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October 20, 2012

Northwestern keys to victory and HOL predictions

EVANSTON, Ill. - Nebraska will try to bounce back today at Northwestern after their 63-38 loss at Ohio State.

It won't be an easy task, as the Huskers enter today's match-up as a 6 point favorite. A year ago the Wildcats came into Lincoln as a double-digit favorite and knocked off Nebraska. As things get closer to kickoff here are today's keys to victory for Nebraska.

Contain the QB run game

This could almost be all five keys for Nebraska, as it's been well documented the type of problems Nebraska has had stopping the quarterback run game.

The biggest thing that needs to happen is the Huskers have to get off blocks. Two weeks ago at Ohio State the Buckeyes were able to get numbers advantage with the QB run game and Nebraska's players couldn't get off blocks to stop Braxton Miller.

That cannot happen today with Kain Colter. He's probably not as explosive as Miller, but he still has the ability to cause the Husker defense fits if they don't get off blocks and do a solid job of containment.

Take what's there on offense

Northwestern will attack Nebraska with a "bend but don't break" cover four defensive scheme. They are going to make the Huskers drive the field in chunks and do their best to eliminate the big plays.

Quarterback Taylor Martinez has to take what is there. He cannot get too caught up and trying to force plays down field. If there is a 6 yard gain in front of him he needs to take it. I also expect to see Martinez run the ball more today if the Wildcats give him running lanes.

Communication on defense

A common trend we've seen this season is opposing offensive coordinators play games with Nebraska's defense by doing a lot of pre-snap shifting and motioning.

I expect the Wildcats to do something similar to try and cross up NU's defenders and get some cheap plays down field off breakdowns due to communication errors.

With an extra week and fall break on Monday and Tuesday, Nebraska should be mentally prepared for just about anything Northwestern will throw at them. It will be interesting to see how they adjust this week.

Play with anger and purpose

It's been a long two weeks for everyone associated with the program and quite frankly everyone who follows the team around the state.

The bickering and negativity has been almost unbearable at times. If I were a player on the team this would upset me. Nebraska needs to take Ryan Field today with an attitude and they need to take the field with a purpose.

Keep emotions in check

The fine line Nebraska has to walk today is they need to come out with fire and passion, but they also need to keep their emotions in check.

During the Wisconsin game they came out with too much emotion and it played against them. In losses to UCLA and Ohio State the Huskers failed to keep things in check after the Bruins and Buckeyes got some big plays on their defense.

Northwestern's offense is going to make a few plays. That's ok. The most important thing for the defense is to have a short memory and move on to the next play.

Callahan's weekly predictions

I expect to see Nebraska take the field today with a purpose. With over 20,000 Husker fans expected to be in Evanston I also think the crowd will serve as an extra boost for the Big Red. With that said I think the Huskers leave Evanston with a win and they will cover the 6 point spread.

Nebraska 41 Northwestern 31
Michigan 27, Michigan State 20
Penn State 17, Iowa 16
LSU 24, Texas A&M 20
Florida 23, South Carolina 17

Season Record: 21-8 overall; 20-9 vs. points

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