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October 5, 2013

Illinois keys to victory and HOL staff predictions

Nebraska will open up Big Ten Conference play on Saturday against Illinois coming off a bye week. For the second game in a row senior quarterback Taylor Martinez will not play for the Huskers, and redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong will get the start in his place.

As things get closer to kickoffs, here are the keys to a Husker victory over Illinois. The Huskers are a 10 point favorite over the Illini.

Take away Illinois's ground game

Illinois will come to Lincoln as a pass first ball club, but it will be important for Nebraska to take away their run game.

They will attack the Huskers in several different ways to try and run the football. With strong wind conditions expected, putting Illinois into obvious passing situations will greatly help this young Nebraska defense.

Keep the pressure off Armstrong

For the second game in a row Armstrong will start over Martinez at quarterback. I thought Nebraska did a great job of keeping the pressure off of him against South Dakota State.

It will be important once again today to keep the pressure off of Armstrong and not make him feel like he needs to win the game by himself. I expect offensive coordinator Tim Beck to play to Armstrong's strengths and work in several zone read and option type run plays to go along with down field passes.

Play the wind to your advantage

With strong wind gusts expected, there's no question they will have some effect in both the passing and kicking games on Saturday.

It will be important for the Huskers to establish the running game and do their best to put their kickers and punters in favorable situations. Fielding punts cleanly will also be important for Jordan Westerkamp.

Handle Illinois's offensive tempo

One thing I expect Illinois to do on Saturday is attack the Huskers with a heavy amount of offensive tempo. Look for the Illini to run no-huddle and do their best to keep NU's young defense confused and off-balanced.

With an extra week of preparation you would think that would go a long way in getting the Huskers prepared. It will be important they keep their composure and not let the no-huddle offense get to them.

Play loose

The last few weeks the pressure has really gotten to Nebraska at times. Even against South Dakota State you saw the Huskers pressing.

It will be important for NU to play loose and have fun. The defense needs to play with swagger and start to develop confidence. Communication will also be important, as it's been a problem thus far for Nebraska's defense.

Callahan's weekly predictions

Illinois's offense will be able to put up some points on Nebraska's defense, but at the end of the day they'll have no answer for NU's offense. I look for the Huskers to run for over 300 yards and do their best to not be forced to throw the football with Armstrong in the gusty wind conditions expected inside Memorial Stadium on Saturday.

Nebraska 44 Illinois 30
Michigan State 17 Iowa 13
Penn State 38 Indiana 27
Ohio State 41 Northwestern 31
Arizona State 27 Notre Dame 23
Stanford 36 Washington 27

Season Record: 17-7 overall; 14-10 vs. points

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