Nebraska looks to get their second win in the North and in the conference this weekend as well as trying to establish the identity of the offense and the team going forward. It's not all that unfamiliar of territory if you look back to last year after the Missouri game and how Nebraska rallied the next week to almost knock off Texas Tech.
This week it's not Texas Tech. It's also not on the road. But, it's every bit as critical for the Nebraska team and staff to get going in the right direction to keep marching toward a Big 12 North crown and a chance to play in the Big 12 Championship. Here are the things that I will be looking for this weekend:
1. Back to basics - After a week where Nebraska really struggled to find an identity against Texas Tech, Nebraska needs to get back on the field and score points. Expect a lot of different, double tight end looks that Nebraska will try and run behind. What will be interesting here is who will be carrying the ball. I also think Nebraska needs to get the tight end involved in the passing game a little more.
2. How much Helu is too much Helu? - I am really wondering if a week, or even two, of sitting out might give Roy Helu and his shoulder (and I am sure other bumps and bruises) a chance to heal. Yes, you have to battle through injuries during the season, but Nebraska is already down Rex Burkhead who is out with a foot injury and lost their #2 RB, Quentin Castille, before the season even started. Nebraska needs Helu to get healthy
3. More than just about "game speed" - Last week was a huge missed opportunity for Nebraska to really get Dontrayevous Robinson some game snaps. Yes, there is a need to acclimate people because sometimes OJT (on the job training) can result in regression. However, there aren't a lot of other possibilities for Nebraska at the running back position and Nebraska needs Robinson to get up to speed quickly. Robinson should get some carries this weekend.
4. This game will be about defense - Yes, Nebraska's defense looked very good last weekend and held Texas Tech to just over 300 total yards. Nebraska this weekend is going to need to rely on that defense to keep Iowa State and their scoring to a minimum as well as try and get some turnovers to set up the offense. Look for the D-Line to once again play big, up front.
5. Gotta go with Lee - I have heard the arguments about handing over the starting quarterback duties to Cody Green from here on out. The arguments stem from he gives the best chance to win to being the future. Well, if you believe that Green is the best option and relegate Lee to backup duties now what happens to Lee's confidence then? Nebraska's backup quarterback picture, beyond Lee and Green anyway, is very bleak. Give Lee another shot.
6. Stop the run - ISU is #1 in the Big 12 in rushing offense (almost 214 yards per contest) and there is reason to believe that Austen Arnaud is struggling with an injury. If Nebraska can make ISU one-dimensional so they have to throw the ball and make Arnaud fight through the injury as well as do something he isn't great at (11th in passing offense with 195 yards per contest) then Nebraska puts themselves in the driver's seat in this game.
7. Get better at the two "Ps" - Penalties and punting are plaguing this team right now. Nebraska is averaging less than 34 yards per punt and is averaging close to 75 yards per game in penalties. The lack of a good punting game never swings the field advantage in Nebraska's favor when they need it to. The penalties that Nebraska has had, particularly any penalties dealing with the offensive line, have stalled and flat out killed drives. Nebraska needs to work on getting better in these two areas.
8. Execution - It's been the word that Bo Pelini has been saying from the post-game press conference from Texas Tech to the post-practice interview on Thursday. Nebraska wants to execute what they need to do on every play in every area. That means effort and that means whistle to whistle. Effort was clearly doubted last week. Expect this team this weekend to have a fire under them.
9. Get back some confidence - Sure, people are down on Zac Lee. It comes with being the quarterback. However, there isn't just one thing, person or position that is at fault here when it comes to this team. Nebraska needs to get to running plays on offense that they can get momentum going with, score points with and ultimately gain confidence in for the rest of the games on the schedule. There are better defenses to play against than ISU on the schedule.
10. Get the "W" - Nebraska needs to get a "W" this weekend based on what their coaches have stressed to them all week to get everyone on the same page. Nebraska will want to see improvement in every area -- penalties, punting, execution, etc. -- and as they do that they will get back on the right track for this week and beyond. This is also a Big 12 North game and these can never be taken too lightly.
This will not be an easy game for Nebraska because of the fact that Iowa State is going to come out and run the ball right down Nebraska's throat. Thankfully, for Nebraska, Nebraska is only allowing about 96 yards per game on the ground, or around 120 less than what Iowa State is averaging. Something has to give.
If that something that has to give is Nebraska's defense then it could be a long day. The fact of the matter is, Iowa State's strengths play right into Nebraska's. It's at home. Nebraska will have a fire lit under them trying to close it out not just with relative ease, but by doing things right not hurting themselves at the same time. Huskers win, 35 – 14.