The Baylor game had significance anyway, but the Huskers are trying to get back into the race for the North. There are going to be a lot of things to look for tomorrow, mostly in the personnel, but here is my list of things that I will be looking for in the game tomorrow:
1. Who will be under center to start? - This is like the million dollar question heading into the Baylor game for Nebraska. Will it be Zac Lee or Cody Green? Rumors surround each. There are positives and negatives for each. Personally, I think that Lee will get the start and be on a short leash…a very short leash.
2. Who will be running the ball? - This is the one here that really has me up in arms. It's apparent to all that the injury to Roy Helu is more serious than what has ever been released. Dontrayevous Robinson seems to be a logical answer here with some heavy sets (multiple tight ends) running right at a not very good Baylor rush defense. The answer to #1 could affect this one though because Lee hasn't been effective in the zone read play.
3. Don't turn the ball over - Last week is as bad as I have seen it in a while. Nebraska actually had more turnovers than they did points. More than that, three fumbles inside the six yard line going in for a score. This is one of the reasons I believe Lee starts this weekend because of the points left on the field and I expect there to be a game plan geared more around eating up clock, longer drives and winning on the ground.
4. Who will be catching the passes - I know, it seems a little ridiculous that there are this many questions at the skill positions at Nebraska, but it is what it is. Chris Brooks obviously won't be on the field, but I am looking for some long doses of Khiry Cooper, Tim Marlowe along with Niles Paul, who has a lot to prove himself, with some Brandon Kinnie in there. I don't think that you will see a lot of 3 wide receiver sets though.
5. No breakdowns in the secondary - Each of the last two weeks there have been obvious breakdowns in the secondary. Baylor is a much different team without Robert Griffin, but will still take their shots down the field against any opponent. Nebraska has to be ready for those shots. More importantly, they need the defense that has been there week after week to step up and play big once again.
6. Continued improvement from the offensive line - Last week I thought that the offensive line, as a whole, played considerably better. There weren't back breaking penalties in critical parts of the football game. More than that, it seemed that they really played as a unit. You really want to see another week of playing at least at that level that leads to consistency and maybe another step forward. It's clear that a lot of players along the offensive front are dealing with nagging injuries of their own.
7. Execute - It was the theme last week and this week it's a little overshadowed by all of the personnel issues that failed to execute last week and to some extent the week before. Nebraska has finally had to lay down the law and take away playing time from players that weren't performing how they should have been. It's a jagged little pill for those players to swallow, but when players do get too comfortable there will be some level of mental errors that will occur do to that.
8. Need some turnovers in Nebraska's favor - In the past two weeks Nebraska hasn't gotten a single turnover to go their way. In fact, Nebraska has been very much on the other side of that as well. Nebraska is -10 the past two games with one of those turnovers going back for a touchdown against Texas Tech while turning the ball over eight times against Iowa State. Nebraska was +1 against Missouri, +3 against UL-L, -2 against VT, +1 against Arkansas State and +2 against FAU. Simply put, Nebraska hasn't won win they turn the ball over more than the other team.
9. Get the tight end involved - I am in week three of the "when will the tight end get the ball" watch. It's pretty clear that players like Mike McNeil, Dreu Young and others are the best receivers that Nebraska has to offer in terms of consistency. Nebraska needs to get creative in how to get them involved this game if they want to have any kind of passing game on Saturday. I expect that there will be some nice numbers from the players at the tight end position.
10. Get a "W" - This game before the season, meaning with Robert Griffin, was a game that I thought that Nebraska not only gets pushed on, but potentially loses. Nebraska hasn't traveled to Waco and played well in the past couple of visits because of a slow starting offense. This is a weekend though that Nebraska just needs to play through, get some confidence back from and get some momentum going for the rest of the year. A win is a must this weekend. Yes, this weekend is a must win for Nebraska!
It's a pretty good guess that this game won't be high scoring. Nebraska's defense is just too stout and at the same time Nebraska's offense is really struggling. That being said 24 points probably wins the game on Saturday. Nebraska is going to have to find what they are doing well on offense and just grind.
While finding out what they can do well will be the deciding factor with me; the X factor is can Nebraska find something that they will be able to do effectively, on the road and not hurt their own team in the process? The defense has had to keep Nebraska in the game all season and does so again on Saturday getting a crucial win on the road, 24-14.