It's a big time matchup with the Nebraska Cornhuskers taking on the Oregon Ducks Saturday afternoon in Memorial Stadium. The game itself is probably as much of a toss-up as a Husker fan could imagine. However, if Nebraska loses, these are the reasons why.
Last year Royce Freeman ranked fourth in the country in rush yards with over 1,800 on the season. This year will be no different. Through two games Freeman has 294 rushing yards on just 32 carries. That is good for an average of 9.2 yards per carry. Nebraska has looked pretty good stopping the run up the middle this year, but that is against two below average teams. While you might be more worried about the passing game, if Nebraska can't stop the run it will almost ensure a Nebraska loss. If I am Oregon I look to establish the run game, which forces Nebraska to load the box, at that point you tell your athletes outside to use their olympic speed (Wide Receiver Devon Allen finished 5th in the Olympic 110-meter hurdles) to burn the secondary. If Nebraska can't slow down Royce Freeman they will lose. It is as simple as that.
Oregon's Big Play Offense:
Nebraska's defense was flat out bad last year. This is news to no one, and they are no doubt improved this season, but there are still concerns. Oregon is not a team that goes on long sustained drives. They are a team that wants to get chunk yards. It sounds simple, but the key to this game is to not allow big plays on the ground. Oregon is going to have some chunk plays through the air, but as I stated above, Nebraska needs to stop the run without loading the box. If they are able to get big yardage on the ground, forcing Nebraska to move more into the box, Oregon will move the ball at will which will result in an Oregon win.
Which Tommy Armstrong Shows Up:
Tommy Armstrong is a different quarter back depending on which quarter you are in. Looking at his numbers last year he was significantly better in the first and fourth quarter compared to the middle two. 14 of his 16 interceptions have come in the second and third quarter. You can't win the game in the second and third quarter, but you can lose it. This trend has continued through the first two games this year, with Tommy being the worst in the second quarter.
If Tommy continues to struggle and turns the ball over a couple of times look for Oregon to win this game by a decent amount. If Tommy can solve his second and third quarter woes this game should be a close one throughout, but that is a big if.
Dakota Prukop's Running Ability:
Through two games Dakota Prukop has not needed to use his legs too much. This does not mean he is not capable of tearing apart a defense with his scrambling ability. Last season Prukop ran for nearly 800 yards which would have ranked 8th among quarterbacks in the FBS. If Nebraska is able to get Oregon into a third and long situation, and has good coverage in the secondary, look for Prukop to take off. Those situations are back-breaking to a defense. You have essentially shut them down, but because of a quarterbacks ability to run, a first down is picked up. Nebraska has a lot to worry about with this Oregon offense. If they are overlooking Prukop on the ground, it could spell disaster for the Huskers.
Oregon literally has Olympic caliber speed on offense. Devon Allen finished fifth in the Olympic 110-meter hurdles. If that doesn't scare you I'm not sure what will. He is one of several talented speed-demons Oregon has. Nebraska won't play another team with this speed until they travel to Columbus, Ohio.
Not only do they have speed at the skill positions, but they play fast. According to the College Football Matrix, Last year Oregon ranked 15th in the country with three plays per "football minute". Indiana is the only Big Ten team to average more plays per minute (3.04). While pace of play does not directly correlate to a successful team (All four college football playoff teams were below 2.72 plays per minute last season) it does pose a tough challenge for Nebraska. The refs will also be Pac-12 refs who are used to this fast style of play. They may not give Nebraska the extra second or two that they need to get in the right positioning. If Oregon can get Nebraska on their heels and continue to wear them down, it could lead to a victory for the Ducks.