (2 - 0) (0 - 0)

Player Breakdowns

USC Offense

The USC Trojans' offense has been a perennial force for the better part of this decade.  Once again this year, they field a talent rich pool of athletes at nearly every position.  Against Idaho two weeks ago, the offense didn't show off much flash and didn't have to.  Through one game, the Trojans rank 45th nationally in total offense (420 yds), 76th in passing (206 ypg), 48th in passing efficiency (132.95 rating), 28th rushing (214 ypg), 24th scoring offense (38 ppg), and 102nd in turnover margin (-2).  

QB:  Sr. John David Booty (21 of 32, 206 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT) is expected to contend for the Heisman Trophy this season, and has a slew of good targets to get the ball out to.  He should get back his biggest target for this game, the 6'5" Patrick Turner.  Booty did have a nice day against Idaho two weeks ago, but didn't rack up the passing yards, as he played just 3 quarters.  Booty is backed up by So. Mark Sanchez and Sr. Michael McDonald (1 of 2, 0 yds, 1 INT).  McDonald served as the top reserve for USC against Idaho with Sanchez battling a thumb injury.  He wasn't very sharp against Idaho in mop-up duty, but will probably not be seen this week.  Sanchez has been cleared to play this week, and will return to his second string position.

RB:  USC's plentiful stable of high caliber running backs is one of the best in the nation.  So. C.J. Gable (8 carries, 68 yds), So. Stafon Johnson (12 carries, 64 yds, 2 TDs), So. Allen Bradford (8 carries, 15 yds), TFr. Joe McKnight (6 carries, 26 yds), and Sr. Desmond Reed (5 carries, 36 yds) all carried the rock for the Trojans against Idaho.  One bonus this week will be the return of Sr. Chauncey Washington, a pounding back who has been cleared and is ready to go after coming back from a shoulder injury.  The running backs saw limited opportunities in the passing game two weeks ago, as they combined for 3 catches for 23 yards and a touchdown.  Most of these guys can be game breakers and will face their first big test of the season this week.  At Fullback, RFr. Stanley Havili (1 carry, 10 yds) starts.  Havili is an outstanding talent that will be counted on for his good hands.  Against Idaho, he caught 5 passes for 22 yards and a touchdown.  

WR/TE:  The USC receiving corps is big, young, and fast.  There is a lot of talent here, but is lacking the experience they have had in the past.  The crew is led by Jr. Patrick Turner at SE and RFr. David Ausberry (5 catches, 46 yds) at FL.  Turner should be back this week after missing the season opener with injury.  Top reserves include Sr. Brad Walker (2 catches, 22 yds), So. Vidal Hazelton (4 catches, 44 yds, 1 TD), and TFr. Ronald Johnson.  Hazelton took over for Turner against Idaho and he played very well in Turner's absence.  Ausberry, Turner, and Hazelton are all over 6'3".  This is one of the most talented groups of wide receivers in the nation and gives opponents difficult match-up problems.  At tight end, Sr. Fred Davis (2 catches, 49 yds) is a quality deep threat for the Trojans, while back-up Sr. Dale Thompson has good hands, and is an excellent blocker.  

OL: The USC offensive line should be one of the best in the nation this year, however, will still be without starting center, Sr. Matt Spanos (6'5", 305 lbs) who is out with recovering from a triceps injury.  Starting at center again this week will be TFr. Kristofer O'Dowd (6'5", 300 lbs), who will be in for his first road test.  Starting at tackle is Sr. Sam Baker (6'5", 305 lbs) at left, and Sr. Drew Radovich (6'5", 305 lbs) on the right.  So. Charles Brown (6'6", 290 lbs) will also play a lot at RT.  At guard is Jr. Jeff Byers (6'4", 285 lbs) on the left side, with Jr. Chilo Rachal (6'5", 315 lbs) starting on the right.  Against Idaho, the line made way for 5 yards per rush for the offense, while giving up 1 sack.  

USC Defense

Southern Cal's defense looked good against Idaho for the most part, but was not without their struggles.  The USC defense ranks 19th nationally in total defense (253 ypg), 31st pass defense (155 ypg), 17th pass efficiency defense (82.90 rating), 38th rush defense (98 ypg), and 13th in scoring defense (10 ppg).  

DL:  USC's defensive line is also considered one of the country's best this season.  The Trojans allowed Idaho a 3.1 yard per carry average in the season opener.  Starting on the line at end will be Sr. Lawrence Jackson (3 tackles, 1 PBU) on the left, and a combination of TFr. Everson Griffen and Jr. Kyle Moore (4 tackles, 1 sack, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 PBU) on the right.  Backing up Jackson at LE is Sr. Alex Morrow.  Starting at nose tackle is Sr. Sedrick Ellis (4 tackles, 2 PBU).  His back-up is So. Averell Spicer (1 sack).  At defensive tackle is Jr. Fili Moala (2 tackles), with RFr. Derek Simmons (1 tackle) serving as his back-up.  Ellis and Jackson are All-American candidates and having them return to USC for their Senior seasons was big for the Trojans.
LB: USC has what is probably the best group of linebackers you'll find anywhere.  Starting at MLB is Jr. Rey Maualuga (4 tackles), a big, hard hitting linebacker that dominates the field.  At SLB will likely be Jr. Clay Matthews (4 tackles, 1 PBU, 1 BK), unless Jr. Brian Cushing is ready to go, which is still up in the air.  Sr. Keith Rivers (6 tackles, 1 PBU) starts at WLB.  Top reserves in the linebacking corps include Sr. Thomas Williams (3 tackles), So. Luther Brown (4 tackles), and TFr. Chris Galippo (2 tackles) at MLB, along with Jr. Kaluka Maiava at WLB.  With Cushing in the starting line-up, this is definitely a stronger group, so it will be interesting to see if he is ready to go for Saturday.  Matthews did an admirable job in his absence, however, in the season opener against Idaho.

DB: Southern Cal's defensive backfield is definitely talented, but suffered a tough break this week, as Jr. Josh Pinkard will be out for the remainder of the season after injuring his knee.  Starters this week at cornerback are Jr. Cary Harris (2 tackles) at LCB and Sr. Terrell Thomas (4 tackles) at RCB.  So. Shareece Wright (4 tackles) will now back up Harris, while So. Vincent Joseph is Thomas' back-up.  This group will really need to step up their level of play with Pinkard out.  At safety, Jr. Kevin Ellison (3 tackles, 1 PBU) starts at SS and Jr. Mozique McCurtis (3 tackles) is the top reserve.  So. Taylor Mays (5 tackles starts at FS, with TFr. Marshall Jones now as his back-up.  This is a big group of defensive backs, as Joseph is the only player under 6'.  Pinkard played at corner and safety and will be missed, to what extent will depend on how high the rest of this unit can turn it up.

USC Special Teams

The USC special teams units were solid against Idaho, but will need to be more explosive in the future weeks.  The Trojans rank 47th in net punting (36.5 yd avg), 71st in punt returns (7.5 yd avg), and 75th in kickoff returns (20.50 yd avg).  

K: Jr. David Buehler starts at place kicker for the Trojans.  Against Idaho, he hit his only field goal attempt, from 36 yards out.  He showed a big leg, averaging 67.3 yards on 7 kickoffs with 4 going for touchback.    

P: Jr. Greg Woidneck handles punting duties for USC.  He punted 2 times for an average of 43 yards against Idaho.  None of his punts were downed inside of Idaho's 20.

KR/PR: USC's return game wasn't very explosive in their season opener two weeks ago.  So. Vincent Joseph (2 returns, 20.5 yd avg) and Sr. Desmond Reed handle kickoff return duties.  Reed also takes care of punt returns for the Trojans (4 returns, 7.5 yd avg).

Coverage: The Trojans' kick coverage team was very good against Idaho, allowing just 16.3 yards per return on 3 kickoff return attempts.  Punt coverage was also very good, with the Vandals getting just 6.5 yards on two returns.  

Nebraska Offense

Nebraska's offense is talented and pretty deep at most positions.  After a great showing in the season opener, they struggled to find consistency against Wake Forest last week.  After two games, Nebraska ranks 17th nationally in total offense (499), 50th in passing (235 ypg), 66th in pass efficiency (118.02 rating), 14th in rushing (264 ypg), 28th in scoring offense (36 ppg), and 71st in turnover margin (-.50).  

QB:  Sr. Sam Keller (38 for 66, 193 yds, 2 TD, 3 INT) hasn't seemed to find his groove through two games.  Keller looked at times like a wild eyed freshman against Wake Forest last week, overthrowing a number of wide open receivers, a few of which could have easily gone for touchdowns.  On the positive side, he led the Husker offense down the field late in the second quarter to take the lead before halftime, capped off with a nice touchdown pass.  His quarterback rating is also sulking due to numerous dropped passes over the first two games.  Jr. Joe Ganz (1 for 1, 19 yds)  is Nebraska's top back-up and saw action in mop-up duty in the season opener against Nevada.

Jr. Marlon Lucky (54 carries, 323 yds, 4 TDs) is Nebraska's top running back and sits solidly at third nationally in rushing.  Lucky has proved that he can be the every-down back for Nebraska this season.  TFr. Quentin Castille (24 carries, 106 yds, 2 TDs), is a power back that hits the hole hard and is physically impressive.  Jr. Cody Glenn (8 carries, 36 yds), another power back, runs hard, but has had foot problems.  TFr. Roy Helu (6 carries, 26 yds) and So. Major Culbert (5 carries, 35 yds, 1 TD) are other reserves that  have seen carries this season, and should continue to see the ball throughout the season.  This is a very good group of running backs, and there aren't tremendous drop-offs between each back.  The running backs do see lot of passes in this offense, with Marlon Lucky having the best hands of the group, catching 7 passes for 67 yards and a touchdown this season.  Sr. Andy Sand is the starter at FB, and will rarely touch the ball in Callahan's offense, but is as a quality blocker.  Sand has one reception for 15 yards through two games.
WR/TE: Nebraska's receivers continue to struggle two games into the season.  Dropped passes are the biggest problem this year.  The other pressing issue is that there hasn't been anyone jump into the go-to-guy role.  Starting Z receiver, Sr. Terrence Nunn (8 catches, 119 yds) still needs to show that he can be a consistent threat on the field.  Behind Nunn is Sr. Frantz Hardy (3 catch, 44 yds), the fastest of the Nebraska receivers, but has had problems holding onto the football.  Starting at X is Jr. Nate Swift (7 catches, 73 yds), who has done well this season.  Sr. Maurice Purify (3 catches, 30 yds), however, will probably assume the role of starter at X at some point this season.  His rust showed last week, dropping passes and not running crisp routes.  Jr. Todd Peterson (1 catch, 8 yds), has consistent hands and will be used often for his good size (6'4").  Sr. Dan Erickson (1 catch, 19 yds), So. Menelik Holt, and TFr. Niles Paul (1 catch, 6 yds) are also in the mix.  Tight end has been weak for a few seasons, and still is not quite where they need to be.  Starting TE, Sr. J.B. Phillips and top reserve Jr. Josh Mueller are not gamebreakers and have yet to see a pass this year.  RFr Dreu Young (1 catch, 14 yds), Sr. Sean Hill (1 catch, 25 yds, 1 TD), Jr. Hunter Teafatiller (3 catches, 21 yds), and Mike McNeil (1 catch, 25 yds), however, have all caught passes in their reserve roles.

OL:  The Huskers' offensive line has been excellent in pass protection through two games, not allowing one sack.  Run blocking was phenomenal against Nevada, but was a little shaky against Wake Forest  After two games, they are allowing the backs 5.1 yards per carry.  Starting at tackle is Sr. Carl Nicks (6'5", 330 lbs) at LT, and Jr. Lydon Murtha (6'7", 310 lbs) at RT.  RFr. Mike Smith (6'6", 290 lbs) and RFr. D.J. Jones (6'5", 310 lbs) will see their share of snaps as the top tackle reserves.  Jr. Andy Christensen (6'3", 300 lbs) will start at LG with Jr. Matt Slauson (6'5", 335 lbs) starting at RG.  Sr. Jordan Picou (6'3", 300 lbs.) backs up Christensen, while Jr. Mike Huff (6'4", 300 lbs) is Nebraska's top RG reserve.  Sr. Brett Byford (6'3", 300 lbs) starts at center, and does a nice job.  These linemen move around a lot as Huff has played RG and LG, Murtha has played LT and LG, and Slauson has played RT and RG.  Nicks will be the most important guy to watch, blocking QB Keller's blind side.  After an average outing last week, they will look to get better against even stiffer competition this week.

Nebraska Defense

Nebraska's defense, like the offense, was outstanding in the season opener, but struggled in last week's game at Wake Forest.  Nebraska is currently 28th nationally in total defense (280.5 ypg), 12th pass defense (124 ypg), 3rd pass efficiency defense (70.28 rating), 70th rush defense (156.5 ypg), and 20th in scoring defense (13.5 ppg).  The Husker defense looked undisciplined at times last week, taking poor angles and not knowing where to go against Wake Forest's misdirection.

DL: Nebraska's defensive line has been solid through two games.  It has been difficult for opponents to line up and run through the tackles against this front four.  One area of improvement though, is getting pressure without blitzing a LB.  Jr. Barry Turner (6 tackles, 0.5 sack, 2 QBH) starts at open end.  He is the quickest of the unit, a good pass rusher that that is improving against the run.  Starting at base end is Jr. Zach Potter (7 tackles, 1 sack, 1 QBH), who has been very active behind the line of scrimmage.  Top reserves are Jr. Clayton Sievers (1 tackle, 1 QBH) behind Turner, and RFr. Pierre Allen (1 tackle) behind Potter.  Jr. Ndamukong Suh (5 tackles) is a beast at nose tackle, with Jr. Shukree Barfield (3 tackle) and Sr. Brandon Johnson sharing back-up duties.  So. Ty Steinkuhler, starter at defensive tackle, is battling a knee injury and has been replaced by Jr. Kevin Dixon (3 tackles, 1 INT), who has done a nice job.  Nebraska is holding opponents to 4.1 yards per carry, which went up after a mediocre showing against Wake Forest.

LB: Nebraska's linebacking corps is talented and quick, but looked slow footed against the many misdirection plays Wake Forest ran a week ago.  Jr. Corey McKeon (9 tackles, 1 INT, 1 QBH, 1 PBU) is in his third season as starter at MLB for the Huskers.  Back-up So. Phillip Dillard (8 tackles, 1 QBH) is starter quality linebacker that sees a lot of action.  Sr. Bo Ruud (5 tackles) starts at SLB, while Jr. Steve Octavien (11 tackles, 0.5 sack, 2 QBH, 1 PBU) starts at WLB.  Octavien has had an injury riddled career, but is showing to be a player now that he is healthy.  Sr. Lance Brandenburgh (4 tackles), is the top back-up for both Octavien and Ruud. This group really struggled last week to play misdirection and bootlegs, but started staying home in the second half, which helped stop the leaks that were occurring.

DB: Nebraska's secondary has done well over the first two games.  However, much like the rest of the defense, this unit struggled to play against Wake Forest's misdirection and bootleg plays, resulting in some broken down coverages.  Sr. Cortney Grixby (6 tackles, 2 PBU), is in year four as a starter at WCB.  He is just 5'9" but has a great vertical leap and doesn't miss many tackles  Jr. Armando Murillo (8 tackles, 2 PBU) starts at LCB, and back-up Sr. Andre Jones (2 tackles, 1 PBU) also sees a good share of plays.  Sr. Zack Bowman (8 tackles, 1 INT, 1 QBH), who missed all of 2006 with a knee injury and suffered a knee injury in spring ball this year, is getting back to form, making a crucial interception in the fourth quarter against Wake Forest last week.  Sr. Tierre Green (5 tackles, 1 PBU) starts at FS and So. Larry Asante (13 tackles, 1 PBU) is the starter at SS.  Green suffered a neck injury last week and is listed as day-to-day.  So. Rickey Thenarse (2 tackles) and Sr. Ben Eisenhart (5 tackles) see time at FS as reserves, while Sr. Bryan Wilson (2 tackles) is the top reserve at SS.  This crew has yet to give up a touchdown pass.

Nebraska Special Teams

Nebraska's special teams are looking to be a strength for the team.  Their punt return game has been poor, however.  The Huskers are ranked 8th in net punting (40.71 yd avg), 95th in punt returns (4.67 yd avg), and 32nd in kickoff returns (24.43 yd avg).  

K:  TFr. Adi Kunalic (1 for 1, 46 yd lng) handles kickoffs and long field goals.  Kunalic's monster leg pushed through 7 of 14 kickoffs for touchback, with a 68.1 yard average.  RFr. Alex Henery handles short field goals (2 for 2, 22 yd lng) and extra points.

P: Jr. Dan Titchener has continued to do well after a solid season last year.  He is averaging 44.9 yards on 7 punts with a long of 51.  He has above average leg power, with solid consistency.
   Nebraska's kick return game has been of good quality, however, the punt return game needs some work.  Seniors Andre Jones and Cortney Grixby (6 kick returns, 27.3 yd avg) are the top kickoff return team.  Seniors Cortney Grixby (3 punt returns, 1.3 yd avg) and Terrence Nunn (1 return, 0 yd avg) are the top punt returners, however, Andre Jones (1 return, 24 yd avg) had the best return of the three.

Coverage:  Nebraska's coverage teams have done an average job through two games.  The kick coverage unit allowed an average of 22.6 yards on 7 kickoff returns, while the punt return coverage team allowed a 7.2 yard average on 4 punt returns.  

Unit Match-Ups

Nebraska's Offense vs. USC's Defense

Nebraska's offense will look for continued improvement and will need to get it this week against a tough USC defense.  QB Sam Keller will need to be the star of the show after having difficulties getting into gear in the first two games.  Nebraska's receivers continued to drop some passes last week, something that must be stopped for them to help out Keller.  Nebraska's receivers did a better job at getting open last week, however, Keller overthrew many of them.  USC's defensive backfield must do without do-it-all Josh Pinkard.  The Trojans have pretty good depth to replace him, but no one at his abilities or experience.  USC will hope that Keller plays the same way he has in his first two games.

Through two games, the Huskers have converted 33% of their third downs and 90% in red zone scoring.  The Huskers were atrocious on 3rd downs last week, however, converting just 20%.  Nebraska's ground attack was stagnant at times against Wake Forest, but RB Marlon Lucky did manage 90 yards rushing for the day.  Nebraska's offensive line is doing a fine job, especially in pass protection.  Rush blocking wasn't as solid last week, but they were facing a very good defensive front.  Idaho converted just 24% of their 3rd downs against USC two weeks ago, while The Trojans had 7 tackles for loss, including 2 sacks.  USC will likely be without LB Brian Cushing this week, which could hurt the Trojan defense.

In the trenches, Nebraska's offensive line is bigger, but USC's boasts a quick defensive line with good size to match.  Nebraska's average offensive lineman is 6'4", 309 lbs, while USC's average defensive lineman stands at 6'4", 286 lbs.  Nebraska's Marlon Lucky will be looking for this game to make him a household name, and it will be tough to do if the offensive line doesn't do a better job than they did against Wake Forest a week ago.  This will be a key battle to watch, because Nebraska was not able to garner a rushing attack against USC last season and it hurt them.

USC's Offense vs. Nebraska's Defense

USC will look for QB John David Booty to lead USC to another tough road victory.  Booty will want to put up some big numbers against Nebraska in the national spotlight to get his name buzzing about the Heisman again.  The Trojans have as good of talent as anyone in the country at wide receiver, and with the return of Patrick Turner, could give Nebraska fits all night long.  Nebraska's defensive backfield is much stronger than they were a year ago against USC, and it should end up showing in box score by the evening's end.  They haven't played receivers of this caliber yet this year, and that match-up will be key for the outcome of this game.  USC's third down conversion percentage against Idaho was 47%, and had a solid 86% red zone scoring average.

The Trojans' running backs were fine against Idaho, earning just 5.5 yards per carry, although the Vandals aren't generally known for great defense.  USC has a multitude of backs they can use and there isn't much drop-off between them.  Chauncey Washington's return could be a big one, as he is a bruising tailback that the Trojans could definitely use.  Nebraska's had a tough time in the oppressive heat at Wake Forest last week.  They came up big when they needed to and were tough to run north and south on through the game.  Wake Forest did find success, however, running misdirection, as the Huskers' linebackers and defensive backs were constantly out of position, especially in the first half.  Nebraska has earned 13 tackles for loss and 2 sacks through two games.  Nebraska's 3rd down defense is allowing opponents to convert on 30% of their attempts.  

USC's average offensive lineman is 6'5", 302 lbs, while Nebraska's average defensive lineman stands in at 6'4", 284 lbs.  The Trojans are without C Matt Spanos again this week, and LT Sam Baker is battling a nagging injury, but will play.  Nebraska's defensive front is young and has its own injury problems with DT Ty Steinkuhler trying to come back after a knee injury in the season opener.  Nebraska's front four hasn't been a dominant force, and needs to do a better job of getting into the backfield.  Idaho was able to get four tackles behind the line and earn a sack in the season opener against USC.  The battle everyone will be watching is USC C Kristofer O'Dowd against Nebraska NT Ndamukong Suh.

Keys to the Game

For Nebraska to Win:
1.) QB Sam Keller needs to be much improved over his first two games.
2.) Holes must be present in the run game and pass protection needs to stay consistent against a nastier, faster defense this week.
3.) Turnovers will be critical.  Nebraska cannot afford to turn them over, and must force a few away from USC.
4.) Special teams need to remain solid.
5.) No defensive breakdowns, especially in the defensive backfield.

For USC to Win:
1.) Take care of the football.
2.) Shut down Nebraska RB Marlon Lucky, he has been their top play-maker.
3.) Get into the Nebraska backfield and put the pressure on Sam Keller, who has been struggling, even with time to throw.
4.) Defensive backfield must pick it up to replace injured Josh Pinkard.
5.) Improved special teams performance.

Gametime Weather
     Weather Report for Nebraska vs. USC

Latest Line - USC by 10.

Position Advantages:
OL: Even
DB: Even
Special Teams: Nebraska
Coaching: USC

Injury Report
FS - Tierre Green - neck - questionable
DT - Ty Steinkuhler - knee - day-to-day
RB - Kenny Wilson - leg - out for season

DB - Josh Pinkard - knee - out for season
OT - Sam Baker - ribs - day-to-day
LB - Brian Cushing - leg - doubtful
WR - Patrick Turner - leg - probable
C - Matt Spanos - triceps - day-to-day
DE - Trey Henderson - knee - Early Oct.

Game Breakdown & Outlook

This is the fourth meeting between Nebraska and USC.  USC currently enjoys a 2-1-0 record against the Huskers.  This will be the first meeting in Lincoln, Nebraska since 1969.  Last season's meeting between these teams saw USC defeating the Huskers 28-10 in Los Angeles.  Nebraska enters this game following a hard fought 20-17 victory over Wake Forest last week, while USC had a week off after beating Idaho two weeks ago, 38-10.

Nebraska's offense had a difficult outing in Winston-Salem last week and a lot of that had to do with a very good Wake Forest team as well as the sweltering heat the Huskers encountered.  The humidity was thick and caused Nebraska to look a little lethargic.  Star WR Maurice Purify returned, but wasn't a huge factor as his route running was rusty and he dropped a few passes that should have been caught.  Look for him to play a better game at home this week.  Nebraska's running backs are one of the better groups in the country thus far, as they have 5 backs that they can count on to step in and play well.  The Huskers should run the ball with more success than they did a year ago due to improved line play.

USC has a very good QB in John David Booty and he has what it takes to put drives together and be a big difference maker in this game.  He wasn't at his best against Idaho, however, some of that may be due to it being the first game of the season.  His receivers are outstanding playmakers that will cause match-up problems for every defense they face this season.  Nebraska's defensive backs are looking to be one of the better units in the Big XII conference this season, as they have done very well over the first two games.  USC's running back crew, like Nebraska's, is excellent and a little deeper.  Nebraska will not be able to just arm tackle these backs, or that score board will get lit up.

A lot of questions have been asked about USC after their game against Idaho.  Many believe they do not look as strong as they have in recent memory, because they didn't steamroll the Vandals.  While there may not be a Reggie Bush, Steve Smith, or Dwayne Jarrett in their line-up, these Trojans are still explosive.  They played a very simple offensive attack with the starters through three quarters, then let the reserves finish the game off.  Questions have also risen on Nebraska after their struggle against Wake Forest last week.  That was a tough fought win on the road in miserable heat that the Huskers were not used to playing in.  If there is more to it than that, we will find out this week.  

For Nebraska, a win Saturday will be a message to everyone that the Huskers are back in the nation's elite.  It's been six seasons since Nebraska was mentioned with national championship aspirations, and this game could vault them back into that talk.  A loss will not be the end of the world for the Huskers, but will certainly not feel good, especially with all the build up to this game.  A win for USC should keep them at #1, fending off LSU and Oklahoma for now, however, a loss could hurt Booty's Heisman chances, and would definitely hurt the Trojans' chances to appear in the national title game.  

Playing at home will be a big advantage for Nebraska, but it will take more than a home crowd to beat a highly talented team like USC.  Nebraska will need to run the ball, and get more than the 1.8 yards per rush they earned in last year's game.  If Nebraska is able to get over 3 yards per carry, the game will be competitive.  If Sam Keller finally starts to click this week, he could put up some good numbers against a weakened USC defensive backfield.  USC simply needs to play smart football and to not turn the ball over, allowing Nebraska to capture momentum and keep the crowd into it.  USC is a tough team to pick against.  They are a more talented team than Nebraska, although they aren't perfect.  Nebraska will have to play a near perfect game to win, and they haven't been good enough in the passing game to think it'll suddenly turn on this week.  USC should win this one, but it will likely be a close game.

USC - 28
Nebraska - 20

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