Game Day Preview

Check out our latest game preview as Nebraska hosts their first marquee opponent of the year as Head Coach Frank Beamer brings his Virginia Tech Hokies into Lincoln.

Vince Campisi's College Football Game Preview
Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Virginia Tech Hokies

09/26/08
--by Vince Campisi



GAME FOUR
September 27, 2008
7:00 PM CT
Lincoln, NE
Television Coverage: ABC


VIRGINIA TECH (3 - 1) (2 - 0)
VS
NEBRASKA (3 - 0) (0 - 0)



Gametime Weather
Weather Report for Nebraska vs. Virginia Tech

Latest Line - Nebraska by 7.


Schedules/Results

Virginia Tech
08/30/08 - at. East Carolina - L 22-27
09/06/08 - vs. Furman - W 24-7
09/13/08 - vs. Georgia Tech - W 20-17
09/20/08 - at. North Carolina - W 20-17
09/27/08 - at. Nebraska
10/04/08 - vs. Western Kentucky
10/18/08 - at. Boston College
10/25/08 - at. Florida State
11/06/08 - vs. Maryland
11/13/08 - at. Miami (FL)
11/22/08 - vs. Duke
11/29/08 - vs. Virginia

Nebraska
08/30/08 - vs. Western Michigan - W 47-24
09/06/08 - vs. San Jose State - W 35-12
09/13/08 - vs. New Mexico State - W 38-7
09/27/08 - vs. Virginia Tech
10/04/08 - vs. Missouri
10/11/08 - at. Texas Tech
10/18/08 - at. Iowa State
10/25/08 - vs. Baylor
11/01/08 - at. Oklahoma
11/08/08 - vs. Kansas
11/15/08 - at. Kansas State
11/10/08 - vs. Colorado


Player Breakdowns


Virginia Tech Offense

Virginia Tech's offense hasn't been good this season, unable to mount many scoring drives. After playing four games, the Hokies rank 112th nationally in total offense (271.75 ypg), 114th in passing (99.0 ypg), 112th in passing efficiency (93.89 rating), 45th rushing (172.75 ypg), 86th scoring offense (21.5 ppg), and 10th in turnover margin (+1.50 mrg).

QB: So. Tyrod Taylor (24 of 40, 199 yds, 2 INTs) starts for the Hokies, after starting the season expecting to red-shirt. Taylor assumed the starting role in game three after Sr. Sean Glennon (18 of 32, 197 yds, 1 TD, 3 INTs) failed to consistently put points on the board. Taylor is a dual-threat QB, but will tend to beat you more with his feet than his arm. He has rushed for 221 yards and a touchdown on 41 attempts. Taylor has completed 60% of his passes this season, with a poor 91.8 pass efficiency rating. Taylor tends to hang a few passes up in each game that can be easily picked off. He doesn't throw a very crisp ball, and has somewhat of an awkward throwing motion. He went down with an ankle injury last week, but after being taped up, appeared to be fine. Glennon has a slightly better arm than Taylor, but doesn't have the foot speed. With the inaccurate passing from the QB's, the offense has become very stagnant.

RB: Jr. Kenny Lewis Jr. (40 carries, 149 yds, 3 TDs) and RFr. Darren Evans (56 carries, 264 yds, 4 TDs) split carries as the top backs for the Hokies. Evans runs with power, never stopping his legs while moving forward, he can be a bear to bring down. Lewis doesn't run with that same authority, but is more shifty, and better on the perimeter. Overall, a solid tandem that works well with QB Tyrod Taylor in establishing a solid ground game. These backs have really stepped up after expected starter, Brandon Ore, was kicked off the team in the off-season. Lewis has caught 5 passes for 30 yards and a touchdown, while Evans has grabbed 2 passes for 11 yards this season. There is another group of backs that have seen limited carries behind Evans and Lewis, however, aren't likely to factor much into the game. At FB is Jr. Kenny Jefferson (1 carry, 2 yds). At just 5'9", 209lbs., he isn't a typical big bruising fullback, but is a solid blocker.

WR/TE: The Hokies have a very young group of receivers after losing their top 4 wide-outs from last season. Starters are RFr. Danny Coale (8 catches, 84 yds) at split end and TFr. Dyrell Roberts (6 catches, 119 yds) at flanker. Coale was very good last week against North Carolina, proving to be the most dependable receiver for the Hokies during their comeback. Roberts is the team's best deep threat, averaging 19.8 yards per catch, however, doesn't have a touchdown to his name. Top reserves at receiver include TFr. Jarrett Boykin (3 catches, 36 yds) at split end and TFr. Xavier Boyce (1 catch, 7 yds) at flanker. Boyce has an injured knee and has sat out the past two games. It is likely he'll miss this week's game as well. Sr. DB Victor "Macho" Harris (2 catches, 8 yds) is also getting into the mix at wide-out this season. He's an excellent athlete that is finding his way into the rotation due to the youth and inexperience for the Hokies at receiver. At TE is Jr. Greg Boone (5 catches, 32 yds). Boone is a lineman-like TE, standing at 6'3", 280lbs. Behind Boone is So. Andre Smith (4 catches, 37 yds) and RFr. Chris Drager (2 catches, 23 yds). What is quite odd to see, is a team that has played four games and is yet to have a wide receiver or tight end catch a touchdown pass. That isn't a knock on the receivers so much, however, but mostly to the lacking throwing arms of the QB's.

OL: Virginia Tech's offensive line is full of experience, returning three starters from last season, and has improved from a year ago. The line is allowing for an average of 4 yards per rush, also giving up 9 sacks and 25 tackles for loss this season. Starting at left tackle is Jr. Ed Wang (6'5", 310 lbs), and starting at right tackle is RFr. Blake DeChristopher (6'5", 299 lbs). Wang is probably the second best blocker on this unit (behind Render), while DeChristopher is still getting his feet wet as a new starter. RFr. Greg Nosal (6'6", 281 lbs) and Jr. Richard Graham (6'6", 284 lbs) are the top reserves at tackle. Starting at guard is Sr. Nick Marshman (6'5", 339 lbs) on the left and Jr. Sergio Render (6'3", 308 lbs) on the right. Render is the best of this offensive line and is one of the better guards in the ACC. Marshman has a team-best starting streak of 18 straight games. Top back-ups at guard are Jr. Hivera Green (6'3", 304 lbs) and RFr. Jaymes Brooks (6'2", 304 lbs). At center is two-year starter Sr. Ryan Shuman (6'2", 291 lbs), with So. Beau Warren (6'3", 302 lbs) serving as his back-up. Shuman is a quality blocker, had some knee troubles that kept him from starting every game last season, but he's been 100% so far this season.


Virginia Tech Defense

Virginia Tech's defense isn't as experienced as they have been in the past, but defensive coordinator Bud Foster always puts a solid defense on the field. Through four games, they rank 53rd nationally in total defense (327.50 ypg), 43rd pass defense (184.25 ypg), 84th pass efficiency defense (129.98 rating), 72nd rush defense (143.3 ypg), 32nd in scoring defense (17 ppg), 4th in fumbles recovered (7), and 4th in interceptions (7). The Hokies' ball hawking efforts have really helped the team to their current 3-1 record.

DL: Virginia Tech's defensive front has had to replace three of the four base starters from last season. Despite that, they have still been pretty solid, even into the two-deep. While the unit hasn't been tough as nails against the run, they have done a nice job of getting to the opposing QB. Through four games, they are allowing 4 yards per carry, while picking up 4 sacks and 18 hurries. Starting on the ends is So. Jason Worilds (14 tackles, 1 sack, 6 QBH) on the left and Sr. Orion Martin (13 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 FF, 1 QBH) on the right. Worilds and Martin do a great job of getting into the backfield and have teamed up for 8.5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks this season. Top reserves at defensive end are So. Steven Friday (6 tackles, 1 QBH) and Jr. Nekos Brown (9 tackles, 1 sack, 3 QBH). Both Brown and Friday have played very well this season, with Brown showing good speed off the edge last week against North Carolina. Starters at defensive tackle are So. John Graves (7 tackles, 1 FF, 1 FR, 4 QBH, 2 PBU) and Jr. Cordarrow Thompson (5 tackles, 2 QBH, 2 PBU). Graves has been a beast on the line, and is a special teams phenom, blocking 3 kicks this season. Jr. Demetrius Taylor (5 tackles, 1 FR, 1 QBH) serves as the top back-up, and gets plenty of playing time.

LB: The Virginia Tech linebacking corps has been better than expected after replacing two NFL talents, Xavier Adibi and Vince Hall. Starting at the two inside linebacker positions are Seniors Brett Warren (35 tackles, 1 FF, 3 QBH) and Pernell Sturdivant (28 tackles, 1 sack, 4 PBU). Both are sure-tacklers, but Warren has been the most impressive, showing good movement despite not having great top end speed. In run support these two have been very good, but could do better a better job in pass coverage. Reserves at inside linebacker include Sr. Jonas Houseright (3 tackles) and RFr. Barquell Rivers (5 tackles, 1 QBH). At Whip LB is Jr. Cam Martin (19 tackles, 1 sack, 1 FF), with Jr. Cody Grimm (17 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT, 1 FF, 1 QBH, 1 PBU) backing him up. Martin is a returning starter from last year, and has played well, while Grimm has also been solid, making great plays on the field. This group of linebackers, barring injury, should end up finishing as one of the most productive units in the ACC this season.

DB: The Hokies' secondary is fairly average, however, includes one of the best cornerbacks in the nation. Opponents are completing 60% of their passes with an average completion of 12.5 yards per reception, numbers too high for this group. Starting at boundary cornerback is Sr. Victor "Macho" Harris (11 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FR, 3 PBU), and Jr. Stephan Virgil (20 tackles, 2 INTs, 1 FR, 6 PBU) starts at field cornerback. Harris is one of the nation's top corners and doesn't get beat in coverage very often. He intercepted a late pass against North Carolina last week to help secure victory for his team. Virgil is also an excellent corner that has seen a lot of plays come his way as opponents try to avoid throwing towards Harris. Top reserves at corner are So. Rashad Carmichael (4 tackles, 4 PBU) and RFr. Chris Hill (6 tackles). Starting at free safety is Jr. Kam Chancellor (17 tackles, 1 FF, 1 FR), with TFr. Lorenzo Williams (3 tackles) serving as the top back-up. Chancellor started at rover last season, however, made the switch to FS in the off-season and has done well at the safety spot. At rover is So. Davon Morgan (16 tackles, 1 FR, 1 QBH), with Jr. Dorian Porch (5 tackles, 2 PBU) serving as the top reserve. Morgan and Porch are both fairly even in their level of play, however, Morgan has the most upside as his career goes forward.


Virginia Tech Special Teams

Virginia Tech's special teams play hasn't been great statistically, but they have been solid. Virginia Tech has blocked at least one kick in three of their four games. The Hokies currently rank 63rd in net punting (34.19 yd avg), 62nd in punt returns (9.4 yd avg), and 106th in kickoff returns (17.27 yd avg).

K: Sr. Dustin Keys handles field goals and extra points for the Hokies. He has made 5 of his 6 field goal attempts, with a long of 45. Keys has kicked two game winning field goals for the Hokies this season, making him a valuable asset. TFr. Justin Myer is the kickoff specialist, pushing 4 of his 15 kickoffs for touchback and a 66.5 yard average.

P: Jr. Brent Bowden is an excellent punter, however, isn't putting up quite the numbers he did a season ago (42.5 yd avg). This season, he is averaging 39.4 yards on 20 punts with a long of 55. 6 of his 20 punts have been downed inside the opponents' 20.

KR/PR: Virginia Tech's kickoff return unit consists of Jr. Kenny Lewis Jr. (7 kick returns, 17.7 yd avg, 35 yd long) and So. Davon Morgan (3 kick returns, 20 yd avg, 29 yd long). Top punt returnman is Sr. Victor Harris (5 punt returns, 9.4 yd avg, 17 yd long). He does many things for this team and can be a dangerous threat as a returner. However, he made some mistakes last week by letting a few punts go by him, which ended up putting the offense in unfavorable starting positions.

Coverage: The Hokies' kick coverage team has been solid, allowing an average of 17.2 yards on 14 kickoff return attempts. Considering that on average the ball has been getting just inside the 4 yard line, that is a very good number. The punt coverage team could be better, allowing an average of 8.3 yards per return off of 6 punts.



Nebraska Offense


The Nebraska offense has the ability to be one of the better groups nationally, but hasn't quite found a high level of consistency yet. After three games, Nebraska ranks 20th nationally in total offense (450.33 ypg), 27th in passing (261.30 ypg), 17th in pass efficiency (155.96 rating), 37th in rushing (189 ypg), 16th in scoring offense (40 ppg), and 46th in turnover margin (+0.33 mrg).

QB: Sr. Joe Ganz (50 for 78, 719 yds, 5 TDs, 3 INTs) shows flashes of excellent play each week, both through the air and on the ground. However, he still has to prove he can be consistent week-to-week. He wasn't asked to do much through the air in his last outing against New Mexico State, throwing just 17 passes, as the offense got it done predominantly on the ground. Ganz has showcased his foot-speed this season, and against NMSU he rushed for a 33 yard touchdown on an option. Overall, he has rushed for 105 yards and one touchdown on 17 carries this season. Ganz showed good hands against NMSU as well, catching a 20 yard touchdown pass from RB Marlon Lucky. Behind Ganz is RFr. Patrick Witt (4 for 6, 40 yds) and So. Zac Lee (1 for 2, 5 yds). Witt has struggled in mop-up duty, fumbling two snaps against NMSU, helping the Aggies to their only score.

RB: Nebraska has an excellent and deep group of running backs. They were finally able to see daylight in their last game, and as a group rushed for 243 yards on 35 carries. Sr. Marlon Lucky (34 carries, 169 yds, 4 TDs), So. Roy Helu Jr. (23 carries, 143 yds, 1 TD), and So. Quentin Castille (22 carries, 105 yds, 1 TD) are considered co-number 1's. Lucky is the most complete back of the trio, and even threw for a touchdown pass against NMSU. Lucky is now fourth all-time in total offense yards in Nebraska history. Helu Jr. has a good combination of hard running, leaping and cutting ability. Castille is the strongest runner of the group, and not afraid to take a defender head-on. RFr. Marcus Mendoza (5 carries, 45 yds) is the team's fourth option that is an excellent flash back, showing excellent quickness. Lucky (5 catches, 56 yds, 1 TD) is the best pass-catching running back in college football, and should start seeing more passes come his way, especially if the Huskers have trouble running north-south. Castille (4 catches, 61 yds), Helu Jr. (3 catches, 48 yds), and Mendoza (1 catch, 0 yd) have also caught passes this season. At FB, Sr. Thomas Lawson (1 catch, 4 yds) will once again be out due to his removed appendix. He is backed up by So. Justin Makovicka, however, Quentin Castille performed fullback duties against NMSU.

WR/TE: Nebraska has a solid group of receivers, but in the past two games, they have done more blocking than receiving. They are up against a good secondary again this week and will likely be asked to do more through the air. Sr. Nate Swift (12 catches, 201 yds, 2 TDs) starts at "X", and is Ganz's top threat in this offense. He has the hands to be a possession receiver, but the speed and size to be a deep threat as well. He is just 28 receptions away from breaking Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers' career record mark of 143 catches. Starting at "Z" is Sr. Todd Peterson (11 catches, 127 yds), a durable player that has great hands. Top back-ups at "X" are Jr. Menelik Holt (7 catches, 83 yds), So. Will Henry, and Jr. Chris Brooks. Holt has big play ability, and is also a great, physical blocker. Top reserves at "Z" are So. Niles Paul (3 catches, 37 yds) and RFr. Curenski Gilleylen. Paul and Gilleylen are Nebraska's speedsters, but in their reserve roles, haven't seen much come their way. At TE is So. Mike McNeill (3 catches, 60 yds, 2 TDs) and So. Dreu Young (1 catch, 55 yds), with Sr. Hunter Teafatiller (3 catches, 27 yds) and RFr. Ryan Hill as the top pair of back-ups. McNeill had an acrobatic flip over a defender for a touchdown two weeks ago against NMSU.

OL: Nebraska's offensive line had their best outing of the season against NMSU two weeks ago. Whether their better play was because they were playing against a 3-3-5 defense that lacked experience, or because starting tackle Lydon Murtha was back from injury will be answered this week against the Hokies. This season, the line is allowing their backfield to gain just 5.4 yards per carry, which rose from 3.9 after their last game. Starting at tackle is So. Mike Smith (6'6", 285 lbs) on the left and Sr. Lydon Murtha (6'7", 315 lbs) on the right. Murtha seemed to give a boost to the line after returning from injury two weeks ago. So. Jaivorio Burkes (6'5", 325 lbs) is the top reserve at LT, while RFr. Marcel Jones (6'7", 310 lbs) is the top back-up at RT. Both have played very well when given their opportunities. Burkes has starting experience and plays often behind Smith. Starting at left guard is Sr. Mike Huff (6'4", 300 lbs), while Sr. Matt Slauson (6'5", 320 lbs) starts at right guard. Guard play was improved against NMSU after struggling in the first two games. So. Keith Williams (6'5", 305 lbs.) and So. D.J. Jones (6'5", 305 lbs) are Nebraska's top reserves at guard, with Williams seeing the most action between the two of them behind Huff. Jr. Jacob Hickman (6'4", 290 lbs) starts at center, with RFr. Mike Caputo (6'1", 275 lbs.) backing him up. The interior line is the weakness of the line, but will look to build off of a solid performance against NMSU.


Nebraska Defense

Nebraska's defense looked very good in their last outing, against a solid New Mexico State offense. However, consistency from week to week has been an issue, and continued improvement will be key for the unit. After playing three games, the Huskers rank 63rd nationally in total defense (347.33 ypg), 102nd pass defense (269.67 ypg), 44th pass efficiency defense (109.38 rating), 18th rush defense (77.70 ypg), 22nd scoring defense (14.3 ppg), 92nd in fumbles recovered (1), and 13th in interceptions (5).

DL: Nebraska's defensive line has been a rock for the first three games. Opponents are averaging 2.6 yards per rush this season, an incredible improvement over last year's 5.2 yard per rush average. After losing top open end, Sr. Barry Turner (3 tackles, 1 sack) for the season to a broken leg in game two, So. Pierre Allen (14 tackles, 1 PBU) has taken over. Allen has played well, however, suffered an injury in his first start two weeks ago. After resting for a week, he returned to practice this week and is ready to go. Behind Allen is TFr. Cameron Meredith. Sr. Zach Potter (9 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 INT, 2 QBH, 2 PBU, 1 BK) starts at base end, and is arguably the most complete player on the line. Sr. Clayton Sievers (2 tackles, 1 QBH) is the top reserve at base end behind Potter. Starting at nose tackle is Jr. Ndamukong Suh (13 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF, 1 QBH, 1 PBU), with Sr. Shukree Barfield (4 tackles, 1 sack) and RFr. Terrence Moore (6 tackles, 2 sacks) backing him up. He is a great athlete for a big man, and is tough to stop one-on-one. Sr. Ty Steinkuhler (14 tackles, 2 QBH) starts at defensive tackle, with RFr. Jared Crick (1 tackle, 1 PBU) listed as his top back-up. Steinkuhler has been a stalwart in the middle, really playing well now that he is healthy.

LB: Nebraska started three new linebackers this season, and the group appears to be much better than what the Huskers had last year. They have been playing with a lot of energy, and are tackling well. Jr. Phillip Dillard (17 tackles, 0.5 sack, 1 QBH) is the starter at MLB, and is the leader of this defense. Dillard succeeds in just about every area on the football field, moves well, and leads the team in assisted tackles (13). Behind Dillard is TFr. Will Compton and Jr. Colton Koehler (2 tackles). Koehler saw his first snap at LB last week, while Compton has yet to get on the field this season. Sr. Cody Glenn (21 tackles, 1 FF, 2 QBH, 3 PBU) starts at WLB after converting from RB in the off-season. He plays with a high level of enthusiasm, flies to the ball, and has been the team's top tackler. So. Blake Lawrence (2 tackles) is Glenn's top reserve, seeing his first snaps of the season last week. Starting at buck is Sr. Tyler Wortman (2 tackles), with TFr. Sean Fisher and So. Latravis Washington serving as his back-ups. Nebraska has been playing in a lot of nickel and dime packages against their spread offense opponents, which has kept the buck spot off the field for much of the game. They are expected to go more to their base 4-3 defense this week against Virginia Tech.

DB: Nebraska's secondary has been giving up a lot of yards between the 20's, but has played very well inside the red-zone. They will get two injured players back this week, which should provide a nice boost for the unit. Sr. Armando Murillo (14 tackles, 1 INT, 2 PBU) is the starter at LCB, with So. Eric Hagg (17 tackles, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 QBH, 4 PBU) and TFr. Alfonzo Dennard backing him up. Murillo is the most veteran player in the secondary, and has been solid since returning from injury a few weeks ago. Hagg is playing very well, especially considering his youth and inexperience. So. Anthony West (6 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT, 2 PBU) starts at RCB, with So. Prince Amukamara (17 tackles, 1 QBH, 2 PBU) and So. Lance Thorell (8 tackles) serving as his back-ups. West is ready to go this week after missing the New Mexico State game with injury. Like Hagg, Amukamara has performed very well in his first few games of real action. At safety, Jr. Larry Asante (14 tackles, 1 PBU) starts at SS, with Jr. Major Culbert (1 tackle) backing him up. Asante needs to do a better job of looking back for the ball and making plays on it. He gets beat far too often. Jr. Rickey Thenarse and Sr. Matt O'Hanlon (12 tackles, 1 INT, 1 QBH, 3 PBU) share the top spot at FS on the depth chart, and now that Thenarse is back from injury, it should strengthen the defensive backfield. O'Hanlon has been decent, but has given up some big plays, and does not have the athleticism of Thenarse.


Nebraska Special Teams

Nebraska's special teams have been good this season. The return game and kicking game has been solid, but punting, which was expected to be a strength, hasn't been consistent enough. The Huskers rank 77th in net punting (33.44 yd avg), 56th in punt returns (9.86 yd avg), and 27th in kickoff returns (23.91 yd avg).

K: So. Alex Henery (5 for 6, 44 yd lng) is dependable, however, had his first career miss against New Mexico State, from just 35 yards. So. Adi Kunalic handles kickoffs and extra-long field goals because of his outstanding leg strength. Kunalic has one of the strongest legs in the country, and has pushed 10 of 23 kickoffs for touchback this season, with an excellent 67.8 yard average.

P: Sr. Dan Titchener has shown a strong and accurate leg through his career, but hasn't had a strong start to this season. He is averaging 38.6 yards on 9 punts with a long of 54. 2 of his 8 punts have been downed inside the opponents' 20.

KR/PR
: Nebraska's kick return team is made up of So. Niles Paul (6 returns, 31.5 yard avg, 1 TD), Jr. Larry Asante (2 returns, 15.5 yard avg), and TFr. Alfonzo Dennard (2 returns, 10.5 yard avg). At punt returner is So. Niles Paul (4 returns, 13.2 yard avg) and Sr. Nate Swift (3 returns, 5.3 yard avg). Paul is the best threat, and has already returned a kickoff for a touchdown this season.

Coverage: Nebraska's coverage teams appear to be improving through the team's first three games. The kick coverage unit is allowing an average of 25.9 yards on 13 kickoff returns, while the punt return coverage team is allowing an average of just 5.2 yards on 5 punt returns.


Unit Match-Ups

Nebraska's Offense vs. Virginia Tech's Defense

Nebraska's passing game can be exceptional when running on all cylinders, however, really hasn't been a big focal point for the past two games. QB Joe Ganz threw 36 passes in the season opener, but has thrown only 42 passes total in the last two games. This week, up against the best defense he's seen this season, Ganz will likely be called to make a few more plays with his arm. Ganz likes to bootleg out, and buy himself a few extra seconds to make a throw. Often, he makes better throws on the run than he does in the pocket. Top wide-out Nate Swift is likely to be matched up against Virginia Tech star CB Victor Harris, which will be a fun battle to watch. It is likely that the ball will be thrown away from Harris, and a lot of short to intermediate slant passes might prove to be successful. Before North Carolina's starting QB got hurt in the second half, the Tar Heels were able to get some nice gains from those slant patterns against the Hokie defense. Look for some of the more athletic Nebraska receivers such as Menelik Holt or Niles Paul to get passes this way, and try to get yards after catch. North Carolina also had success with simple out routes, something that Nebraska WR Todd Peterson does very well. Virginia Tech's defensive backfield isn't one of the nation's best, but has some solid talent back there that can make plays. The linebackers are fair in coverage, but really excel at not allowing much gained after catch. Ganz likely won't be able to pick apart the Hokies and will have to spread it around to multiple receivers and not lock on, because this defense has a tendency to get interceptions (7). With FS Kam Chancellor at 6'4", he'll have an advantage over most of the Nebraska receivers in any jump ball situation. RB Marlon Lucky saw few catches in his last game, and is dangerous in the open field. He should be a big asset for the Husker offense on Saturday. Virginia Tech is allowing opponents to complete a high 60.8% of their passes, while Nebraska's QB Joe Ganz is completing 64.1% of his attempts this season.

Nebraska's ground game was not very good in the first two games of the season. Despite one of the most talented groups of running backs in the Big XII, the offensive line just wasn't paving way for much room up front. Against New Mexico State, however, the run game was exceptional (330 rushing yards). Of course, the Aggies' run defense is not great, and they play with a speed-over-size defense, so that is likely a big part of why the Huskers ran with such ease. While the Hokies certainly possess the best defense the Huskers have faced this year, they are giving up 4 yards per carry. That is slightly inflated due to allowing 5.6 yards per carry to Georgia Tech. North Carolina averaged just 3.2 yards per carry last week though, against the Hokies. The Virginia Tech linebackers aren't the biggest or the fastest guys around, but do hit hard and tackle well. Expect plenty of 8 man fronts to try to shut the Husker run game down, forcing them to make plays in the air. The Hokies do have a good chance to shut down the Nebraska run game, as the Huskers were less than 150 yards rushing in each of their first two games. The question will be if Nebraska's new found life on the ground against New Mexico State will carry over this week. With a group of running backs that includes Marlon Lucky, Roy Helu Jr., and Quentin Castille, it shouldn't decline too much. However, it all depends on which team will dominate the line of scrimmage. Nebraska QB Joe Ganz has shown himself to be a nice rushing weapon this season, and the occasional called options aren't likely to disappear anytime soon for the offense. The Hokies' defense is allowing their opponents to convert a high 42% of their third downs (80th nationally), and allowing them to score on 70% of their red-zone chances (5 of 7 scores being touchdowns). Three games into their season, Nebraska is converting 41% of their third downs, and after three failed red-zone attempts last week (missed FG, 2 turnover on downs), they have slipped to 80% red-zone offense (10 TDs, 2 FGs). Nebraska's struggle to run well inside the 10 last week is a concern, and must improve.

Sizing up the lines, Nebraska's average offensive lineman is 6'5", 302 lbs, while Virginia Tech's average defensive lineman is 6'2", 274 lbs. Other than 303 lb. tackle Cordarrow Thompson, this isn't a big defensive front. They do a good job of getting into the backfield, however, and will face a talented Nebraska offensive line this week. Nebraska's weakness on the line is at guard and center. How they handle Thompson and John Graves will be critical to the success of the run game. Nebraska is averaging 5.4 yards per carry, while Virginia Tech is giving up 4 yards per carry this season. Offensive tackles Lydon Murtha, Mike Smith, and Jaivorio Burkes will have a good challenge in pass protection this week against Hokie ends Jason Worilds, Orion Martin, and Nekos Brown. The Husker tackles are the strength of the line, and will try to keep Joe Ganz upright against the aggressive Bud Foster coached defense. Nebraska has given up 3 sacks and allowed 22 tackles for loss on the year. Virginia Tech has picked up 7 sacks and 22 tackles for loss through four games this season.


Virginia Tech's Offense vs. Nebraska's Defense

Virginia Tech isn't scaring anyone with their passing game. A young, inexperienced receiving corps coupled with a pair of QB's that have not done much to impress with their arms this season isn't a great combination. QB's Tyrod Taylor and Sean Glennon need to perform at a higher level for the Hokies' offense to succeed, especially when faced against the tougher defenses on the schedule. Glennon will likely only play if Taylor is really struggling or gets injured. Taylor relies much on his legs to make plays, whether it be running the football or throwing on the move. His biggest threat is his escapability and foot speed, while his arm has been lackluster to this point. He has completed 60% of his passes this season, while Nebraska's defense is allowing opponents to complete 56.9% of their passes. Taylor's 60% seems solid until you see that his average completion is for just over 8 yards, and much of those yards come after the catch. He hasn't gone deep too often, but when he does, it hasn't been very pretty, tending to hang in the air a bit too much. The Hokies have had real trouble getting big plays through the air, amassing just 3 passes of over 20 yards in four games. Nebraska's defense has faced some good passing offenses this season, and has given up some big chunks of yards to them. The young secondary is getting better every game, however, and has done an excellent job in the red-zone. It will be interesting to see how much emphasis is placed on the passing game for the Hokies this week. Considering Nebraska's defense is likely to load the box and force Taylor to throw the ball, he will have to be better this week. Statistically, Nebraska has faced better QB's and WR's in their first three games than they will line up against Saturday night. Even though the Husker secondary has been giving up a lot of yards this season, it is hard to imagine Taylor making great strides in just one week to become a lights-out field general. With the Huskers playing better each week, and getting 2 of their top DB's back in the mix this week, they should be able to do a good job of shutting down the passing game of Virginia Tech.

The Hokies' run game is definitely the strength of the offense. Between young and talented RB's Darren Evans and Kenny Lewis, to the mobile QB Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech has relied on the ground game to get the offense going forward. Evans has been particularly impressive as of late, averaging 4.7 yards per carry this season. Evans has shown that he is hard to bring down, and keeps the first down sticks moving with his powerful running style. Taylor has good wheels, but had a mountain of trouble against North Carolina last week, unable to pick up key first downs with his feet. He seems to struggle with knowing when and where to take cuts to get the most out of a carry. Taylor is, however, a great runner once in the open field, and it is important for a defense to keep him in containment. Nebraska has been stingy against the run, and will set the stage for a great battle down in the trenches. The Huskers have faced just one mobile QB this season in San Jose State's Kyle Reed and held him to just 2.1 yards per carry. The Huskers have played a lot of spread offense this season, and have been in a lot of nickel and dime sets. Being able to run more of their base 4-3 this week should allow for better ground game control. Because no one has really tried to grind on the defensive front of Nebraska this year, it is hard to say how successful the Hokies can be on the ground Saturday. Virginia Tech's third down is converting a poor 35%, with a decent 75% red-zone scoring average (8 TDs, 4 FGs) this season. Nebraska's defense is allowing opponents to convert on 38% of their 3rd down attempts, and has allowed a stifling 57% red-zone scoring percentage this season.

Up front, Virginia Tech's average offensive lineman is 6'4", 310 lbs, and Nebraska's average defensive lineman comes in at 6'5", 283 lbs. Virginia Tech hasn't had outstanding offensive line output, but they will present the largest line Nebraska has faced this season. The offensive line will need to consistently open running lanes for the backs if the Hokies are to win this game. Nebraska has been stoic against the run, but hasn't really been tested in that department by their three previous opponents. How the Nebraska front seven reacts to four quarters of a pounding run game will be something to watch. Of course, if the Hokie passing game isn't improved, it might not be too difficult for Nebraska's defense to shut down a one dimensional Virginia Tech offense. Virginia Tech is averaging 4 yards per carry, while Nebraska is allowing just 2.6 yard per carry so far this season. The Hokies have allowed 25 tackles for loss and 9 sacks in four games this season, while Nebraska has accumulated 21 tackles for loss and 9 sacks in three games. There are going to be compelling match-ups on Saturday at nearly every spot on the line, especially the interior line. With Nebraska tackles Ndamukong Suh and Ty Steinkuhler playing so well, the Hokies' Ryan Shuman, Sergio Render, and Nick Marshman will have a battle on their hands. Definitely will be fun to watch these lines face off.


Keys to the Game

For Nebraska to Win:
1.) Bottle up the Hokie run game - force Tyrod Taylor to beat you with his arm.
2.) Avoid penalties - 25 penalties for 204 yards in three games is not satisfactory. The Huskers rank as the 9th most penalized team in the nation.
3.) Shorten 3rd downs - the Husker offense faces too many 3rd and long situations.
4.) Better red-zone offense - Nebraska performed well in the red-zone in their first two games, but was not very good against New Mexico State. Against a team like Virginia Tech, when you get into the red-zone, points have to come from those drives.
5.) Don't allow Tyrod Taylor to run wild - if he breaks containment often, he can put up big numbers on the ground.

For Virginia Tech to Win
:
1.) Develop some sort of passing threat - if Taylor or Glennon can't get the job done through the air, the NU defense can just load up the box and shut down the run game.
2.) Fill the gaps - stuff the Husker run game and see if the defense can force some turnovers in the passing game.
3.) Win the turnover battle - the Hokies are 3-0 when coming out ahead in turnover margin.
4.) Touchdowns over field goals - against a powerful Nebraska offense, if they are clicking, the Hokie offense has to be able to put it in the endzone more often than settling for kicking through the uprights.
5.) Quick start - the Hokies have yet to score any points in the first quarter, while Nebraska has rattled off 35 total first quarter points in their three games.


Position Advantages:

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


Injury Report

Nebraska:
CB - Anthony Blue - knee - out indefinitely
DE - Barry Turner - leg - out for season
FB - Thomas Lawson - appendix - out for game

Virginia Tech:
DE - Bruce Taylor - shoulder - questionable
WR - Xavier Boyce - knee - doubtful


Final Outlook

Saturday will be just the second all-time meeting between Virginia Tech and Nebraska. The last time these two teams met was in the 1996 Orange Bowl. Nebraska wore down the Hokies and rattled off 17 unanswered second half points to get a 41-21 victory. These teams are obviously quite different than their 1996 counterparts. Nebraska is on their 3rd head coach since that game, while Virginia Tech still has Frank Beamer at the helm. Saturday's game will be played a 7:00 P.M. Central time at Lincoln's Memorial Stadium. Nebraska is 28-3 in night games at Memorial Stadium, an impressive statistic.

Virginia Tech enters Saturday night's game with a 3-1 record. After a disappointing loss to East Carolina in the season opener, the Hokies have bounced back nicely, winning three straight. They haven't been pretty wins, but at the end of the day, a win is a win. Last week against North Carolina, Virginia Tech overcame a 17-3 second half deficit to get the win 20-17. The Hokies were helped out by some penalties, a pair of late turnovers and an injury to North Carolina's top QB to make their comeback. Nebraska enters this week's game with a record of 3-0, their best start since 2005. Nebraska hasn't played a great schedule to this point in the season, but a good group of teams that gave them some looks that should help them as the season goes along, especially against the spread offenses. Last week against New Mexico State, the Husker offense seemed to do what they wanted, and other than one turnover on downs inside the red-zone, the starting offense was outstanding. The Nebraska defense was also impressive, holding a talented New Mexico State offense to just 7 points. It would have likely been a shut-out, however, back-up QB Patrick Witt fumbled a snap that was returned by the Aggies to the 3 yard line, giving them an easy score.

It is hard to picture Virginia Tech's air attack suddenly coming to life Saturday night in Lincoln after the abysmal past four games. Certainly, Nebraska does not rank among the nation's best secondaries, but they have been playing against pass-happy spread offenses that have put up a lot of yards, but not a lot of points. QB Tyrod Taylor doesn't have the arm to pick apart a defense at this stage in his career, and will predominantly throw short to medium passes, including a number of screens to get something going. The Hokies have a very green group of receivers and no real defined playmaking star. The Husker secondary looks as though they are improving week-to-week, and have already shut down better receivers than they will see this week. This should give them confidence for Saturday night's game, and after their 2 interception performance against New Mexico State's Chase Holbrook last week, they should be. Nebraska likely saw that you can do a good job against the Hokies passing game with simple umbrella coverage. If they keep everything in front of them, there shouldn't be much of a threat posed here. Since it isn't likely the Hokies will be able to air it out against the Huskers, Virginia Tech will again hope their running game can lead them to a victory. Nebraska has the best rush defense that the Hokies have been up against this season, and Virginia Tech is the best rushing team the Huskers have seen this season. While the Huskers had some issues tackling against San Jose State, they seemed to have remedied the situation against New Mexico State. Virginia Tech will have to hope RB's Darren Evans and Kenny Lewis Jr. can find room behind the offensive line, and that Tyrod Taylor can get it done with his feet as well, or it will be very difficult to score points.

Nebraska's starters were pulled in the third quarter of the NMSU game with a 35-0 score to get the reserves playing time. There is no doubt that score would have gotten to ugly proportions had the starting line-up remained in the game. QB Joe Ganz has an accurate arm, and can make great throws from the pocket or on the run. There is a good mix of receivers to throw the ball to, and they will match up against two great defensive backs in Kam Chancellor and Victor Harris. Ganz should be able to have a solid day through the air, given that Nebraska's receiving corps is deeper than Virginia Tech's defensive backfield. However, if the Huskers want to get into that top 25 and stay there, they have to consistently run the ball. That all starts up front, and now that the offensive line is back to being healthy, they should start living up to their pre-season hype. With the great running backs that Nebraska has, it will be difficult to stop them, if there is an adequate push up front. Virginia Tech's defenses are always aggressive, strives to get to the QB and force turnovers. That is how they are winning games right now and that plan won't stop this week. Because of the inconsistencies on the Nebraska offensive line, the Hokies' defense could have some success slowing down the Husker run game and make Nebraska one-dimensional.

Virginia Tech is having tremendous difficulties putting the ball in the endzone, and there is no reason to believe that trend will break this weekend. The best chance the Hokies will have against Nebraska is to shut down the run game and hope Joe Ganz makes mistakes to give the Tyrod Taylor and the Virginia Tech offense short fields to work with. The best match-ups to watch all night will be up front on both sides of the ball. Whichever team is able to do a better job of shutting down the opposing team's run game will have a great chance to win this football game. Nebraska has one major advantage over Virginia Tech though, in that they are able to have a balanced attack, and can burn opponents with big plays from the running and passing games. At the end of the night, Virginia Tech won't be able to muster enough points to beat the Husker at night in Lincoln. Nebraska should beat the Hokies by somewhere between 7 and 14 points.


Virginia Tech - 13
Nebraska - 24

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