With a line of -5 and many "experts" jumping on the Bruins as the upset special, one has to wonder what in the name of Troy Aikman is going on here? My theory? There aren't many high-profile games this weekend, so the scribes and gurus have to find something.....anything.....to keep things interesting. But I am a homer, and I did just pull that theory out of my.....well, you know. The Bruins have plenty of talent, but if Nebraska can accomplish these keys to victory, they'll be leaving SoCal 2-0.
- Win the special teams battle: Like many Cornheads out there, I came into the season taking our special teams play for granted. With Brett Maher and Ameer Abdullah coming back, no problems, right? Not so fast, my friends. Our kick coverage was poor last year, too, so if I were coach Els, I would instruct Maher to kick it out of the endzone every damn kickoff. Let's hope Maher's confidence isn't shaken. Road games can turn on special teams play. Luckily for us, the Bruins were less than formidable in their first game.
- Win 1st downs on defense: I know third down is the money down, but you don't get there without a first down. With what appears to be a well balanced attack, UCLA could make the Blackshirts start playing a guessing-game. And when that has occurred in the past, it seems the entire defense is playing on skates. Tentative. Thinking, not reacting. The best way to prevent this? Stick ‘em in second and long situations. Win on first downs and Brett Hundley, a redshirt freshman QB starting his second game, will feel a lot more pressure. If the Bruins are consistently in second and four, second and five, Jim Mora, Jr. will have his entire playbook to work with and it could become a long evening for the Blackshirts.
- Keep Taylor Martinez upright: The Bruins boast a solid front four (sometimes front three), with size and speed. The Big Uglies delivered for the Cornhuskers in week one, allowing Martinez plenty of time to dissect the overwhelmed Golden Eagles. If given ample time again, I see Martinez putting on another show, this time in front of his hometown crowd. But this isn't all on the O-line; the running backs, whether Burkhead, Abdullah, Heard, or Cross, have to be able to pick up the blitzes and stunts.
- Veteran, experienced Husker D-Line vs. young, inexperienced Bruin O-Line: Nebraska has to win this match-up. Cameron Meredith and Baker Steinkuhler are three year starters, Jason Ankrah and Chase Rome/Thad Randle have starting experience. They can't let UCLA's lineman get to the second level and take out our linebackers. Hundley and their running back, Johnathan Franklin, obviously have big-play qualities. But if our D-line can play on their side of the line of scrimmage and occupy their blockers, they will have no where to run.
- Win the coaching battle: Jim Mora, Jr. is in his first year as a college head coach. Bo Pelini is in his fifth. Advantage Corn, at least in theory. I'm not talking strictly X's and O's. I'm talking about familiarity. I'm talking about Pelini's "process". I'm talking about being comfortable going on the road to the west coast, i.e. "been there, done that". I'm talking about a team that has its system, knows its system, and "executes" its system versus a team that has had one spring, one fall camp, and one game under their system. Play relaxed, loose, and fast, and I think much of that comes with an ingrained system.