Finally!

It's finally here: Game time in Lincoln, NE. It seemed as Niles Paul flexed his biceps in the end zone against Arizona and Ndamukong Suh did the same walking off of the field that I just wanted Saturday against Western Kentucky to get here.

Here is a confession: I am a football junkie, but I know that there are others out there like me who think the same way. I don't get into NFL preseason all that much, but when the first high school games were on ESPN I was watching and actually attended a local game.

That being said, I was still waiting for this week and this weekend. Last night helped to curb my appetite, but I am waiting for Saturday night – Lincoln - the Huskers and getting their 2011 season underway.

There are high hopes pinned to this year's group of Huskers. A preseason top 10 rating, North Division picks in the Big 12, Big 12 title hopes and, yes I am going to say it, talk about being National Championship contenders.

Let's take this one step at a time, one game at a time.

The first step will be this Saturday night against Western Kentucky as the Huskers look to get things off on a right foot. Following a similar format as I did last year, I will come up with three storylines, three players or positions to look for and my prediction.

Three storylines:

1. Who will be the starting QB for Nebraska? This question is eating a lot of people, but it isn't me. In my article earlier this week I explained that there isn't a quarterback controversy in Lincoln. The reason that it's not a controversy is first, because all of the quarterbacks could potentially start at Nebraska this season and second, I believe that all three quarterbacks will be on the field at some point for Nebraska this year. It's going to be a multi-headed animal/position that fans and defenses alike are going to have to see who is under center.

2. Who will the starting linebackers be? Now, if there is a position that I am worried about it might be linebacker. This position group has been decimated by injuries after losing Sean Fisher for the season during the fall camp and now losing the other projected starter with Fisher, Will Compton, to an injury for an extended period of time. Players that I would look for at the linebacker position tomorrow are Alonzo Whaley who is out of the three players I am going to list has the most experience as the other two. The other two players I would look for are Eric Martin who made a name for himself last year as a special team wrecking ball and I would look for junior college transfer Lavonte David. Athletically, this is going to be a good group to see what they can do. Their lack of experience is a concern though.

3. Can Nebraska wreck the Hilltopper streak? I was reading the early press release from Western Kentucky this week when a headline of "95 and Counting" caught my eye. The Hilltoppers have a pretty impressive streak stemming back to September 14, 1992 when the Hilltoppers were last shut out by Western Illinois. Nebraska has a need to get things going in the right direction offensively early in the non-conference games, but this game could be a big defensive statement game and wrecking this streak is something to shoot at. As a former defensive guy myself, I would have my eye on it too.

Three players to watch:

1. Zac Lee/Cody Green/Taylor Martinez at quarterback: DUH! It wouldn't be fair for me to put each guy in their own spot in my three players to watch so I am doing this one by position. As said before, I don't care who the starter is you just want to see good play from the position. Last year the position was a liability of sorts and Nebraska at times got away from really putting the ball in the quarterback's hands to make plays as a way of limiting mistakes and turnovers. The quarterback position evolved in the Holiday Bowl where Lee ran a little more, a little harder and that offense with a combination of the quarterback running, solid running game, long and intermediate routes as well as the wildcat was as multiple as it came. The quarterback this year is going to be more about making plays as opposed to limiting mistakes and turnovers.

2. Quincy Enunwa: There aren't many players that will be on the field for Nebraska that I will be looking forward to seeing over watching Enunwa. Enunwa has been one of a few picks that I made to see the field this year. From all indications, Enunwa is going to be in that rotation of players that plays. I remember getting the call from our West Coast recruiting analyst about Enunwa when he heard Nebraska offered. The first things that he said to me was totally underrated, plays in an offense that doesn't throw the ball a lot and also mentioned a Scout.com combine where Enunwa was at. He said that Enunwa ran very, very well and tested well, but you wouldn't be able to tell looking just at his numbers, but the weather was bad and everyone's numbers were down a bit. From those words alone, after watching Enunwa's film and also seeing the need for playmaking help and consistency at the wide receiver position opens the door for someone to walk through it. Enunwa, in my eye, was going to be that guy.

3. Lavonte David: David, along with Enunwa, had some of the best film of the recruits from the 2010 class that I saw. David is athletic. David is explosive. David reminds me of the days when the defenses under Charlie McBride had players like Ed Stewart, Terrell Farley and Randy Stella running around and tearing things up. David is that kind of guy. With injuries like Nebraska has had to endure and will endure all season at the linebacker position to Fisher and for an extended period of time to Compton there is a huge need by Nebraska for a David to step up and be the man. From listening to the coaches and players in their interviews it's clear that David has done some things very well in fall camp and that should have everyone looking for his number on the field for Nebraska on Saturday.

So, I feel compelled to make to predictions for Saturday. The first will be who I think will be the starting quarterback and the second will be the score of the game. That being said, I think that the Hilltoppers are trying to figure things out on offense and while Nebraska isn't totally sure what to prepare for there is little doubt that under a new head coach and in a new offensive system that they are going to struggle a bit. I think that Nebraska can take advantage of this on the defensive side of the ball and get some turnovers. I think because Nebraska is going to be fired up at home, a new offensive system for Western Kentucky and a chance to end a streak of games where they have not been shut out at since ‘95.

That being said, Nebraska is going to want to explode on offense and on special teams. What Nebraska doesn't want to do this season is getting into a pattern of taking field goals as an acceptable way to end a drive in the rezone. Nebraska needs to score touchdowns. Had Nebraska scored touchdowns in games against Virginia Tech, Iowa State and Texas last year then who knows. On special teams Nebraska does want to be efficient when it comes to kicking field goals, but they also want to make plays in the return game and score points. Nebraska's special teams seem to really have improved under time with Bo Pelini.

Getting to the quarterback position, I have seen the highlight films of the spring game and I really didn't like what I saw. There was some definite inexperience between Green and Martinez as well as some impatience from both guys. It was clear that both guys weren't the most accurate of passers, but there were some passes that gave you glimpses into how good they could be. In particular, the touchdown pass to the fullback by Martinez. It was on the money and he spins the ball real, real well. That being said, I thought that the job was Lee's to lose this fall. That was until all of this hush-hush, I am not naming a starter and no one is talking about anyone separating. My thought about this is if it was Lee it wouldn't be a big deal to announce it a month ago, a week ago or today. Because of that, I feel that the starting quarterback on Saturday will not be Lee. I would say it's a coin flip between Green and Lee, but I think that through all of the talk, the rumors that I am predicting Taylor Martinez to be the starter on Saturday.

Now to the score, to me being a former defensive guy I would rather see a shutout at 28-0 then a game that is 56-28. I would rather the defense shuts people out and the offense doesn't have to not only score points to win the game, but score style points. Style points are for teams that don't have dominant defenses. Nebraska in the 90s had the offense to win championships, but without that defense those championships might not have been possible. That's why I am predicting a shutout and a cover by the Cornhuskers this weekend as I take Nebraska to win their season opener for 2010 over Western Kentucky, 41-0.


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