Martinez is averaging a whopping 10.8 yards per carry, and is capable of taking one defensive mistake to the house. NFL Scouts say that somebody with ideal quickness and acceleration runs a shuttle 0.4 seconds faster than their 40 time. In the case of Martinez, coming out of high school, he clocked an impressive 4.50 40 … and an astounding 3.96 shuttle. It's that acceleration that makes him so tough to stop. The linebackers will have to avoid getting swallowed up by a good line and getting caught up in the wash. They'll also have to tackle well once they get there.
This week, the Longhorns welcome back Davis, the offense's biggest playmaker at wide receiver. Unfortunately, Davis has a tough matchup, even for a seasoned receiver. Amukamara is on pace to be the first cornerback drafted in the next NFL Draft, while Dennard is another shutdown guy. If Texas can't run the ball, they'll need guys like Davis to get open on third-and-long, and fast, before the pass rush arrives.
Remember the play where Martinez split the K-State safeties on his way to a long touchdown? That play had everyone — announcers included — raving about Martinez's acceleration. But equally impressive on the play was the way that several Nebraska linemen set up the run with impressive athleticism of their own, getting to the second level and bagging linebackers and defensive backs. Randall and Okafor need to be hard to handle in this one, penetrating and not allowing the Nebraska linemen to get to the next level.
Texas linemen David Snow, Mason Walters and Michael Huey can breathe somewhat easily: Ndamukong Suh is gone. But Crick and Steinkuhler have also been playing at a high level, with Crick facing most of the double teams and Steinkuhler leading the team in sacks with 3.5. Nebraska isn't fantastic off the edges, meaning Texas will need to keep the interior pass rush away from Garrett Gilbert. If the Longhorns can win that matchup in the running game, Texas has a great chance to move the ball.
David has been all over the place this year, making 60 tackles. He'll face a pair of running backs who have seemed to improve every week this season in Whittaker and Monroe. Monroe is the big-play threat, and should get more touches than he has been. If Monroe can outrun David and get to the second level, he's always a threat to go the distance. Whittaker isn't quite the dynamo that Monroe is, but he's more consistent and can catch the ball out of the backfield. Together, they'll create some challenges for David, who played Daniel Thomas extremely well.
Texas is minus-5 in turnover margin this year, with several coming in key spots in losses to UCLA and Oklahoma, as well as a close game with Texas Tech. Nebraska is considerably better, currently standing at plus-3 on the year. At the same time, Nebraska's numbers are based largely on good fortune. Martinez's touchdown-to-interception ratio is a less-than-stellar 3-3, while the Cornhuskers have fumbled the ball 18 times, or an average of three times per game. Luckily, Nebraska has recovered 11 of those. In a game where a few big plays could turn it, the team that limits its mistakes has a great chance to win.
The Longhorns have had two weeks to prepare for this game, and two weeks to hear about how no Mack Brown Texas team has ever lost three regular season games in a row. Motivation shouldn't be a question for Nebraska either, following last year's game and the fact that Texas is one of the 'Huskers biggest remaining challenges to a potential National Title Game appearance. Both defenses are talented and possess the speed and ability to shut down the other's offense. But Nebraska's offense has shown much more than the Texas offense, and the 'Husker special teams have been better as well. That will be the difference, though like most Texas-Nebraska games, expect this one to be close.