Pat’s Preview and Prediction – Colorado Buffaloes
Game Info: Saturday, Sept 8th at 2:30 CT – Lincoln, NE
Where to watch/listen: TV – ABC, Watch ESPN App, Husker Radio Network
Nebraska has won 31 of their last 32 home openers.
Huskers lead the Buffs all-time 49-18-2
First Matchup -November 17th, 1898 (Nebraska won 23-10)
The Nebraska vs Colorado is one of the most storied rivalries dating back 120 years to the teams first meeting in 1898. With 120 years of history between the two teams, there is no shortage of bad blood on both sides of the state line.
During the era of the Big 8 football, Colorado Coach Bill McCartney made it a point every year to bold Nebraska in red on the Buffs schedule to emphasize the importance of their annual clash. In 2009, Buffalo head coach Dan Hawkins riled up the Huskers base with his infamous quip, “The worst day as a Buffalo fan is better than the best day as a Husker fan” before a 20-28 loss to the Big Red.
Despite both teams not playing each other for 8 years and both teams changing conferences,, Colorado kept the passionate rivalry alive by bolding Nebraska in red on their schedule. So no, Husker fans, Colorado has not ignored this historic rivalry.
With the cancellation of Nebraska’s game against Akron last weekend, the hype surrounding this matchup is at similar levels to the matchups of yesteryear. The fact that Nebraska didn’t have an opportunity to work out the early season jitters last weekend adds even more drama and excitement to this Saturday’s matchup.
Colorado, on the other hand, had a solid season opener under their belt after a 45-13 dismantling of Colorado State last weekend. The Buffaloes started off slow against the Rams but as the second quarter went on and they shook off the rust and took control of the game.
Expect a battle this weekend in Lincoln. Colorado runs a very similar scheme both offensively and defensively to the Big Red so both teams should see some familiar offensive motions and odd man fronts defensively. Nebraska may hold the edge on the series by a wide margin, but both teams are in the process of rebuilding and Colorado has the advantage of having shaken off the rust against Colorado State.
What to watch for:
Husker Rustiness–That old adage about a team improving the most from week one to week two could become evident if Nebraska starts out the game slow. The Huskers could afford to have some hiccups against Akron but will need to shake the rust off quickly to play with Colorado. Nebraska needs to execute their game plan and they need to keep the ball secure. With a week of “best practice” under their belts, Nebraska will need to play like this is the second game of the season instead of the first.
Quarterback Play– If this turns out to be a back-and-forth scoring affair, Adrian Martinez will have a lot of pressure on his shoulders as a true freshman. He needs to avoid getting caught in the trap of taking unnecessary risks for the sake of trying to outduel his opponent and focus on executing the plays and making the best decisions for his team. Martinez needs to play within himself, distribute the ball to the playmakers, and lean on the stable of running backs who can carry the load.
Offensive key to a Husker win
Controlling the line of scrimmage– Colorado moved the ball with ease thanks to solid offensive line play last week and a 3-man defensive line that was constantly in the Rams backfield. With similar schemes, whoever controls the line of scrimmage on Saturday should come away the victor. Nebraska needs to establish their offensive line as the big man and lean on it to help run the ball and give Adrian Martinez time to throw the ball on passing downs.
What to watch for:
Defensive Fundamentals–The coaches handed out yellow jerseys this week to let the defense know was improving, but not yet up to Blackshirt standards. The Husker defense will need to make sure its tackling is sound as its tackling was absolutely atrocious last year under defensive coordinator Bob Diaco.
The Secondary– Colorado torched the Rams’ secondary for 338 yards and four touchdowns last weekend. Nebraska’s secondary needs to keep the Buffalo receivers in front of them and be physical in preventing any easy big play opportunities. That might be what it comes down to in the end–which team makes the bigger plays.
Defensive Key to a Husker Win:
Shutting down the Buffalo passing attack— If the Husker secondary can limit Montez’s ability to pass the ball it leaves Colorado with fewer weapons in their attack. Montez had a staggering 88% completion percentage against the Rams and Nebraska will need to limit him to allow CU less big-play opportunities. Shutting down the passing attack puts all the pressure on Colorado running back Travon McMillian to sustain the drives and score against a solid Husker front 7.
5 KEYS TO A HUSKER WIN:
Force Turnovers: Colorado coughed up the ball three times against the Rams last weekend and Nebraska can make them pay if they can get the ball back in the hands of the Husker offense. We’ve seen the Husker defense swarm better to the ball this spring and with all the talk from defensive coordinator Erik Chinander about creating takeaways the Huskers will have an opportunity to prove themselves this weekend. CSU also had zero sacks and zero QB pressures against the Buffaloes, Nebraska will need to apply pressure to force turnovers.
Harass Montez: Looking at Montez’s stats lets you know that he was too comfortable in the pocket last weekend. The defense has to collapse the pocket and take him out of his comfort zone. If the defensive line and linebackers can get in Montez’s grill, to the point where he’s moving around a lot in the pocket, it could force him into bad throws and allow the Husker defense to create a few takeaways.
Shut down WR Laviska Shenhault Jr: Last week against CSU, Shenhault had 11 catches for 211 yards. Along with slowing down QB Steven Montez the Huskers will need to limit the damage Shenhault can do on the field. Expect CU to target him early to try and get him into a rhythm.
Strike fast, strike often: This might very well come down to a shootout if the Husker defense can’t slow the Buffaloes offense. If so, Nebraska’s offense needs to start fast and get a jump on Colorado. If Nebraska can lull them with a solid running game and then hit create big plays to Stanley Morgan and J.D. Spielman and others in the passing game, Nebraska should be able to pull out a solid career opener for Frost’s first victory as the Huskers head coach.
Attack the CU Secondary: While CU was good last weekend, their secondary had a lot of blown coverages and if given an adequate amount of time the Rams could have done some real damage through the air. Establishing the ground game is important, but the offensive line giving Adrian Martinez the proper time to throw the ball will be just as important, if not more so.
If it weren’t for last week, I would have had Nebraska winning this matchup by a cool fourteen points. Unfortunately, the Huskers are late getting out of the starter’s gate and the Buffaloes have a one-game advantage over the Big Red.
If that old adage proves about a team taking its biggest step forward from week one to week two, this season opener to the Frost era could turn into an edge-of-your-seat battle.
Huskers win the century-old war, 35-28.
Until next week, GO BIG RED!!!
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