Since I got into so much trouble for the " Five Reasons Nebraska Will Lose to Washington " article, I decided to tread a little more lightly and swap one word just to make you feel better. Is that great customer service or what? :)
Headline changed - Five Reasons Nebraska WILL Lose to Kansas State. So there.
Is it possible that Nebraska loses to Kansas State in front of a national audience on ESPN tonight? Yes, it is possible. It's especially possible if several things go the Wildcats' way. After the jump are five of them.
1. Taylor Martinez wants to make all the plays.
Not just a play - all the plays. If the guy doesn't learn that he's not the whole offense, that he has teammates and that they're pretty good, you can bet that we're going to lose a game we shouldn't. Maybe this one.
At this point it has to be clear that teams will be keying on Martinez - not allowing the big plays. If I had to defend against him, I'd hit him on every play, regardless if he hands the ball of or not. I'd beat the living snot out of him, and try to knock him silly by midway through the second quarter.
If Martinez doesn't recognize this, then it's going to happen. It'll be interest to see how much he progresses throughout the season. If Kansas State doesn't prove this point, you can bet that the Longhorn defense will beat it into him.
2. Lavonte David tries to tackle Daniel Thomas every play of the game.
David had 19 tackles last week, yet Bo Pelini said he's got a lot of room to improve. Most people probably took that as a sign that David should have had 30 tackles. I took it as a sign that while David has a ton of potential, he's consistently out of position and because of that can be taken advantage of by a better team. (Insert any inexperienced linebacker's name here.)
In this game that means using Daniel Thomas as a decoy in specific situations. Carson Coffman isn't going to break away for 15 or 25-yard gains and hurt you with a lot of scoring, but if I'm Kansas State, I'm not looking to score 40 points. I'm looking to score around 21-23 points, but possess the ball long enough so that Nebraska can't score any more than that. If Coffman can get four yards each time he keeps the ball, that might be good enough to keep drives going.
3. Lack of a vertical passing game.
Kansas State will do everything they can to force Nebraska into throwing the ball, which is understandable, given the Huskers are 102nd nationally in passing yardage per game. For the sake of argument, let's say the Wildcats are successful in stopping up the running game (aided by the Huskers' incessant ability to shoot themselves in the foot with penalties).
Will Martinez be successful in getting the ball to someone not named Brandon Kinnie? He hasn't shown consistency in that area so far this season. (Mike McNeill, four receptions, 105 yards, one TD in four games) He's had some nice completions, but the key here is the need to make the defense fear the deep ball. That's not something that's near the top of any defensive coordinator's list when it comes to the Husker offense.
4. The defensive line gets pushed around, allowing consistent Wildcat ground yardage.
Between them, Pierre Allen and Cameron Meredith have 31 tackles and one sack. One sack (!) and that's against some pretty lousy competition. Baker Steinkuhler and Jared Crick are doing a little better, with six sacks between them.
Bottom line - in this one the defensive line will need to stand their ground. As I state above, Kansas State may be perfectly happy taking four yards a carry all night to extend their time of possession and keep the Husker offense off the field.
5. An Angry KSU Crowd Stays In It For Four Quarters
Bill Snyder Family Stadium isn't Washington - no one's ever measured the crowd noise at 130 decibels (at least that I'm aware of). Taylor Martinez and the offense didn't get shaken by the noise in Seattle, so why should they in Manhattan?
I don't think that's it - it's not the noise itself - it's the energy in the crowd. Teams feed off that energy. It'd be best if the Huskers started fast and took all that energy away. If they don't, could it make a difference, or am I just reaching for this as a fifth reason for a potential loss?