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October 30, 2010

Callahan's take: A must win for both teams

Nebraska and Missouri will take the field today in Lincoln in what is essentially the Big 12 North Championship game. The winner of today's game will put themselves in the driver's seat by earning the all important tie-breaker in the North standings.

As things get closer to kickoff, here are the five keys to a Husker victory over the Tigers. NU enters today's game as a 7 point favorite. They have been favored by 6 or more points each week this season.

Establish Helu and Burkhead

Missouri is going to obviously pay a lot of attention to redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez. The Tigers blitz about 35 percent of the time, but it actually looks like more than that because they do so much movement and line shifting up front to free up their linebackers.

It will be critical for NU to establish running backs Roy Helu and Rex Burkhead on the ground to keep Mizzou's front seven off balance. Offensive line coach Barney Cotton said on Friday that there are some big play opportunities on the ground if NU can execute up front. San Diego State showed that earlier this year when their running back had over 250 yards rushing against the Tigers.

Front four pressure

A big reason why Missouri beat Oklahoma on Saturday was their offensive line did an outstanding job of protecting quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

Most people feel like this could be the best line Gary Pinkel has had in his time at Mizzou. For Nebraska to have success on Saturday they need to find ways to get pressure on Gabbert. A big way that can happen is if NU can take away Gabbert's first and second receiving options. If he's able to get rid of the ball quickly to his first and second options it's almost impossible to get pressure on him.

Coverage on the inside receivers

Missouri likes to throw to their inside slot receivers a lot because often times they feel like they can get some mismatches there.

With Nebraska that shouldn't be the case with DeJon Gomes and Eric Hagg in coverage. You aren't going to find a better pair of nickel and dime corners in college football and if they play like did a year ago it could be a long day for the Tiger offense.

Make Mizzou one-dimensional

There isn't one running back that jumps out on the stat sheet for Missouri, but the Tigers have gotten it done with a by committee approach ever since the dismissal of Derrick Washington in August.

Mizzou's leading rusher is Henry Josey with 319 yards on 50 carries, while De'Vion Moore is right behind him 273 yards on 50 carries. The Huskers need to take these guys away today. They can't afford to get gashed on the ground like they did last week against Oklahoma State.

A lot of it starts with tackling at the safety position, and don't be surprised if you see some more of junior Austin Cassidy to help shore up some of these problems. P.J. Smith and Rickey Thenarse have both struggled in this area at times for the Huskers the past few weeks.

Get the crowd involved early

Nebraska's offense has averaged just 11.4 points per game in their past five Big 12 home games. Plain and simple that's terrible.

Fumbles, poor starts and lack of execution by the offense are the reason why NU's offense has done so poorly at home the last two seasons. NU needs to come out of the gates fast today. Do something early. Make a play down field and get the crowd into the game.

During the Texas game the crowd wanted to get involved, but once the Huskers got down 10-0 and showed no signs of life on offense they were taken out of the game. That can't be the case today.

I expect the Huskers to win and cover the 7 point spread. This is practically a must win game for NU if they want the 2010 season to be labeled a success.

Callahan's Prediction:Nebraska 34 Missouri 24
Season Record: 6-1 overall; 5-2 vs. points

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