Closer isn't good, but it's not as bad as looking for an identity. Nebraska is sorting things out. They have scrapped a lot of the spreading things out and gone "elementary" with multiple tight end and running back sets. There was also something about the return of Rex Burkhead to the Nebraska offense last week that was noticeable.
Nebraska plays their last regular season game on Friday at Boulder. Here are the things that I will be looking for in the game:
1. Win the battle of turnovers - I sound like a broken record, but Nebraska needs to be plus in the turnover margin to win on Friday. Bottom line when Nebraska hasn't been plus in turnovers they lose. Turnovers have been the equalizer for some of Nebraska's opponents and have either kept them in the game or allowed them to win.
2. Contain and pressure -Tyler Hansen has given Colorado has given the Buffaloes a little bit of a spark. He's elusive, moves around a lot and creates. Todd Reesing gave Nebraska some fits and Nebraska adjusted their defense to contain. It seems like Nebraska needs to funnel Hansen inside, collapse the pocket around him and then get him up the middle.
3. Stay focused - There is a lot that can potentially distract Nebraska in Boulder on Friday. It's an unfriendly environment for the players and fans of Nebraska. More than that, after winning the Big 12 North there is another game next week against Texas. Nebraska needs remember one game at a time.
4. Get advantage early – Colorado doesn't have a lot to play for beyond just beating Nebraska to beat Nebraska. This is "their bowl game" and it's their game of the season. It's a big deal, every year, for Colorado when they beat Nebraska. Nebraska needs to get Colorado in a situation when they are trying to trying to force the issue.
5. Key matchup: NU OL and CU's DL - I have seen Colorado play a number of times this season on TV and it seems that they have had OL struggles all season long. Moving players around. Players not being 100% healthy. Etc. Nebraska is as dominant up-front as anyone in the nation. Nebraska needs to get really physical and push these guys around. Colorado is 117th in sacks allowed.
6. Keep throwing downfield - Nebraska has done themselves their biggest favor in throwing the ball downfield. Defenses just didn't fear it for a while because Nebraska wouldn't do it. Now, those defenses have to account for it. Nebraska will have a chance to really test Colorado who seems to be weakest to the middle of their secondary.
7. Marking Markques Simas - Nebraska has faced some dangerous receivers in the past few games and done a pretty good job corralling them. Brandon Banks had only 48 yards. Dezmon Briscoe did score a touchdown but was held to just four catches and 77 yards. Key players in this effort have been guys like Eric Hagg and Alfonzo Dennard. Dennard's health might still be some concern. Nebraska needs to stop Simas from having a big night.
8. Get in a rhythm - Bo Pelini said it over and over again on his show this past week that the offense got into a rhythm. I think that Rex Burkhead had a lot to do with this. He might be the best pass blocking running back on the team, but more than that he can just take the pressure off Nebraska on offense because he's so dynamic and the coaches obviously trust him.
9. Make the big play - Colorado is a team with a fair amount of issues. They are also 118th in penalties and 117th in penalty yards. They are 12th in the conference in net punting and 10th in turnover margin. Colorado is also 9th in total defense in the conference allowing 376 yards per game. There are just so many things when looking at their stats that indicate they are not complete, not sound and are susceptible.
10. Stay with the basics - I said hold KSU to 150 rushing and Nebraska held them to 140. My numbers this week are 25 and 10. Those numbers refer to rushing attempts. I would really like to see Helu get 25 rushing attempts and Burkhead get 10. There is little doubt that Colorado is going to come out and try to take away the run from Nebraska. Nebraska needs to impose their will.
Folsom Field in November for Nebraska hasn't been the friendliest of places. Nebraska is just .500 since 2001. The last time Nebraska was there, they went into the locker room at halftime up 35-24 and lost 65-51 and allowed 20 points in the 3rd quarter and 21 points in the 4th quarter.
This year's defense isn't the defense of 2007. Not even close. Nebraska allowed 65 that game against Colorado in 2007 and has only allowed 113 points this year in 11 games. This defense is also opportunistic. They create opportunities for Nebraska's offense. They also have that ability to help out in flipping the field for the special teams.
While Nebraska and Colorado in November is never about record, never about ranking and never about how things have gone so far this season; there is too much going in Nebraska's favor and against Colorado in this game to not think that Nebraska wins this game. Huskers get win #9, 24-10.