Game Preview: Nebraska at Colorado

Check out our latest game preview as Nebraska takes on Colorado in the season finale'.

November 23rd, 2007
11:00 AM CT
Boulder, CO

NEBRASKA (5 - 6) (2 - 5)
COLORADO (5 – 6) (3 - 4)

Gametime Weather
Weather Report for Nebraska vs. Colorado

Latest Line - Colorado by 4.5.


9/1/07 - vs. Colorado State - W 31-28
9/8/07 - at Arizona State - L 14-33
9/15/07 - vs. Florida State - L 6-16
9/22/07 - vs. Miami (OH) - W 42-0
9/29/07 - vs. Oklahoma - W 27-24
10/6/07 - at Baylor - W 43-23
10/13/07 - at. Kansas State - L 20-47
10/20/07 - vs. Kansas - L 14-19
10/27/07 - at. Texas Tech - W 31-26
11/3/07 - vs. Missouri - L 10-55
11/10/07 - at Iowa State - L 28-31

9/1/07 - vs. Nevada- W 52-10
9/8/07 - at Wake Forest - W 20-17
9/15/07 - vs. USC - L 31-49
9/22/07 - vs. Ball State - W 41-40
9/29/07 - vs. Iowa State - W 35-17
10/6/07 - at Missouri - L 6-41
10/13/07 - vs. Oklahoma State - L 14-45
10/20/07 - vs. Texas A&M - L 14-36
10/27/07 - at Texas - L 25-28
11/3/07 - at Kansas - L 39-76
11/10/07 - vs. Kansas State - W 73-31

Player Breakdowns

Colorado Offense

The Colorado offense has not been very good this year, having trouble finding the end zone.  Entering their tenth game, the Buffaloes rank 79th nationally in total offense (364.18 ypg), 59th in passing (225.73 ypg), 98th in passing efficiency (113.16 rating), 75th rushing (138.45 ypg), 82nd scoring offense (24.18 ppg), and 99th in turnover margin (-0.64 pg).  

QB: RFr. Cody Hawkins (222 of 395, 2452 yds, 17 TDs, 15 INTs) has had some growing pains this season, but has shown flashes of being a good Big XII QB.  He is just 5'11", with decent scrambling ability.  Taking away sacks, he has rushed for 74 yards on 21 carries with 2 touchdowns.  Hawkins is completing 56.2% compared to Bernard Jackson's 49.3% from a year ago.  He has a fairly strong arm, but not a lot of great receivers to get the ball to.  Most of Hawkins' best yardage games were marred with multiple interceptions as well.  Jr. Nick Nelson (3 of 6, 22 yds) is Hawkins' top back-up, and has played in just 3 games this season.

RB: Colorado's best offensive weapon is Sr. Hugh Charles (152 carries, 820 yds, 5 TDs).  Charles is an elusive runner, but his longest carry of the year is just 37 yards.  He is averaging 5.4 yards per carry, but hasn't had a really solid day since Texas Tech four weeks ago in which he carried for 123 yards, caught 26 yards and scored 2 total touchdowns.  Top running back reserves include RFr. Demetrius Sumler (100 carries, 335 yds, 4 TD), Sr. Byron Ellis (28 carries, 97 yards, 1 TD), and TFr. Brian Lockridge (38 carries, 213 yds, 1 TD).  The running backs have made a big contribution to the passing game as well with Hugh Charles (23 catches, 200 yds, 1 TD), Byron Ellis (12 catches, 39 yds, 1 TD), and Demetrius Sumler (6 catches, 41 yds, 1 TD) all catching balls this year.  You won't see So. FB Jake Behrens touch the ball much, as he has just 5 carries for 33 yards, and 1 catch for 1 yard and a touchdown.

WR/TE: Colorado has a decent group of receivers, but no true star.  Starters include Jr. Patrick Williams (26 catches, 261 yds) at X, and RFr. Scotty McKnight (40 catches, 454 yds, 3 TDs) at Z.  McKnight has started to make a name for himself though, and since he is just a red-shirt freshman, should have a solid career ahead of him.  The second tier of receivers are Sr. Dusty Sprague (26 catches, 314 yds, 2 TDs) and TFr. Josh Smith (21 catches, 431 yds), who share near even time with the starters.  Top reserves include Sr. Stephone Robinson (4 catches, 30 yds), Jr. Cody Crawford (7 catches, 73 yds), and TFr. Kendrick Celestine (8 catches, 117 yds).  Smith has been the Buffs' top deep threat, with an average of 20.5 yards per catch.  Tight end has been an important part of the offense, and the combination of So. Riar Geer (13 catches, 120 yds, 2 TDs) and Sr. Tyson DeVree (24 catches, 257 yds, 5 TDs) has been pretty good.  Sr. Joe Sanders (8 catches, 71 yds), RFr. Nate Solder (3 catches, 50 yds), and So. Patrick Devenny (1 catch, 3 yds,1 TD) also have caught passes this season at TE.

OL: The Colorado offensive line has done a decent job coming into their twelfth game of the season.  The line has allowed for an average of just 3.8 yards per rush while giving up 16 sacks and 61 tackles for loss.  The offensive line has not been a strong point for the Buffs for a few years and this group didn't do much to raise the bar this season either.  Starting at left tackle is Sr. Tyler Polumbus (6'8", 300 lbs), while TFr. Ryan Miller (6'7", 320 lbs) starts at right tackle.  These are two of the bigger tackles in the conference.  Colorado is very thin at tackle and there are no true reserves specifically for the position.  If someone is injured, line shuffling will occur.  Starting at guard is TFr. Kai Maiava (6'0", 295 lbs) on the left and Sr. Edwin Harrison (6'4", 300 lbs) on the right.  Top reserves at guard include RFr. Wes Palazzi (6'1", 295 lbs.) and So. Devin Head (6'4", 295 lbs).  At center, Jr. Daniel Sanders (6'3", 310 lbs) starts, with RFr. Keenan Stevens (6'3", 275 lbs) performing back-up duties.  

Colorado Defense

Colorado's defense is the strength of the team, but has not been a consistent group this year.  The Buffaloes rank 52nd nationally in total defense (369.36 ypg), 80th pass defense (241.55 ypg), 66th pass efficiency defense (126.78 rating), 38th rush defense (127.82 ypg), and 63rd in scoring defense (27.45 ppg).  

DL: Colorado's defensive line isn't among the best in the Big XII, but has done a decent job of replacing their 2 defensive end starters from last season (Abraham Wright and Walter Boye-Doe).  On the season, they have allowed 3.8 yards per carry to opponents compared to last season's 3.3 yards per carry.  This is a good rush stopping crew, ranked 5th in the Big XII.  Starting at defensive end is Jr. Maurice Lucas (28 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 QBH, 1 PBU) on the left and Sr. Alonzo Barrett (33 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT, 5 QBH, 2 PBU) on the right.  Top back-ups at end include So. Chris Perri (6 tackles) and RFr. Marquez Herrod (4 tackles, 1 QBH).  Starting at nose tackle is Jr. Brandon Nicolas (35 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 QBH, 1 PBU) with So. Taj Kaynor (1 tackle) and So. Chris Perri performing back-up duties.  Jr. George Hypolite (43 tackles, 6 sacks, 1 INT, 6 QBH, 1 PBU) starts at defensive tackle, while So. Jason Brace is his top reserve.  Hypolite is the best of the group, and the most experienced.  
LB: The Colorado linebacking crew is a pretty solid group, but injuries and a suspension have thinned the group.  Starting at MLB is So. Jeff Smart (74 tackles, 1 FF, 2 FR, 5 QBH, 4 PBU) with So. Jake Duren (13 tackles, 1 PBU) serving as the top back-up.  So. Michael Sipili was scheduled to start at MLB before the season started, but was suspended indefinitely.  Smart has played well, however, as the starter.  On the outside, Jr. Brad Jones (68 tackles, 1 sack, 7 QBH, 3 PBU) starts at SLB, while Sr. Jordon Dizon (144 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 INT, 1 FF, 8 QBH, 2 PBU) starts at WLB.  Dizon is always flying to the ball, and is among the top tacklers in the country.  Top back-ups on the outside include TFr. Nate Vaiomounga, RFr. B.J. Beatty (1 tackle), and So. Jake Duren.  Reserve Jr. R.J. Brown (12 tackles) is not expected to play Friday, but is listed as questionable.

DB: Colorado's secondary has been a pretty strong, despite the defense ranking 80th against the pass.  Opponents are completing a pretty high 57.9% of their passes against this group this season.  Starting at cornerback is Sr. Terrence Wheatley (42 tackles, 5 INTs, 1 FF, 1 QBH, 10 PBU) on the left and Jr. Benjamin Burney (53 tackles, 6 PBU) on the right.  Wheatley is questionable this week due to a foot injury.  Top reserves at cornerback include Jr. Gardner McKay (15 tackles, 3 PBU) and So. Cha'pelle Brown (37 tackles, 1 QBH, 10 PBU).  At safety, Jr. Ryan Walters (56 tackles, 1 INT, 2 FF, 1 FR, 2 QBH, 4 PBU) starts at free safety while Jr. Daniel Dykes (79 tackles, 1 INT, 2 FF, 4 QBH, 3 PBU) starts at strong safety.  Walters is listed as questionable this week because of a concussion.  Top backups include Jr. Lionel Harris (20 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT) and RFr. Jalil Brown (3 tackles).  

Colorado Special Teams

The Colorado special teams units are pretty solid this season.  The Buffaloes rank 57th in net punting (35.26 yd avg), 43rd in punt returns (10 yd avg), and 37th in kickoff returns (22.82 yd avg).  

K: Sr. Kevin Eberhart is having a mediocre season, hitting 14 of 22 field goal attempts, with a 54 yard long.  Eberhart has pushed 6 of his 49 kickoffs for a touchback.

P: So. Matt DiLallo is having a pretty solid season with good consistency.  He has punted 56 times for an average of 40.16 yards this year with a long of 57.  20 of his 56 punts have been downed inside the opponents' 20.  

KR/PR: The Colorado return game has been good this season.  Sr. Terrence Wheatley (37 kick returns, 24.8 yd avg) and Sr. Hugh Charles (9 kick returns, 26.6 yd avg) make up the top kick return unit.  Sr. Chase McBride (30 punt returns, 9.6 yd avg) and Sr. Stephone Robinson (4 punt returns, 13.5 yd avg) are the top options as punt return man.  

Coverage: The Buffaloes' kick coverage team has been above average this year, allowing an average of 20.12 yards on 43 kickoff return attempts.  Punt coverage has been solid, with opponents averaging 6.62 yards on 29 punt returns.  

Nebraska Offense

Nebraska's offense picked up their play in the last two games with Joe Ganz starting at QB.  Entering their twelfth game of the season, Nebraska ranks 16th nationally in total offense (455.36 ypg), 11th in passing (309.27 ypg), 17th in pass efficiency (144.60 rating), 69th in rushing (146.09 ypg), 36th in scoring offense (31.82 ppg), and 115th in turnover margin (-1.27 pg).  

QB:  Jr. Joe Ganz (58 for 94, 951 yds, 12 TDs, 4 INTs) was thrust into the starting role 2 weeks ago for Nebraska after Sr. Sam Keller (205 for 325, 2422 yds, 14 TDs, 10 INTs) went down with a broken collarbone.  Ganz played well in his first start against Kansas, throwing four touchdowns but also four interceptions.  Last week, however, he was lights-out, throwing for 510 yards and 7 touchdowns, both Nebraska single game school records.  Ganz has benefited from more consistent offensive line play, as well as his own ability to escape the rush with his quick feet.  He won't beat anyone in a long distance race, but he's got enough speed to buy a few extra seconds to throw.  He has rushed for 56 yards and 1 touchdown on 14 attempts this season.  Jr. Beau Davis (1 for 1, 9 yards) is Nebraska's top back-up, and saw action last week in mop-up duty.

RB: Nebraska has a solid stable of running backs, led by Jr. Marlon Lucky (194 carries, 950 yds, 8 TDs), a quick back that isn't that is tough to catch in the open field.  TFr. Quentin Castille (76 carries, 343 yds, 4 TDs) is a bruising runner, shows promise, but has fumbling problems.  TFr. Roy Helu (45 carries, 209 yds) is a speed back with very good field vision and cut back ability.  Jr. Cody Glenn (27 carries, 78 yds, 2 TDs) is a power back that hasn't seen many carries this year in part due to injuries.  As with any group of backs, they are really only as good as their offensive line and their line has been very inconsistent this year.  Marlon Lucky (67 catches, 590 yds, 3 TDs) leads the team in receptions in addition to being the team's leading rusher.  Cody Glenn (6 catches, 52 yds), Roy Helu (5 catch, 40 yds), and Quentin Castille (2 catch, 26 yds) have also been used in the passing game.  At FB, Jr. Thomas Lawson (3 catches, 11 yds, 3 TDs) and Sr. Andy Sand (3 catches, 31 yds) share time.  They do not see the ball very often though.
WR/TE: Nebraska's receivers are very good, and seem to have picked up their level of play over the past game or two.  Starting at Z is Sr. Terrence Nunn (31 catches, 364 yds, 1 TD), who has had a disappointing Senior season.  Behind Nunn is Sr. Frantz Hardy (14 catches, 294 yds, 3 TDs), who is an excellent deep threat, catching 3 touchdowns last week.  Starting at X is Sr. Maurice Purify (46 catches, 678 yds, 6 TDs), Nebraska's best receiver that is finally getting to see the field consistently.  Jr. Nate Swift (34 catches, 488 yds, 3 TDs), is the top reserve at X and started most of this season.  Other reserves include Jr. Todd Peterson (16 catches, 313 yds, 4 TDs), Sr. Dan Erickson (8 catches, 77 yds), So. Menelik Holt (2 catches, 48 yds), and TFr. Niles Paul (1 catch, 6 yds).  Starting at TE, or H-Back, is Sr. Sean Hill (18 catches, 288 yds, 3 TDs).  Hill has been a nice surprise for the Huskers this year.  Sr. J.B. Phillips (2 catches, 19 yds, 1 TD), Jr. Hunter Teafatiller (4 catches, 34 yds), RFr Dreu Young (1 catch, 14 yds), and Mike McNeill (1 catch, 25 yds) are reserves at TE, and haven't seen many throws their way.   

OL: Nebraska's offensive line has played poorly this season.  There is no consistency in their rush or pass blocking schemes.  However, in their last game against Kansas State, the line played very well, their best performance of the year.  On the season, they are allowing the backs 4.6 yards per carry.  Starting at tackle will be Sr. Carl Nicks (6'5", 330 lbs) on the left and TFr. Jaivorio Burkes (6'5", 315 lbs) on the right.  Nicks is the best of this group, while Burkes has really been solid through three starts.  RFr. Mike Smith (6'6", 290 lbs) is the top tackle reserve for both Nicks and Burkes.  So. Jacob Hickman (6'4", 285 lbs) starts at LG, while Jr. Matt Slauson (6'5", 335 lbs) will start at RG.  RFr. Keith Williams (6'5", 310 lbs.), RFr. D.J. Jones (6'5", 310 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, while Sr. Jordan Picou (6'3", 300 lbs.) is the top back-up.

Nebraska Defense

Nebraska's defense is among the worst they have ever had.  Last week was an improvement, as they showed determination they had lacked up to that point this season.  The Huskers rank 111th nationally in total defense (473.09 ypg), 84th pass defense (245 ypg), 70th pass efficiency defense (128.59 rating), 114th rush defense (228.09 ypg), and 105th in scoring defense (35.45 ppg).

DL: Nebraska's defensive line has had trouble getting a push up front this season.  There has been minimal pressure off the edge, and they have struggled to plug up running lanes.  Opponents are picking up 5.2 yards per rush, a sorry number for any defense.  Jr. Barry Turner (24 tackles, 3 sacks, 7 QBH, 2 PBU) starts at open end.  Turner seems to have lost some speed, which is what made him a good pass rusher.  Starting at base end is Jr. Zach Potter (43 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF, 1 FR, 5 QBH, 1 PBU), who has played the most consistent ball of the season on the line.  Top reserves are Jr. Clayton Sievers (7 tackles, 1 QBH) and Sr. Andy Poulosky (7 tackles, 1 sack) at open, in addition to RFr. Pierre Allen (15 tackles, 2 QBH, 1 PBU) at base.  Starting at nose tackle is Jr. Ndamukong Suh (29 tackles, 1 sack, 1 FR, 4 QBH, 1 BK), with Jr. Shukree Barfield (13 tackles) performing back-up duties.  Suh has great size and strength, but hasn't played up to expectations.  So. Ty Steinkuhler (12 tackles, 1 FF, 1 QBH), starter at defensive tackle has struggled with some injuries this season.  Jr. Kevin Dixon (18 tackles, 1 INT, 2 QBH) is his primary back-up and has performed very well.

LB: Nebraska's linebacking crew has fallen short of expectations this season.  Sr. Corey McKeon (63 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT, 1 FR, 3 QBH, 6 PBU) continues to start, despite not being the best MLB on the team.  So. Phillip Dillard (34 tackles, 1 QBH, 2 PBU) is Nebraska's best MLB, yet was moved back to the bench a few weeks ago due to injury and hasn't played much since.  Sr. Bo Ruud (46 tackles, 2 INT, 2 FF, 2 PBU) is back to start at SLB after a knee injury kept him slowed the last couple of weeks.  Back-up TFr. Blake Lawrence (2 tackles) is also back in the line-up after missing time with an injury.  Jr. Tyler Wortman (6 tackles) played well as the fill-in starter for Ruud, but will now go back to sharing back-up duties with Lawrence.  Sr. Steve Octavien (80 tackles, 2 sacks, 9 QBH, 3 PBU) starts at WLB and is Nebraska's best linebacker.  So. Major Culbert (8 tackles) serves as Octavien's top reserve.  TFr. LaTravis Washington (2 tackles) and So. Nick Covey (5 tackles) could also see action in reserve roles.

DB: Nebraska's secondary has been much maligned this season, getting burned often in many games.  Sr. Cortney Grixby (24 tackles, 2 INTs, 1 QBH, 7 PBU) is finishing up his fourth year as a starter at WCB.  He is arguably playing better than anyone else in the secondary, despite being the smallest of the group at 5'9".  Grixby's back-up, Sr. Zack Bowman (27 tackles, 1 INT, 1 QBH, 6 PBU), has been inconsistent this year, with his knee injuries hampering his career.  Jr. Armando Murillo (63 tackles, 0.5 sack, 7 PBU) starts at LCB, with Sr. Andre Jones (14 tackles, 2 PBU) and TFr. Anthony Blue (13 tackles, 1 PBU) backing him up.  Murillo has shown promise while Jones is having a disaster of a year.  Blue earned a start last week as the Huskers' top nickel back.  At the safety positions, Sr. Tierre Green (49 tackles, 1 sack, 1 QBH, 3 PBU) starts at FS and So. Larry Asante (71 tackles, 1 FF, 1 QBH, 4 PBU) is the starter at SS.  Green is having a disappointing season, not making many plays or getting big hits.  Top reserves include So. Rickey Thenarse (27 tackles, 2 FF) and Sr. Ben Eisenhart (34 tackles) at FS, with Sr. Bryan Wilson (16 tackles, 1 QBH) at SS.  Thenarse is a promising young talent that hits like a freight train.

Nebraska Special Teams

Nebraska's special teams have been solid this season.  The Huskers are ranked 18th in net punting (37.57 yd avg), 78th in punt returns (7.81 yd avg), and 35th in kickoff returns (22.86 yd avg).  

K: TFr. Adi Kunalic (1 for 1, 46 yd lng) handles kickoffs and long field goals.  Kunalic has fired 27 of 60 kickoffs for touchback, with a 65.4 yard average.  RFr. Alex Henery handles short field goals (8 for 8, 39 yd lng) and extra points.

P: Jr. Dan Titchener is one of the nation's better punters.  He is averaging 41 yards on 45 punts with a long of 52.  14 of his 45 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, while the punt return game is below average.  Seniors Cortney Grixby (38 kick returns, 26 yd avg, 1 TD) and Andre Jones (15 kick returns, 21.1 yd avg) are the top kickoff return men.  Cortney Grixby (7 punt returns, 5.1 yd avg), Jr. Nate Swift (2 punt returns, 3 yd avg) and Andre Jones (6 returns, 13.8 yd avg) are the team's top punt returners.  

Coverage: Nebraska's coverage teams have been pretty solid this season.  The kick coverage unit is allowing an average of 20.6 yards on 35 kickoff returns, while the punt return coverage team allows a 5.1 yard average on 18 punt returns.  So. Rickey Thenarse is the bullet for the unit, and has laid down some big hits.

Unit Match-Ups

Nebraska's Offense vs. Colorado's Defense

Nebraska's offense was as efficient as it has ever been in the Bill Callahan era in their last game against Kansas State, especially through the air.  QB Joe Ganz had a record setting day, throwing for 510 yards and 7 touchdowns with no picks.  Not bad for a QB starting his second ever game.  His escapability in the pocket has added an extra dimension to the Huskers' offense.  He is able to run for yardage when a play might go for a loss, or the ball thrown away.  The receiving corps is good, and has been playing their best football the past two games.  While Maurice Purify is the best receiver on the team, there are a number of other guys that have stepped up recently, including speedy WR Frantz Hardy who caught 3 TDs against Kansas State.  RB Marlon Lucky leads the team in receptions with 67, and if he is able to receive for 24 more yards, he becomes the first Nebraska player in history to rush for 1,000 yards and receive for 1,000 yards in a career.  He is a do-it-all back and his efforts in the receiving game are his biggest strength.  Colorado is allowing their opponents to complete 57.9% of their passes, while Nebraska QB Joe Ganz is hitting on 61.7% of his throws (75% last week against KSU).  The Buffs allowed Texas Tech's Graham Harrell and Missouri' s Chase Daniel to each throw for over 400 yards recently, which has to be concerning for them coming into this game.  Colorado's secondary is not necessarily as bad as their stats show, because there are some very good athletes here, including the outstanding CB Terrence Wheatley.  However, if he and teammate S Ryan Walters are not able to play at full speed, the Buffaloes could be in big trouble against a surging Nebraska offense.  

The Huskers' ground attack hasn't been really effective since the season opener, but started to get things going last week before opening up an aerial assault against Kansas State.  The offense line, which has not performed well this season, showed signs of life last week and the running backs seemed to run with a little extra something behind them.  RB Marlon Lucky can be a great looking back when holes are there for him, but he has struggled to find holes at times, when they are present.  Behind Lucky is a talented group that has provided excellent depth.  Colorado is giving up 3.83 yards per carry this season, while Nebraska's running backs are averaging 4.6 yards per carry.  The Huskers performed much better than expected against a Kansas State defense that thrives on getting into the backfield.  If Nebraska is able to keep that tenacity, they will make it difficult on the Colorado defense this week to slow them down.  Colorado LB Jordon Dizon is a tackling machine and could give the Husker run game fits, as he always seems to be where the ball is.  Colorado's defense allows opponents to convert on just 35.8% of their third downs, but has allowed a high average of 89.5% red zone scores.  Nebraska has converted a mediocre 44% of their third downs, and a solid 89% red-zone scoring offense rate.  Lack of production on third downs was a big part of the problem during Nebraska's 5 game losing streak, and was still just 45% during the rout of Kansas State.  

Up front, Nebraska's average offensive lineman is 6'4", 314 lbs, while Colorado's average defensive lineman comes in at 6'3", 268 lbs.  Nebraska's line had been struggling against smaller, quick defensive lines this season, but handled the solid Kansas State defensive front well in their last game.  Colorado has gotten solid penetration from their front 7, and the big question has to be if Nebraska's performance against Kansas State was a one time only special, or if it is something to be expected again Friday.  If the line reverts to play as they did during the losing streak, Colorado will have a good chance to get into the backfield.  The Huskers have given up 17 sacks and 55 tackles for loss this season, while Colorado has put up 65 tackles for loss and 18 sacks this season.

Colorado's Offense vs. Nebraska's Defense

The Colorado offense not been as consistent as coach Dan Hawkins would like.  His son, Cody Hawkins starts at QB for the Buffs and hasn't been bad, but hasn't exactly lit up opponents either.  He doesn't have the best receiving corps in the Big XII, and there aren't many solid deep threats, but the team is better off today than they were a season ago.  He is completing 56.2% of his passes, while Nebraska's defense is allowing opponents to hit 57.6% of their passes.  Colorado's receivers are serviceable, but only Scotty McKnight has caught more than 26 passes this season.  McKnight has been Hawkins' go-to guy, but has scored just 3 times this season.  The tight ends have been good this year, especially Tyson DeVree who leads the team in receiving touchdowns with 5.  The passing offense was efficient in their last game against Iowa State as Hawkins completed 57.5% of his throws and connected with 8 different receivers for 262 yards and 2 touchdowns, with no interceptions.  Nebraska's defense struggled the most this season against teams with mobile QB's.  Their pass defense was at their best when they were able to load the box and bring the heat on the opposing QB's.  Hawkins has escapability, but isn't a true dual-threat QB in the sense of the term.  It will be interesting to see how Nebraska chooses to attack the Buffalo QB on Friday.

The Colorado rushing attack is led by top playmaker Hugh Charles.  Charles has had 5 games of over 100 yards rushing this season and will hope to get his sixth against a Nebraska rush defense is 114th in the nation against the run.  The Husker defensive problems have largely been lack of tackling.  Last week, however, they were flying to the ball and gang tackling, something that hadn't really been seen since the season opener.  Colorado isn't loaded at running back, though as there aren't really any established solid backs behind Charles.  For this reason, he needs to stay healthy for the Buffaloes to win this football game.  Colorado's third down conversion percentage is a poor 32%, and holds a less than stellar 77.8% red-zone scoring average.  Nebraska's defense has been awful on 3rd downs, allowing opponents to convert on 49% of their attempts, while allowing opponents to score on 91% of their red-zone opportunities.  Neither team can be happy with those numbers.

In the trenches, Colorado's average offensive lineman is 6'4", 305 lbs, while Nebraska's average defensive lineman comes in at 6'4", 284 lbs.  The Buffaloes' offensive line has been decent, but inconsistent this season.  They will find themselves against a Nebraska defensive line that has also been just decent and inconsistent.  Nebraska's defensive front has had issues with being pushed around when they aren't bringing a blitz.  On the year, Nebraska has put up 69 tackles for loss, and 13 sacks.  4 of those 13 sacks were earned in their last game against Kansas State.  Colorado has allowed 61 tackles for loss and 16 sacks this season.  Because of this, you have to like Nebraska's chances, if they bring an efficient blitz.  However, Nebraska's defense is allowing an unbelievable 5.2 yards per carry this season, while Colorado is averaging 3.76 yards per carry.  Hugh Charles should be able to find some running room on Friday.

Keys to the Game

For Nebraska to Win:
1.) Play with the energy and emotion showed against Kansas State.
2.) Continue aerial assault.  Despite poor NU defense, Colorado doesn't have the horses to compete in a shoot-out.
3.) Win turnover battle.  Huskers have just one takeaway in past six games.
4.) Get pressure on QB Cody Hawkins, force him into mistakes.
5.) More efficiency on third downs.  

For Colorado to Win:
1.) Defense must slow down the surging Husker offense.
2.) Get pressure on QB Joe Ganz, and don't allow him to get into a comfort zone.
3.) Cut down on penalties.  174 yards in penalties in the past two games, both losses.
4.) Improve on third downs and red zone offense.
5.) Receivers need to step up and make plays.

Position Advantages:

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

Injury Report

QB - Sam Keller - collar bone - out for season
LB - Lance Brandenburgh - shoulder - out for season
OT - Lydon Murtha - toe - out for season
OG - Andy Christensen - knee - out for season
RB - Kenny Wilson - leg - out for season

S - Ryan Walters - concussion - questionable
CB - Terrence Wheatley - foot - questionable
WR - Kevin Moyd - illness - questionable
LB - R.J. Brown - concussion - questionable
LB - Bryan Stengel - thumb - out
LB - Michael Sipili - suspension - out indefinitely
QB - Bernard Jackson - academics - out indefinitely

Game Breakdown & Outlook

This is the 65th meeting between Colorado and Nebraska.  The Huskers lead 46-17-2 all-time over the Buffaloes.  The 2000's have seen a more competitive series, as Nebraska has won 4 of the 7 this decade with Nebraska winning the last two games.  Last year, Nebraska defeated Colorado 37-14 in a game that that was closer than the final score would lead one to believe.  The last time these two teams played in Boulder was 2005, where Nebraska dominated Colorado 30-3.  The fourth quarter saw two sections of Colorado fans removed from the stadium after trash was being thrown onto the field.  No matter the outcome Friday, hopefully, that situation does not arise again.

Colorado is coming into this game with a 5-6 record, 3-4 in Big XII play.  Their season started with a 31-28 overtime victory over Colorado State in a game that the Buffs showed flashes offensively.  After a pair of losses to Arizona State and Florida State in which Colorado did not have a run game, the Buffaloes rushed for 359 yards while blowing out Miami (OH) 42-0.  They opened conference play with a match-up with then #3/#4 Oklahoma.  Oklahoma led by 17 in the third quarter before Colorado took over, finally winning the game 27-24 with a 45 yard field goal as time expired.  Since that game, the Buffaloes have been disappointing.  Following a 43-23 win over Baylor, Colorado went on a two game skid against Kansas State (47-20) and Kansas (19-14).  The Buffs outgained the Jayhawks, but their 3 turnovers hurt them in the end.  Colorado then went to Lubbock, Texas and defeated Texas Tech 31-26.  Their last two games have not been what they wanted as Missouri throttled the Buffs 55-10 and Iowa State slipped one past them 31-28.  A win Friday makes Colorado bowl eligible, something they could definitely use after missing out last year.  A loss means an end to their season and no more practice until Spring ball.

Nebraska enters their twelfth game this week with a 5-6 record, and just 2-5 in Big XII play.  Nebraska started off hot against Nevada, before running cold for the majority of the year.  The defense showed problems in game two against Wake Forest, having issues with tackling and would then be throttled offensively by just about everyone for the next seven games.  Their offense was exposed against Iowa State seven games ago, finally showing signs of life in their last two games.  After playing Iowa State, they went up against Texas A&M, where Nebraska was competitive for 2 quarters before falling apart in the second half.  Game nine against Texas saw Nebraska jump out to a 17-3 lead before allowing Texas to score 25 unanswered second half points, ultimately losing the game 28-25.  Two games ago against Kansas, Nebraska was embarrassed as they gave up a school record 76 points in a 76-39 loss.  Nebraska was out-gained in 9 straight games before waking up and destroying Kansas State 73-31.  A win over Colorado this week would make the Huskers bowl eligible.  A loss would be their sixth in seven games and end their season without a bowl for the second time in four years.  After making 35 straight bowl games, Nebraska missed out in 2004.  They do not want to miss out on another one, just 3 seasons later.  

Nebraska is coming off of what was their best offensive performance in the Bill Callahan era.  The Huskers racked up 73 points against a Kansas State team that had only been giving up 22 points per game.  QB Joe Ganz looked like an All-American in a performance that is not likely to be matched any time soon at Nebraska.  He didn't do it all by himself, however, as it was the offensive line's best performance in months, and the most consistent effort for four quarters from the running backs and receivers.  With Nebraska's other receivers playing well and getting attention from the defense, Maurice Purify could find himself open more often.  Nebraska should keep a majority of its attack through the air this week, as Colorado's secondary could be without 2 of their starters again.   If Terrence Wheatley and Ryan Walters are not ready to go on Friday, expect Nebraska to for sure have another monster day through the air.  Nebraska's ground game will need to be present and respectable, however, won't need to shoulder a majority of the load.  Colorado's strength is in its rush stopping linebackers and with Jordon Dizon and his crew, big holes could be hard to come by for Nebraska.

Colorado will need a mistake free, consistent performance from QB Cody Hawkins this week.  His 17 touchdowns to 15 interceptions on the year doesn't give great confidence that he can without an interception for two games in a row, but Nebraska's defense has forced just one turnover in their last six games.  More playmakers need to emerge from the Buffaloes' receiving corps.  There is a lot of pressure on RB Hugh Charles, as he has been carrying a large portion of the load for the Colorado offense.  Nebraska's rush defense is among the worst in the nation, so Charles should have plenty of opportunities to make things happen.  For that to happen, however, the young offensive line will need to put forth a better than average effort this week, especially if Nebraska decides to be aggressive as they were last week against Kansas State.  

There is a lot riding on Friday's game for both Nebraska and Colorado.  It's Senior Day in Boulder, and there would be no greater thrill for the Buffs than to send the Seniors out with a win over Nebraska that would shut the Huskers out of a bowl game, while putting themselves in one.  Nebraska has the opportunity to make it to a bowl game after suffering a mid-season slide that their program has not seen in many decades.  However, they seemed to have found their way on offense, and have the firepower to put up a lot of points against the Buffaloes.  If Nebraska is able to have their way with the Buff defense, it doesn't seem likely that the Colorado offense will be able to match scores.  The Buffaloes lack the offensive playmakers that Nebraska has and in order to win this football game, the Buffs really need to play lights-out in every category.  Colorado blew a 21-0 lead against Iowa State last week, and one has to wonder where their confidence will be coming into Friday's contest.  Nebraska's is very high after playing with more energy than they have displayed all season long.  A big question though is whether or not Nebraska can sustain the level of play that was shown against Kansas State two weeks ago.  

This is likely Nebraska head coach Bill Callahan's final game, as there is expected to be an announcement on his future likely coming on Saturday.  Nebraska will play hard for their coach and not let down.  Colorado's best shot to win will be if the Huskers play with the lack of enthusiasm shown during their 5 game melt-down earlier this season, but after their meeting with Kansas State, it is hard to believe they would roll over again.

Nebraska - 35
Colorado - 24

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