Earlier today I posted my "Five Reasons Nebraska Will Lose to Kansas State". I didn't really believe any of them, though. I just thought I'd make all the Wildcat fans out there feel a little bit better about themselves.
(It has occurred to all y'all that this is it, right? That these are the last few hours we have to jab at each other one last time in a game that has a lot of meaning to both sides????)
Instead, I believe there are a whole lot of reasons Nebraska will beat Kansas State. Forget that stuff about Nebraska being 5-0 in Thursday night ESPN games - it's neat, but it's not really relevant to what happens on the field.
I give you five reasons the Huskers will beat Kansas State, all of them on the field.
1. Ground Game Advantage
Daniel Thomas is a good back, no doubt, but he's one guy, meaning he's easier to key on and stop than the triple threat of Taylor Martinez, Roy Helu, and Rex Burkhead. The Huskers offensive line is much improved since last season, and they'll be going against the nation's 102nd-ranked rush defense.
Are three heads better than one? Yes, now multiple by two because that's the number of legs we're worried about. Ha Ha Ha!
2. Explosive vs Less Explosive
Remember a couple of weeks ago, before the sad, uninteresting game that was South Dakota State, when we were quoting how many explosive plays the Huskers have had so far this season compared to last?
It's still true. The Huskers have had 25 offensive plays of at least 20 yards so far this season (15 runs, 10 passes), compared to 53 plays all of last season. If that ain't enough, Nebraska has scored 11 of their 19 touchdowns in five or fewer plays, two of them being single-play drives, two being two-play drives, and three three-play touchdown drives.
Compare that to Kansas State, who's had 18 offensive plays of 20 yards or more (10 runs, eight passes). They're touchdowns have come on three two-play scoring drives, one three-play scoring drive, and two four-play drives. The Huskers have had eight offensive plays of over 40 yards (six run, two pass), while Kansas State has had six (two run, four pass).
The two teams generate their explosive plays by different methods. Kansas State does two things - run, run, run, then hope to break a big one by wearing down an opposing defense - or run, run, run, whoops, you forgot about receiver Aubrey Quarles (or Brodrick Smith) and now he's behind you catching the ball.
The Huskers are all about getting to the edge and outrunning their opponents to the end zone.
3. Air Superiority
I believe it when Bo Pelini says we'll stop the run because I believe in Bo Pelini. He knows his defense. If the Huskers shut down the run, Carson Coffman will be forced to throw against the nation's #1 pass efficiency defense and the third-best pass defense in the nation. The Huskers have already picked off ten passes this season, compared to Kansas State's four. Expect more tonight.
On the offensive side, it's about time to get Niles Paul more involved, ain't it? Same with Mike McNeill? And it's time for Martinez to use them, so part of his growth will be in how well he sees the open man downfield and how well he hits them. An explosive early play through the air will deflate the Wildcat secondary, and leave them more vulnerable to big plays on the ground.
4. Alex Henery
I'm brining up Alex Henery partially because he hasn't been a real big part of this year's discussions and because he deserves some credit. The Huskers haven't had to rely on Henery's incredible kicking schools so far this season, but he's still available should we need him.
In 2010, Henery is 22 of 22 in PATs, good enough for tenth nationally in 10th in PAT's made. He's also perfect in field goals, having kicked only two this season.
If this game turns into a field position battle, Henery's skill as a punter may come into play. He's capable of flipping the field as he did on several occasions last season, and he's still capable of pinning opponents deep in their own territory.
5. Gang Tackling
If you had a tackling drill where Daniel Thomas and Eric Hagg (or Dejon Gomes) met 35 times in a row, I'm guessing that Thomas would end up the winner. That's what makes a good back great - getting those hits, twists and spins in that make it difficult for him to bring down. It's a good thing that neither Hagg nor Gomes will be asked to do that this evening, but instead be able to rely on ten other Blackshirts helping out in the process.
Kansas State's offensive line isn't good enough to blow the Huskers off the ball. Defensive ends Cameron Meredith and Pierre Allen will get that first step across the line, while Jared Crick and Baker Steinkuhler will stand their ground. It'll create a killing field in which Thomas won't find room to run, and Coffman won't have time to pass.
The best part? Get ready for lots of those plays where one Blackshirt slows ‘em up, and the other ones come in on clean up. You love those plays, don't you? Yeah, baby!