Iowa State vs. Nebraska Game Preview

Check out our latest game day preview as the Huskers host the Iowa State Cyclones.

GAME FIVE
September 29th, 2007
1:05 PM CT
No TV
Lincoln, NE

IOWA STATE (1 - 3) (0 - 0)
VS
#22/25 NEBRASKA (3 - 1) (0 - 0)


Gametime Weather:
Weather Report for Nebraska vs. Iowa State

Latest Line - Nebraska by 21.


Player Breakdowns


Iowa State Offense

The Iowa State Cyclones' offense has struggled out of the gate this season, as they have not been successful at stretching the field. After four games, the Cyclones rank 83rd nationally in total offense (350.50 ypg), 77th in passing (206.50 ypg), 68th in passing efficiency (120.77 rating), 65th rushing (144 ypg), 102nd scoring offense (19.25 ppg), and 109th in turnover margin (-1.75).

QB: Four year starter at QB, Sr. Bret Meyer (86 of 128, 811 yds, 4 TDs, 5 INTs), is looking for his second win against Nebraska this week. The past couple of years he has spent a lot of time getting sacked, but he is getting better help this season, going down just 3 times in the first 4 games this year. Meyer has had better success rushing the football this year as well, going for 167 yards and a touchdown on 39 carries. Just 10 yards shy of his rushing total for all of 2006. He has yet to have a true breakout game through the air this season and is having troubles leading his offense into the endzone. Meyer is backed up by RFr. Austen Arnaud (2 of 4, 15 yds), a solid looking prospect that hasn't seen much action this season.

RB: Iowa State's running back crew received a shot in the arm in the fall with the emergence of JUCO transfer Jr. J.J. Bass (96 carries, 390 yds, 4 TDs). Bass has put in two games of over 130 rushing yards this season. RFr. Alexander Robinson (22 carries, 82 yds) and Jr. Jason Scales are the top back-ups behind Bass. Robinson started the season opener against Kent State, while Scales is trying to get back into action after battling injuries since last season. Bass has caught 7 passes for 35 yards, while Robinson has caught 5 passes for 41 yards after four games. At fullback, So. Derick Catlett starts, with So. Brian Edlelundu serving as the primary reserve. Catlett is a big fullback, at 6'4" and 241 lbs. He is a converted tight end that has caught 5 passes for 18 yards and a touchdown this season. Neither fullback has rushed the ball this year.

WR/TE: Iowa State has a promising group of wide receivers, despite their lack of big plays thus far this season. This group is led by three talented receivers in Sr. Todd Blythe (19 catches, 207 yds, 2 TDs), So. Marquis Hamilton (12 catches, 137 yds), and Jr. R.J. Sumrall (22 catches, 221 yds). Blythe is the biggest target of the group at 6'5", but isn't as athletic as Sumrall. Top reserves include Jr. Euspeh Messiah (2 catches, 2 yds), Sr. Milan Moses (8 catches, 51 yds), and Jr. Wallace Franklin (2 catches, 5 yds, 1 TD). At tight end is a pair of seniors in Ben Barkema (5 catches, 71 yds) and Nick Howe. Howe is a converted defensive lineman that has yet to catch a pass this season. This group could see their numbers jump considerably if the Nebraska secondary plays the same way they did against Ball State.

OL: Iowa State's offensive line has done a much better job this season than in recent memory. After four games, this line has plowed ahead for 3.5 yards per rush for the offense, while giving up just 3 sacks. Last season after four games, they had already given up 11 sacks. Given Nebraska's struggles with their defensive front seven, those sack numbers aren't likely to rise and the yards per carry could go up. Starting at tackle is So. Doug Dedrick (6'4", 282 lbs) at left, and RFr. Ben Lamaak (6'4", 306 lbs) on the right. Top tackle reserves include RFr. Mat Hulbert (6'7", 287 lbs) and TFr. Trey Baysinger (6'6", 292 lbs). At guard is So. Reggie Stephens (6'4", 320 lbs) on the left side, and Jr. Tom Schmeling (6'3", 293 lbs) starting on the right. Sr. Lee Tibbs (6'4", 306 lbs.) and Jr. Joe Blaes (6'2", 289 lbs.) are top reserves at guard for the Cyclones. Starting at center is Jr. Brandon Johnson (6'3", 305 lbs), with So. Mike Knapp (6'3", 270 lbs) serving as his top back-up. Overall, a fairly young group that is playing well together.


Iowa State Defense

Iowa State has put up some solid defense numbers under their defensive minded first-year coach, Gene Chizik. The Cyclone defense ranks 22nd nationally in total defense (305 ypg), 17th pass defense (164.50 ypg), 68th pass efficiency defense (120.77 rating), 53rd rush defense (140.50 ypg), and 56th in scoring defense (24 ppg).

DL: The Iowa State defensive line is also improved over a season ago, giving up 3.6 yards per carry to opponents, compared to 4.6 last year. Starting at defensive end is Jr. Kurtis Taylor (14 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 QBH), with Jr. Nick Frere (3 tackles, 1 sack) backing him up. So. Rashawn Parker (8 tackles, 1 sack, 1 QBH) starts at the weak end spot, with So. Christopher Lyle (4 tackles, 1 QBH, 1 BK) serving as his primary back-up. The experience is in the middle of this line, with 24 combined career starts at the tackle spots. At nose tackle is Sr. Athyba Rubin (11 tackles, 1 sack) as So. Nate Frere is Rubin's back-up. Rubin is by far the largest of the Cyclone defensive linemen at 320 pounds. At defensive tackle is Sr. Bryce Braaksma (10 tackles, 1 sack, 1 FF, 1 FR, 2 QBH), with RFr. Bailey Johnson (6 tackles, 1 QBH) serving as his back-up. Against lesser competition, the ends were able to get good pressure on opposing QB's. Against a solid pass blocking crew in Nebraska, they will have a tougher test. This line is built around speed, as all of the starters except for Rubin are less than 262 pounds.

LB: The Iowa State linebacking corps is a solid bunch and the best unit of the defense. The leader of this defense is the starter at WLB, Sr. Alvin Bowen (32 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT, 1 FF, 1 QBH, 1 PBU). Bowen is a quality pro prospect that led the nation in tackles last season and off to a good start again in 2007. Playing behind Bowen is So. Josh Raven (6 tackles), a shorter than average linebacker, at 5'11". At SLB is Sr. Jon Banks (27 tackles, 2 QBH, 1 PBU), with Jr. Michael Bibbs (7 tackles, 1 PBU) and So. Derec Schmidgall (7 tackles, 1 FF) backing him up. Banks is a converted safety that has good athleticism, getting into the backfield often. So. Jesse Smith (26 tackles, 1 FF, 1 QBH, 1 PBU) starts at MLB, with So. Fred Garrin (6 tackles) serving as his top back-up.

DB: Iowa State's defensive backfield is another unit that has improved under first year coach Gene Chizik. This is a young group, with only one upperclassman in the starting line-up. Although there has been improvement over last season, there are completing 67.6% of their passes, which is far too high. Nebraska is the best passing team they will have faced this season, and could be in trouble if QB Sam Keller is as sharp as he has been recently. Starters at cornerback are So. Allen Bell (25 tackles, 1 PBU) at LCB and Jr. Chris Singleton (13 tackles, 1 INT, 1 PBU) at RCB. Top reserves are RFr. Zac Sandvig (2 tackles) at LCB and TFr. Devin McDowell (4 tackles) at RCB. At safety, So. James Smith (30 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT, 1 FF, 1 QBH, 1 PBU) starts at FS and Jr. Brandon Hunley (1 tackle) is his top reserve. So. Steve Johnson (13 tackles, 1 FF) starts at SS, with Jr. Chris Brown (15 tackles, 1 PBU) serving as his back-up.


Iowa State Special Teams

Iowa State's special teams units have been mediocre through four games this year. A blocked field goal kept them from winning last week's game against Toledo. The Cyclones rank 34th in net punting (36.75 yd avg), 111th in punt returns (3.43 yd avg), and 56th in kickoff returns (22.35 yd avg).

K: Sr. Bret Culbertson starts at place kicker for Iowa State. He is struggling this season, hitting just 5 of 10 field goal attempts, with a 42 yard long. All 5 of his converted field goals were made against Iowa two weeks ago. On kickoffs, he is averaging 55.6 yards on 12 kickoffs with 3 going for touchback.

P: So. Mike Brandtner starts at punter for the Cyclones and has done a pretty decent job this season. He has punted 16 times for an average of 39.7 yards this season. 6 of his 16 punts have been downed inside the opponents' 20.

KR/PR: Iowa State's return game hasn't been very good this season. So. Drenard Williams (4 kick returns, 26.8 yd avg), Jr. Allen Sumrall (5 kick returns, 29.8 yd avg), and So. Allen Bell (6 kick returns, 17 yd avg) are the top kick returners. At punt returner, Jr. B.J. Hill (4 punt returns, 8.2 yd avg) and TFr Zac Sandvig (3 punt returns, -3 yd avg) are the top options.

Coverage: The Cyclones' kick coverage team has been poor this season, allowing an average of 28.1 yards on 14 kickoff return attempts, also giving up a touchdown. Punt coverage has been better, with opponents averaging 7.8 yards on 6 returns.



Nebraska Offense

The Nebraska offense seems able to run and pass the ball very well, but hasn't been able to both with great success in the same game this season. Three games into the season, Nebraska ranks 14th nationally in total offense (492.50), 12th in passing (324.25 ypg), 30th in pass efficiency (141.78 rating), 47th in rushing (168.25 ypg), 27th in scoring offense (36 ppg), and 91st in turnover margin (-.75).

QB: Sr. Sam Keller (103 for 157, 1278 yds, 7 TDs, 6 INTs), is building towards a big season statistically. He has thrown for has thrown for 821 yards and 5 touchdowns in the past two games. Sam is looking more and more like a big time quarterback, and is spreading it around to multiple receivers, never settling in too much on one guy. He has the ability to keep Nebraska in games if they get caught in a shoot-out. 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.

RB: Jr. Marlon Lucky (92 carries, 458 yds, 5 TDs) is Nebraska's best back, having a good combination of the tools needed to be a successful back. Jr. Cody Glenn (16 carries, 49 yds, 2 TDs), a power back, is getting healthy and is very talented when healthy. TFr. Quentin Castille (29 carries, 122 yds, 3 TDs), is a bruising back that is physically impressive, and is joined by another newcomer in TFr. Roy Helu (10 carries, 39 yds) who is more of a speed back. So. Major Culbert (5 carries, 35 yds, 1 TD) has moved back to defense, playing LB. This is a good group of backs, but need more help from their offensive line. The running backs see a good share of passes every week, with Marlon Lucky (24 catches, 189 yds, 1 TD) and Cody Glenn (4 catches, 46 yds) having the more tested hands, while Quentin Castille (1 catch, 15 yds) and Roy Helu (1 catch, 5 yds) got their first catches last week. Sr. Andy Sand is the starter at FB, and will rarely touch the ball, but is as a quality blocker. Sand has one reception for 15 yards through two games.

WR/TE:
Nebraska's receiving crew are playing well, and not dropping as many balls as they were in the first couple of games. Starting Z receiver is Sr. Terrence Nunn (15 catches, 201 yds), who is nearing some Nebraska receiving records, but isn't putting up big numbers yet this season. Behind Nunn is Sr. Frantz Hardy (5 catch, 48 yds), the fastest of the group, but hasn't been very dependable to catch the ball. Starting at X is Jr. Nate Swift (12 catches, 147 yds), who has had a nice start to the season, but is being pushed by Sr. Maurice Purify (16 catches, 232 yds, 1 TD) who wants his starting spot back. Purify is doing a great job getting yards after catch, making him invaluable to the offense. Jr. Todd Peterson (9 catch, 125 yds, 2 TDs) has great hands, rarely dropping a ball. Sr. Dan Erickson (3 catches, 40 yds), So. Menelik Holt, and TFr. Niles Paul (1 catch, 6 yds) are also capable receivers in the group. Tight end, as a position, is starting to get better, but not with the current top two. Starting TE, Sr. J.B. Phillips and top reserve Jr. Josh Mueller have been used as blockers only, with neither catching a pass. Sr. Sean Hill (6 catches, 164 yds, 2 TD) become the playmaking tight end this year, coming out of no where. RFr Dreu Young (1 catch, 14 yds), Jr. Hunter Teafatiller (3 catches, 21 yds), and Mike McNeill (1 catch, 25 yds), have all caught passes in their reserve roles.

OL: Nebraska's offensive line has been hit and miss this season. Pass protection has been good, but rush blocking has been very weak over the past 3 games. This season, they are allowing the backs 4.63 yards per carry, which has been steadily declining since the season opener. Starting at tackle is Sr. Carl Nicks (6'5", 330 lbs) on the left, and Jr. Lydon Murtha (6'7", 310 lbs) on the right. Both have done a nice job keeping Sam Keller upright this season. RFr. Mike Smith (6'6", 290 lbs) and RFr. D.J. Jones (6'5", 310 lbs) are the top tackle reserves. Jr. Matt Slauson (6'5", 335 lbs) starts at RG, and is one of the line's top talents, but has been struggling recently. So. Jacob Hickman (6'4", 285 lbs) has been given the nod to start at LG, after doing a solid job last week. Sr. Jordan Picou (6'3", 300 lbs.) and Jr. Mike Huff (6'4", 300 lbs) are Nebraska's top reserves at guard. Sr. Brett Byford (6'3", 300 lbs) starts at center, and has also been struggling. Jacob Hickman also acts as Byford's back-up.


Nebraska Defense

Nebraska's defense has been exposed the last three weeks. Wake Forest and USC showed that they could be run on with a lot of success, while Ball State proved that the Blackshirts also have troubles in defending the pass. In the past three games, Nebraska has given up 737 rushing yards, 706 passing yards, and 106 points. Nebraska is ranked 75th nationally in total defense (407 ypg), 45th pass defense (203.50 ypg), 43rd pass efficiency defense (115.20 rating), 99th rush defense (203.50 ypg), and 74th in scoring defense (29 ppg).

DL: Nebraska's defensive line has not been able to pressure opposing QB's. More intensity and physicality must be shown by the group. Jr. Barry Turner (12 tackles, 0.5 sack, 2 QBH, 1 PBU) starts at open end, is quick-footed, but has had difficulty finding in his strongest area - the pass rush. Starting at base end is Jr. Zach Potter (17 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 FF, 3 QBH), who had a great game last week against Ball State. Top reserves are Jr. Clayton Sievers (1 tackle, 1 QBH) behind Turner, and RFr. Pierre Allen (1 tackle) behind Potter. Jr. Ndamukong Suh (15 tackles, 1 FR) starts at nose tackle, with Jr. Shukree Barfield (4 tackles) and Sr. Brandon Johnson sharing back-up duties. Suh is very talented, but hasn't been as dominant as he would like. So. Ty Steinkuhler (3 tackles), starter at defensive tackle, is back to 100% after being bothered by a knee injury this season. Jr. Kevin Dixon (4 tackles, 1 INT) is his primary back-up and has done a nice job. Nebraska is allowing opponents 5.4 yards per carry, a very poor mark.

LB: Nebraska's linebacking corps has not looked good this season, and shake-ups in the starting line-up are expected. So. Phillip Dillard (17 tackles, 1 QBH) is starting to take over for Jr. Corey McKeon (15 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FR, 1 QBH, 1 PBU), who is mid-way through his third season as the starter at MLB. Dillard has been playing better football than McKeon this season, and took over in the second quarter of last week's Ball State game. Sr. Bo Ruud (17 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FF, 1 PBU) starts at SLB, while Jr. Steve Octavien (26 tackles, 0.5 sack, 5 QBH, 2 PBU) starts at WLB. Octavien is the best of the bunch and leads the team in tackles. Ruud, is struggling to make tackles and keep himself in plays, but had a huge interception returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter of last week's Ball State game. Sr. Lance Brandenburgh (12 tackles), is the top back-up for both Octavien and Ruud, but may not play this Saturday due to an ankle injury. RB Major Culbert (1 tackle) is practicing at linebacker now and is a great athlete.

DB: Nebraska's secondary was exposed last week, after not being tested much for the first three games of the season. Ball State shredded the defensive backfield for 422 passing yards. Sr. Cortney Grixby (8 tackles, 3 PBU) is in his fourth year as the starter at WCB. He is just 5'9", and gets picked on often. Sr. Zack Bowman (9 tackles, 1 INT, 1 QBH), is struggling with a hamstring injury, keeping him out of the starting line-up. Jr. Armando Murillo (16 tackles, 2 PBU) starts at LCB, and back-up Sr. Andre Jones (6 tackles, 2 PBU) also sees a good share of plays. Both looked lost against Ball State. Sr. Tierre Green (8 tackles, 1 PBU) starts at FS and So. Larry Asante (24 tackles, 1 FF, 1 PBU) is the starter at SS. Top reserves include So. Rickey Thenarse (9 tackles, 1 FF), who hits hard and tackles well, and Sr. Ben Eisenhart (5 tackles) at FS, with Sr. Bryan Wilson (4 tackles) at SS.


Nebraska Special Teams

Nebraska's special teams have been improved this season. Punt and kick returning hasn't been the best, but kicking and punting have been excellent. The Huskers are ranked 14th in net punting (38.35 yd avg), 99th in punt returns (5.44 yd avg), and 64th in kickoff returns (22.09 yd avg).

K: TFr. Adi Kunalic (1 for 1, 46 yd lng) handles kickoffs and long field goals. Kunalic's powerful leg pushed through 11 of 24 kickoffs for touchback, with a 68 yard average. RFr. Alex Henery handles short field goals (3 for 3, 37 yd lng) and extra points.

P: Jr. Dan Titchener is a Ray Guy Award candidate, as one of the nation's top punters. He is averaging 42.4 yards on 16 punts with a long of 51. 4 of his 16 punts have been downed inside the opponents' 20. He has above average leg power, with solid consistency.

KR/PR: Nebraska's kick return game has been good, however, the punt return game still needs some work. Seniors Andre Jones (7 kick returns, 21.3 yd avg) and Cortney Grixby (15 kick returns, 23.5 yd avg) are the top kickoff return team. Cortney Grixby (6 punt returns, 4 yd avg) and Andre Jones (2 returns, 12.5 yd avg) are also the team's top punt returners.

Coverage: Nebraska's coverage teams have been pedestrian this season. The kick coverage unit is allowing an average of 21.9 yards on 14 kickoff returns, while the punt return coverage team allows a 6.5 yard average on 6 punt returns.


Unit Match-Ups

Nebraska's Offense vs. Iowa State's Defense

Nebraska's offense appears to be turning into a passing juggernaut, showcased last week as QB Sam Keller set a new school record with 438 passing yards. Not only is Keller improving as each week goes by, his group of receivers are also picking up their level of play. Gone are the multiple dropped passes and those have been replaced with catches with multiple yards after the catch. Iowa State's defensive backs have played well this season, however the Cyclones haven't played a team ranked in the top 80 in passing yet this season. Iowa State is allowing opponents to complete 67.6% of their passes, and considering Nebraska QB Sam Keller has been on fire lately, don't expect the Cyclones to rank 17th in pass defense after the game Saturday.

The Nebraska run game has been mediocre since lighting up Nevada in the season opener. Marlon Lucky and company have had little room to run, which has been surprising against teams like Wake Forest and Ball State, both of whom were far smaller than the Nebraska front. Iowa State is giving up 3.6 yards per carry this season, compared to Nebraska's running backs averaging 4.6 yards per carry. Iowa State's defense is allowing opponents to convert 35% of their third down conversions, while holding opponents to 80% success in red-zone scoring. The Cyclones have 27 tackles for loss and 9 sacks this season, impressive numbers for this defense. Nebraska is converting 43% of their third downs, but holds an impressive 94% red-zone scoring offense.

In the trenches, Nebraska again will be much larger than their opposition. Nebraska's average offensive lineman is 6'5", 312 lbs, while Iowa State's average defensive lineman stands at just 6'2", 272 lbs. However, only one player on the Iowa State line weighs more than 262 pounds, and that is 320 pound Athyba Rubin, the big rush plugging nose tackle. Nebraska's offensive line has not been blocking well in the run game, but has done a quality job protecting QB Sam Keller. Sure, Nebraska can throw the ball, but this line must open some lanes for the backs this season on a more consistent basis for the team to have success in conference play.


Iowa State's Offense vs. Nebraska's Defense

The Iowa State's offense is led by QB Bret Meyer, a four year starter that has seemingly regressed the past two seasons. Much of that could be blamed on lackluster offensive line play and a lack of a great supporting cast. Meyer is mobile, and has shown in the past to be an accurate passer when he is given time to find his open man. Because Nebraska's defensive line is having trouble getting a pass rush this season, Meyer should have plenty of time to throw. He has some good threats to throw to in receivers Todd Blythe, R.J. Sumrall, and Marquis Hamilton. None of these receivers, however, have shown to be a consistent deep threat. The Nebraska defensive backfield was absolutely throttled last week against Ball State, showing how weak they are without CB Zack Bowman in the line-up. He could be ready to go this week, which would be a big boost to the ailing secondary.

Iowa State's running game has been pretty solid under JUCO transfer J.J. Bass, who has an excellent combination of size and speed. With the way the Nebraska defense has been defending the run, it is possible for Bass to have a great game. The Huskers still need to work on tackling fundamentals, as they continue to struggle. Nebraska has earned 23 tackles for loss and just 3 sacks through four games. Getting more of a pass rush is critical for Nebraska to shut opponents down. Iowa State's third down conversion percentage is a 45%, and has an excellent 92% red-zone scoring average. The Nebraska defense has poor on 3rd downs lately, allowing opponents to convert on 41% of their attempts. In the red-zone, the Husker defense has allowed all but one attempt to score, resulting in a 93% red-zone scoring defense.

The Cyclones' average offensive lineman stands in at 6'4", 301 lbs, while Nebraska's average defensive lineman comes in at 6'4", 284 lbs. Nebraska's defense is allowing a huge 5.4 yards per carry after breakdowns three consecutive weeks. Iowa State has to like what they see, as they are averaging 3.5 yards per carry this season. Nebraska's defense cannot afford to have continuous defensive breakdowns, and have to find a way to rally and get back on track, if possible. If they haven't improved, Iowa State does have enough horses to make this a competitive shoot-out.


Keys to the Game

For Nebraska to Win:
1.) Square-up, hit, wrap-up, and tackle.
2.) Form some kind of pass rush.
3.) Keep QB Sam Keller upright.
4.) Rush blocking needs to be improved.
5.) Win the turnover battle.

For Iowa State to Win:
1.) Get J.J. Bass to chew up some yards against a weak Nebraska front seven.
2.) Allow Bret Meyer to use his athleticism to make plays against a Nebraska defense that has struggled with mobile QB's.
3.) Can't make special teams errors.
4.) Defensive backs need to stiffen up and not allow the Huskers to complete 67.6% of their passes, or it could be a nightmare.
5.) Keep turnovers to one or less. 0-3 when turning the ball over more than once this season.


Position Advantages:
Position/Advantage
QBs: Nebraska
RBs: Nebraska
WR/TE's: Nebraska
OL: Nebraska
DL: Nebraska
LB: Even
DB: Even
Special Teams: Nebraska
Coaching: Nebraska


Injury Report

Nebraska:
LB - Lance Brandenburgh - ankle - day-to-day
CB - Zack Bowman - hamstring - questionable
RB - Cody Glenn - knee - questionable
OG - Andy Christensen - knee - out for season
RB - Kenny Wilson - leg - out for season

Iowa State:
LB - Adam Carper - leg - out for season


Game Breakdown & Outlook

This is the102nd meeting between Nebraska and Iowa State. The Huskers hold a dominant 83-16-2 record all-time against the Cyclones. Last season, Nebraska defeated Iowa State 28-14 in Ames, as the Huskers ran through the Cyclone defense for 251 yards. Iowa State last defeated Nebraska in 2004, 34-27 in Ames, but hasn't beaten the Huskers in Lincoln since 1977 (24-21). Iowa State is looking to get a win after some special teams' breakdowns cost them the game against Toledo last weekend. Nebraska, meanwhile, is trying to find some answers for their lackluster defensive play, coming off of a 41-40 victory over MAC foe, Ball State.

Nebraska's offense will like their match-ups with their counterparts on the Iowa State defense. The talented Husker offense should be able to put up some nice numbers against a team that really hasn't been tested by a good offense yet this season. Nebraska's offensive line, however, will need to do a better job at run blocking for Nebraska to contend in the Big XII this year, and there is no better time to improve than the present. RB Marlon Lucky leads the team in receptions this season and can be great when a decently sized hole becomes available in the run game. With Keller getting better and more comfortable, he could be on his way to shattering more Nebraska passing records, especially if the season is full of shoot-outs like last weekend. Iowa State will struggle defensively, and will look for their offense to keep them in the game.

Iowa State's offense will need to find a way to make big plays happen if they want to leave Lincoln victorious. Although they haven't been very good offensively this season, after watching Nebraska's defense the past three weeks, there is a feeling that they can get a lot of things done this week. QB Bret Meyer is completing 67.2% of his passes this season and has the opportunity to put up big numbers if the Nebraska secondary falters like they did last week against Ball State. The gameplan will have to be to stretch the field, finding the lanky WR Todd Blythe, while mixing in some RB J.J. Bass to keep the Huskers from going to much nickel or dime coverage. If Nebraska hasn't started to fix their issues defensively, Iowa State is likely to have their biggest offensive showing of the year.

2007 hasn't started as well as first year Iowa State head coach Gene Chizik would have liked. In their losses, they played sloppy football, turning the ball over and giving games away against teams they could have easily beaten. A loss to D1-FCS opponent Northern Iowa was particularly embarrassing. The 15-13 win in their inner-state rivalry game with Iowa was a big one though, as they have bragging rights for the next 12 months. Despite how poorly Iowa State has been playing, Nebraska suddenly seems like a winnable game after their performance against Ball State last week. A win would give Chizik a victory over another "name" team on their schedule, and perhaps give a nice confidence boost for the Cyclones going forward.

Nebraska has also had a disappointing season, statistically speaking, except for their 3-1 record. Nebraska played lights out in the season opener against Nevada, and then struggled at Wake Forest, unable to effectively run or pass the ball, still escaping with a victory 23-20. The last two weeks have been especially hard for the Nebraska fans to watch, getting clobbered by USC 49-31 at home, then needing Ball State to miss a 55 yard field goal to secure a 41-40 win over mighty Ball State. The Huskers need a win in a big way, something to get some momentum going as they have to play at Missouri next weekend. A loss would be disastrous for Nebraska, as Iowa State is probably the least threatening team they will play the rest of the season.

Judging by Nebraska's last two games, the Huskers with QB Sam Keller should be able to air it out quite well against the Iowa State secondary. The big key for their offense will be having a complimentary running game to go along with that passing attack. Iowa State will also be able to put up some points against a Nebraska defense that is reeling. Although QB Bret Meyer may not have the arm that Ball State QB Nate Davis has, he is accurate enough and has enough weapons to keep this close if he plays a great game. Because of how poorly the Nebraska defense has played this season, it is hard to see them suddenly waking up and shutting down the Cyclones this week. Nebraska should win this game, but will likely not cover the 21 point spread, unless the defense makes a recovery in a big way.


Iowa State - 24
Nebraska - 42

Big Red Report Top Stories