I did this article last year and got all sorts of emails from Husker fans after the game telling me what an idiot I was for predicting Nebraska to lose. Given that - a couple things you should know:
- This isn't a prediction that Nebraska will lose to Washington, but if we do, the following are the most likely reasons we will. Rather than a "Keys To Victory" article, consider this "Keys To A Loss". That's not a pleasant consideration, but consider it a different perspective than you're used to seeing.
- If you're going to send me an email telling me I'm an idiot, do it BEFORE the game. Everyone in the world has 20/20 hindsight, even people from Oklahoma. You lose one million internet points for sending someone an email after the fact and you will never win that Harrier jump jet that way.
On to the reasons for a potential loss!
Survey says that 83% of "keys to victory" article mention turnovers. That survey rises to 91% when it involves Nebraska, reason being that the Huskers continue to fumble the ball way too often. If it continues, it will cost Nebraska some games, so not only it is an easy pick, it's the most likely culprit to contribute to a loss.
Last year during the regular season match up, Washington running back Chris Polk gained only 55 yards on 17 carries for a 3.24 yard average. Polk wasn't much of a factor, largely because Washington fell behind early and was forced into throwing the ball.
In the rematch in the Holiday Bowl, Polk got his revenge, running for 177 yards on 34 carries for a 5.21 yard average. Bottom line - if the Huskies can establish the run with Polk, it'll open up play-action passing against a young, mistake-prone Nebraska secondary.
Mistake prone? Yes! What a great seque!
You've seen it already this season - breakdowns in the Blackshirt secondary. A few times last Saturday Fresno State receivers got loose behind the secondary as Husker defenders left them uncovered. Bulldog quarterback Derek Carr capitalized on a few of these miscues, the most egregious being a 55-yard pass to A.J. Johnson in the fourth quarter. That set up a Fresno State touchdown to pull the Bulldogs within two, 28-26.
Bo Pelini's defenses are built around stopping big plays like that, but there's bound to be mistakes (there's that word again!) amongst a young secondary. Too many, and it will contribute to a Nebraska loss.
What? Another seque?
Washington quarterback Keith Price threw for four touchdowns and 315 yards against Hawaii. Senior Jermaine Kearse caught only two passes for 30 yards against Hawaii, and had only one catch for eight yards against Eastern Washington. That doesn't sound like much, but Kearse missed most of the EWU due to an injury. Kearse was a 1,000-yard receiver last season.
Fellow senior Devin Aguilar had five receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown against Hawaii. Freshman tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins is the intangible. He's big (6'6", 258 pounds) and he's already made an impact with three receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown in his first start against Hawaii.
Needless to say, Washington has some talent. It's not a good thing if they gain confidence early.
What? No seque?
You already know the story. Nebraska easily won the first game last year 56-21. Nebraska gets into a bowl game that's a rematch and the same exact bowl game as the year before. The Huskers are heavily favored, but lose 19-7 to a Washington squad that wanted revenge. Result - Jake Locker will tell his grandkids how he beat Nebraska in a bowl game.
It's a stretch to say that Nebraska will lack intensity going into this game. The Huskers will be out for blood. Could it happen? Doubtful, but if it does we already know the result from last December.