It was another week and another come-from-behind victory for the Cardiac Cornhuskers.
Now Nebraska has a tough home game against their designated East Division rival, the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Perhaps it's my corn-colored glasses, but it appears the 2012 Huskers are coming together. They seem to trust in each other. They seem to play for each other. They seem to have confidence in themselves and their teammates. How do you measure such intangibles? I don't think you really can, outside of wins and losses. Maybe it's just the positive vibe from three straight hard fought B1G victories. Or maybe, just maybe, this team has what it takes to get to Indianapolis and a subsequent rosy start to the New Year.
But first things first. The Nittany Lions will come to Memorial Stadium and give it everything they have. One thing we know for sure: Penn St. has a salty defense, led by senior linebackers Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges. They are every bit as stout as they were last year, and this year they have a competent offense to compliment them.
Nebraska needs to take care of business at home. Here are a few keys to a Nebraska victory:
- Mash Matt: Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin has enjoyed a successful season. One would think McGloin and Taylor Martinez are in line for All-B1G consideration, probably behind that guy from Ohio State. Regardless, this is a quarterback and offensive system Bo Pelini's defenses typically eat alive. In order to do so, Nebraska's front four have to get pressure on him. Force him to throw it early. Make him uncomfortable in the pocket. Convert any errant throws into interceptions. Eric Martin needs to be his usual disruptive self, and I'm looking for a big game out of Baker Steinkuhler in the middle.
- Lean on the Lions: I'm not familiar with the playing time of Penn State's entire roster after everything they've gone through the past year, but I'm making a quasi-educated guess they're not as deep as Nebraska. Nebraska's offensive line, the running game, and the up tempo offense could pay huge dividends in the third and fourth quarters. This could be amplified if Jordan Hill, their senior defensive tackle, can't play because of a knee injury. The Cornhuskers need to play down hill and keep leaning on the Lions' defensive line and linebackers. Keep the chains moving and wear them down.
- Second(ary) to None: Penn State has some capable offensive weapons, specifically Allen Robinson, a 6'3 wide receiver leading the B1G in receiving yards and catches. They also utilize their tight ends in the passing game. I envision either Stanley Jean-Baptiste (mainly because of his size) or Ciante Evans manning-up on Robinson. Nebraska's passing defense is one of the best (statistically) in the nation, and this will be their stiffest challenge to date. The secondary has a lot of responsibility in Pelini's defenses, and they need to come through with their best game of the year.
- Four Downs: Typically third downs are the money downs, but Penn State has not been shy about going for it on fourth down. One reason for this is the limited range of their place kicker. The Blackshirts will need to make some stops on fourth down. And better yet, they need to keep Penn State in third and fourth and long, thus making it a much easier decision for Penn State coach Bill O'Brien.
- Turnover Battle: Ah, yes, back to the key of keys. Penn State has one of the best turnover ratios in the country while Nebraska continues to have one of the worst. I think Nebraska has a slight edge in overall talent and will of course have the backing of 85,000 + cornheads, but the surest way to neutralize those advantages will be to lose the turnover battle. Keep the turnover battle even or plus one or more, and Nebraska wins. Lose the turnover battle and the game is another nail biter.