Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Nebraska Offense Preview

Projected Lineup vs. USC (click here for full depth chart)
Players in Bold, ALL CAPS are returning starters

WR(X): #87 NATE SWIFT, Jr. - and - #16 Maurice Purify, Sr.
LT: #77 Carl Nicks, Sr.
LG: #62 Andy Christensen, Jr.
RG: #70 MATT SLAUSON, Jr. - and - #61 MIKE HUFF, Jr.
RT: #76 Lydon Murtha, Jr.
H-Back: #85 J.B. PHILLIPS, Sr.
FB: #48 Andy Sand, Sr.
QB: #9 Sam Keller, Sr.

The first thing that jumps out at me when analyzing Nebraska's depth chart is the experience returning across the board offensively, but especially at the skill positions. QB Sam Keller and FB Andy Sand, although new to the starting lineup, are seniors and should be very capable starters. Keller, who transfered from Arizona State last year, does have big-time game experience against the Trojans under his belt, so you can count him as a returning starter too. Keller engineered a near upset of #1 USC in 2005, as he threw for 347 yards and 2 TD's in the desert that day, but he also threw 5 INT's and helped the Sun Devils squander an 18 point halftime lead and eventually lose 38-28. Keller will be looking for redemption though, and he'll once again have some very talented playmakers to get the ball to on Saturday, led by tailback Marlon Lucky (54 carries, 323 yards, 4 TDs) who has shown some explosiveness in the first two games. The key for the Trojans will definitely be to stop #5 and minimize Nebraska's play action passing game. The WR's are big (Purify 6'4", Swift 6'2", Nunn 6'0") and can make some plays if the defense starts to creep up against the run. Expect the Trojans to try and rattle the mistake prone Keller with multiple looks and different coverages. Keller has completed only 57.6 % of his passes and has thrown 3 INT's compared to just 2 TD's. The key for Nebraska will be to get out to early lead, and not put pressure on Keller to win the game from behind. They want to keep the game in the hands of their gamebreaking RB Marlon Lucky...

The offensive line, which has new starters at left guard and both tackle spots, is an area that I think Coach Carroll can exploit. The Trojans have a veteran defensive line that should be fresh and ready to go following the bye week. The Nebraska offensive line is still relatively unproven, but seems to have held up nicely in first two games. The Huskers' line has yet to allow a sack on Keller's 66 pass attempts and have paved the way for 528 yards on 104 carries (5.1 avg) in the running game. This is not good news for the Trojans who have had all sorts of trouble sacking the quarterback and creating turnovers lately, but the Huskers won't be blocking the Nevada Wolfpack this weekend. Wake Forest was able to slow down the Huskers ground game a bit, holding them to 115 yards rushing after Nevada gave up 413 on the ground in the opener. Nebraska Coach Bill Callahan has really emphasized the run the last couple of years, so I expect them to try and be physical with the Trojans and set the tone early with the running game. The Huskers ran the ball 36 times for a total of 68 yards against USC last season, and ran the ball 104 times in the first two games, so for them to come out and spread us out and throw it 60 times like Hawaii would be a pretty drastic change in game plan for Callahan. Whatever the case, Big Rey have will have his unit ready.

Look for the Huskers' Defense preview Thursday evening.

Fight On!

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