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September 25, 2010

Match-up watch: Nebraska vs. South Dakota State

NU Run Offense vs SDSU Run Defense
Nebraska boasts the No. 4 rushing offense in college football, averaging 344 yards on the ground per game with a nation-leading 15 rushing touchdowns. South Dakota State comes into tonight's contest having given up an average of 224.5 rushing yards per game.

You do the math.

If the Huskers can average a staggering 8.06 yards per carry, which also leads the country, against FBS competition, just imagine what Taylor Martinez, Roy Helu and Rex Burkhead can do against the Jackrabbits. The real question is how well NU's fourth, fifth and sixth string running backs fare in what is sure to be their most extensive playing time of the year.


NU Pass Offense vs SDSU Pass Defense
Martinez has already shown how good of a runner he is through the first three games of the season, but it wasn't until last week's win over Washington that he put his passing skills on display for the first time. Completing 7-of-11 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown, the redshirt freshman was near perfect when he needed to make a play through the air.

It's unlikely the Huskers will need to throw the ball all that much tonight, but Martinez has shown he can deliver the big pass when defenses over commit to stopping the run. Considering SDSU will have their hands full all day trying to slow down Nebraska's potent rushing attack, don't be surprised if Martinez has a few chances to make some big passes early on.


SDSU Rush Offense vs NU Rush Defense
If there's been any area that could be considered a weak point on Nebraska's defense this season, it would have to be it's play against the run. However, it hasn't been much of an issue so far.

While Western Kentucky was able to put up some decent numbers on the ground and Washington scored a touchdown on 11 straight running plays, the Huskers have been able to make enough adjustments to keep opposing ground games at bay.

As NU's run defense continues to improve, don't expect South Dakota State to pose much of a threat in that department. The Jackrabbits managed just 25 rushing yards in their season opening loss to Delaware, and they've averaged just 77 rushing yards per game this season.


SDSU Pass Offense vs NU Pass Defense
The one area where South Dakota State might be able to have some success against Nebraksa's defense is in the passing game. Well, more accurately, with some long bombs in the passing game.

Defensive backs coach Marvin Sanders said earlier this week that SDSU loves to test defenses with big passes, and he expects them to try to beat the Huskers deep at least 15-20 times with passes 40 or more yards down the field.

The bad news for the Jackrabbits, though, is that they'll be testing one of the best pass defenses in college football. The Huskers have already shown a knack for making teams pay big time for bad passes, and if SDSU tries to go after this secondary as much as Sanders expects, look for those defensive backs to added a few more interceptions to their season total tonight.


Special Teams, What If's and The X-Factor
It's still unclear how much senior Niles Paul will be used on kickoff returns, but with the way junior Brandon Kinnie handled the role last week against Washington, Paul may not have to.

Kinnie averaged 37.5 yards on two returns last week, including a 39-yarder that set up Nebraska's crucial scoring drive at the end of the first half. Senior kicker/punter Alex Henery has been relatively quiet in both aspects this season, but he's still considered one of the nation's best.


Nebraska Will Win If: It doesn't break the school record for most turnovers committed in a single game and manages to score at least a couple touchdowns. Really, this is going to be one of the most lopsided contests Nebraska has had in a while, and things could get ugly in a hurry if the Huskers continue to play the way they have been through the first three weeks.

South Dakota State Will Win If: It can not only force a whole lot of turnovers, but also get some points off them. The Jackrabbits will also need to connect on a couple of those deep passes to keep Nebraska's defense honest, otherwise the Blackshirts are going to make it a very, very long day for SDSU's offense.

X-Factor: Not only does Nebraska boast one of the best backfields in the country, its offensive line has also played exceptionally well to pave the way for all those yards. There is no way South Dakota State can match NU's size and physicality up front, and the Huskers are going to control the line of scrimmage all night long.

Prediction: Nebraska 56 South Dakota State 7

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