November 28, 2008

Match-up watch: Nebraska vs. Colorado

Each week, HuskersIllustrated.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 today against Colorado.


Nebraska's seniors vs. Colorado's bowl hopes


There will be plenty of motivation for both Nebraska and Colorado. The question will be who can channel it the best towards getting an important victory. For Nebraska, today will be the final game in Memorial Stadium for its 21 seniors, and the Huskers would want for nothing else but to send them out with a victory or a Big 12 rival.


Not only that, but the outcome of today's game could have an impact on what bowl game the Huskers end up in, as a win could have them playing their season finale on New Year's for just the second time since 2001.


For the Buffaloes, they need a win just to make it to a bowl game. At 5-6, CU finds itself in the same position Nebraska was in at this point last year. After keeping the Huskers out of the postseason with a 65-51 win, you can bet there is nothing NU would rather do more than return to favor this season.


Joe Ganz vs. Colorado's secondary


Along exacting getting a win in his final home game and exacting revenge on the Buffaloes, Ganz will play a big role in today's outcome by attacking Colorado's secondary and stretching the field to make big plays in the passing game.


The Buffaloes are a team that doesn't blitz much, instead opting to sit back in zone coverages and wait for quarterbacks to make mistakes. Ganz had been known to force passes at times earlier this season, but lately has done a good job at not forcing throws and making good decisions with the football. The Buffs have just 22 sacks on the season, meaning Ganz should be able to settle in in the pocket and make smart, effective throws.


Another benefit of facing a less-aggressive defense should be the ability to drop back farther and let receivers get downfield for some deep passes. The Buffaloes have been struggled with allowing big pass plays, and Nebraska has been able to break a few big ones in the passing game in recent weeks. Today could be a good opportunity to take some shots.


Nebraska's offensive line v. Colorado's defensive line


More so than anything else, this is the match-up that could dictate today's outcome. Nebraska has shown that it's one of the better rushing teams in the Big 12 Conference, and Colorado has shown it can't stop anyone from running the football.


On one hand, the Huskers are averaging 173.1 rushing yards per game, and are coming off their best rushing performance of the season two weeks ago against Kansas State. Sophomore Roy Helu has emerged as the most dangerous threat in NU's backfield, but senior Marlon Lucky has been dangerous when healthy and sophomore Quentin Castille provides a nice contrast with his aggressive running style.


On the other hand, Colorado has been dismal against the run, allowing its opponents to gain 165.2 yards per game on the ground and an average of 4.5 yards per carry. If the Buffaloes can't find a way to slow down Nebraska's running game from the very beginning, you can pretty much chalk this one up as a victory for the Huskers.

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