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November 21, 2009

Match-up watch: Nebraska vs. Kansas State

NU Run Offense vs KSU Run Defense
With the help of the incorporation of the option and a more power running based offense the past two weeks, Nebraska's running game has started to get back on track. In wins over Oklahoma and Kansas, the Huskers have rushed for an average of 177.5 rushing yards per game.

Along with the new schemes, NU has also been helped out by getting junior running back Roy Helu healthier and back to his normal self the past two weeks. After struggling with an injured shoulder since the Huskers' Big 12 Conference opener against Missouri, Helu rushed for 294 yard the past two weeks.

Kansas State has been fairly stout against the run this season, as it ranks 23rd nationally allowing a little less than 106 yards per game on the ground. However, the Wildcats gae up 138 rushing yards and two touchdowns in last week's 38-12 loss to Missouri.

NU Pass Offense vs KSU Pass Defense
Nebraska's passing offense hasn't exactly been setting the world on fire the past few weeks, but it finally showed some life last week against Kansas. After putting up dismal numbers in the three five previous weeks, the Huskers threw for nearly 200 yards against the Jayhawks.

It wasn't a huge day by any means, but it was promising for the Huskers that junior quarterback Zac Lee started to look like his old self again, completing 13-of-21 passes in the win.

Looking at Kansas State's pass defense this season, there's no reason he shouldn't continue his resurgence again tonight. The Wildcats rank 90th in the country in pass defense this season, giving up 240 passing yards per game.

KSU Run Offense vs NU Run Defense
How well Nebraska contains Kansas State's running game will likely play as big of a role as anything in determining the Big 12 North championship, as the Wildcats feature one of the best rushing attacks in the conference.

Leading the way is running back Daniel Thomas, who has rushed for more than 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. His combination of size (6-2, 227) and agility make him a unique threat for any defense to prepare for, and NU's defense is well aware that Thomas is anything but easy to tackle.

The good news for Nebraska is that it's been as good as anyone in the country in stopping the run this year. The Huskers rank 11th nationally allowing less than 95 yards per game. Nebraska hasn't given up more than 100 yards rushing in its past three games, and its allowed just one 100-yard rusher all season.

KSU Pass Offense vs NU Pass Defense
This might be the most lopsided aspect of the game by a long shot, as Kansas State's brings its 105th nationally ranked passing offense to Lincoln to face off against Nebraska's 26th-ranked pass defense.

Because of their run oriented offense, the Wildcats are throwing for just 170 yards per game and have just seven passing touchdowns to seven interceptions this season, which as would be expected, is the worst in the Big 12. Senior quarterback Grant Gregory ranks no higher than ninth in the conference in any passing statistical category.

On the other end, Nebraska has held its past three opponents to just one passing touchdown and seven interceptions. Overall, the Huskers have only allowed 186 yards per game through the air this season.

Special Teams, What If's and The X-Factor
Both Nebraska and Kansas State boast equally impressive special teams weapons that could equally change the outcome of a game by themselves. For Nebraska, junior kicker/punter Alex Henery has been consistently productive all season. He's 15-of-18 on field goals for the year, which ranks him among the top-20 kickers nationally. For the Wildcats, senior Brandon Banks is as good of a return man as there is in college football. He has four kickoffs returned for a touchdown, which are the most in the entire country.


Nebraska Will Win If: It can find a way to both control the clock and make some plays in the passing game, while also not allowing Kansas State to get its running game going. The Huskers shouldn't have much trouble keeping the Wildcats from putting up many points, so as long as they can build up a lead and not give up any big plays on special teams, they should be able to clinch the North Division title with a win.

Kansas State Will Win If: It can move the ball effectively on the ground and keep Nebraska off the scoreboard. The Wildcats are one of the better running teams in the Big 12, so if they can keep the game close or even take a lead into the fourth quarter, they could be in position to make a big play at the end to continue their improbable run to the conference championship game.

X-Factor: The arguably isn't a better playmaker on either roster than Kansas State's senior wide out Banks. Not only does he pose a huge threat in the return game, he also is capable of home run plays catching and running the football. Along with using him on deep pass plays, the Wildcats also get Banks involved in the run game with reverses and lining him up at quarterback in the Wildcat formation. If he can break loose on a play or two, it could determine the outcome of the game.

Prediction: Nebraska 31 Kansas State 14

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