Each week, Huskeronline.com will breakdown the three key match-ups heading into Saturday's game. This week we break down three match-ups that should play a big role in determining Nebraska's success tonight against No. 4 Missouri.
Nebraska's secondary vs. Missouri's passing game
Simply put, this match-up will determine the outcome of tonight's game. If the Huskers can't find a way to at least somewhat contain the likes of quarterback Chase Daniel, receiver [/db]Jeremy Maclin[/db] and tight end Chase Coffman, the Tigers should be in for big night offensively.
Nebraska has had some issues in coverage, particularly mental breakdowns in the secondary that lead to big plays for opponents. For the Huskers to have any chance at containing the nation's best passing attack, they're going to have to play a near perfect game tonight. That means no mental errors and playing sound assignment football in coverage.
With guys like Maclin and Coffman, among several others, at Daniel's disposal, any mistake by NU will be exposed in the way of big plays through the air.
Nebraska's running game vs. Missouri's defensive line
This match-up has become somewhat of a theme for Nebraska this season, but it's never been more apparent than this week. For the Huskers, their best defense tonight could very well their offense.
By establishing a consistent running game, the Huskers will be able to put together lengthy drives and eat up chunks of clock, thus keeping the Tigers' offense off the field. If Daniel is on the sideline, he can't throw touchdown passes.
However, this could be easier said than done, as Nebraska has yet to show any sort of consistency running the football this season. Last week against Virginia Tech, the Huskers managed just 55 rushing yards, as sophomore Roy Helu finished with a team-high 21 yards on only four carries
Nebraska's defensive line vs. Missouri's offensive line
Nothing would help Nebraska's secondary more, other than having the offense keep them off the field, than the defensive line getting pressure on Daniel. If the Huskers can get any sort of push from it's front four, it will open up the linebackers and safeties to focus strictly on coverage, thus limiting the space Daniel has to work with.
The problem here, however, is that Daniel has been essentially untouched all season. With just two sacks allowed on the year, Missouri's offensive line gives its quarterback tons of time in the pocket, which Daniel uses to pick apart opposing defenses. The Tigers' o-line lines up in wider splits than most teams, meaning the linemen are spaced further apart. By doing this, it forces defensive linemen to be more mindful of their gap assignments and limits their ability to charge ahead with a pass rush.
Also keeping Daniel's jersey clean is the fact that he lines up a couple yards further back in the shotgun formation than most quarterbacks. This buys him even more time in the packet, as defenses obviously have to make up more ground to get to him. Add that to the fact that Daniel is exceptional at getting the passes off quickly, it makes sacking him an extremely difficult task.