Start the New Year Fast
New Year's Day morning, 10:30 am. For mere mortals, that'll mean trying to find the aspirin bottle while digging the sand out of our eyes when we wake up on the couch in front of the TV. Most Husker fans are going to be starting slow.
The Cornhusker football fan will not be starting slow. The Huskers scored on opening drives in seven games this season, and scored first in eleven of the thirteen games. We've outscored opponents 110-38 in the first quarter this season. Given Auburn's concern about their sluggish starts in the morning, it'd be great to see Nebraska jump out to a 17-20 point lead. I realize we've seen the Huskers give up some big leads, but a big lead in this game might mean that Auburn never bothers to get into the game.
Win The Red Zone
The sole key to this game will be Nebraska's offensive performance in the red zone against an Auburn defense that plays incredible red zone defense. Auburn's scoring defense is 7th in the nation - their overall defense is ranked 25th, meaning that they clamp down very well in the red zone. Nebraska has done the same this season, with an overall defense ranked 69th, but scoring defense ranked at 30th.
As stated earlier, Nebraska has scored very well in the red zone, converting 42 of 49 attempts (85.6%), 39 of those being touchdowns (79.5%). Auburn converted on 36 of 42 attempts in the red zone (85.7%), with 23 of those being touchdowns (54.8%).
Whichever team wins the red zone battle should win this game. Nebraska's 6'4" wide receiver Maurice Purify gives the Huskers a huge advantage here.
It's Still the most Wonderful Time of the Year
Hey, it's a bowl game. It's a reward for a decent season, so let's act like it. Let's see Bill Callahan acting the role of Santa Claus and whip some more of those trick plays out. We ran an abundance of trick plays against Colorado with an extra week to prepare. This time we've had an extra three-four weeks to prepare - what do you think is going to happen?
You know Billy C has a ton of 'trick' plays in that 975-page play book, and you've seen the reports of Major Culbert taking some reps at running back, right? You think he's going to start playing running back as a full-time job? No, but you might see him involved a in set to confuse the Auburn defense.
BTW, I don't think that Bill Callahan sees these a 'trick' plays. He sees them as part of the offense. In that regard, they're really not 'trick' plays at all. We need another term for them.
It'd be more than 'really nice' for Bill Callahan's Huskers to beat a Top Ten opponent, if for nothing else, we'd stop hearing about. Nebraska has certainly had our chances, having played four top ten teams this year - USC, Texas, Oklahoma and Auburn.