After a disappointing loss last week at Minnesota, Nebraska will try to bounce back on Saturday against Northwestern.
Both teams are desperate for a win to keep their seasons alive. After starting out 4-0 and getting up to No. 16 in the rankings, the Wildcats have lost four straight games. As things get closer to kickoff here are Saturday's keys to a Husker victory. Nebraska is currently a 7 point favorite over Northwestern.
The biggest thing with Nebraska on both sides of the ball is momentum. When the Huskers start fast on offense and defense they tend to play well. When the opponent shows any form of resilience like UCLA and Minnesota did they have a hard time.
It will be very important for Nebraska to come out of the gates and establish some positive momentum, especially after last week's performance at Minnesota.
Tackle in space
It's really not any secret Northwestern is going to do their best to confuse Nebraska's defense before the snap and force them to tackle in space.
This will be one of the biggest keys to the game, especially on early downs. NU cannot let the Wildcats keep them off-balanced. They also have to be ready for their no-huddle offense.
Stay on schedule
Too many times last week Minnesota picked up 6 to 8 yards on first down and put Nebraska's defense behind the sticks. For the Husker defense to be successful they need to stay on schedule.
Even for the offense that's been a problem at times this year. With Tommy Armstrong starting at quarterback Nebraska needs to give him as much support as possible so Northwestern's defense doesn't know what's coming. If NU can give Armstrong some early down yardage that will go a long way in his overall success.
Nebraska was able to get a few explosive plays from Ameer Abdullah last week, but they need more. Nebraska's no-huddle offense has its most success when they get big plays in the running game.
However, with Northwestern's cover four defense there won't be a lot of big play opportunities. The Wildcats run a "bend but don't break" scheme that keeps everything in front of them and make it hard to get big plays.
The 'want to' factor
Finally, the biggest thing today to watch is "the want to" factor. How bad does Nebraska want this? How bad do they want to prove the doubters wrong?
There are a lot of people betting against this team after last week. How will NU respond to that and how did they respond in practice this week. This will ultimately be the biggest thing to watch today.
Callahan's weekly predictions
This is a very hard game to predict. Both teams are desperate for a win and really need a win to keep their season alive. I don't think Northwestern can run at Nebraska in a physical nature like Minnesota did last week. With this game being in Lincoln, I'll take the Huskers, but they won't cover the 7 point spread.
Nebraska 34 Northwestern 30
Wisconsin 31 Iowa 23
Michigan 23 Michigan State 21
Indiana 37 Minnesota 30
Penn State 30 Illinois 13
Florida State 45 Miami 30
Season Record: 30-12 overall; 25-17 vs. points