The start of the Bo Pelini era is almost here, and as things get closer to kickoff here are the five keys to victory for Nebraska.
One of the obvious things the Huskers are going to want to do in this game and in every game this season is establish their ground game. Here are today's five keys to victory.
Just keep running
It's pretty clear that the primary goal of Nebraska's offense this year is to reestablish the running game and become the best team on the ground in the Big 12 Conference. With 10 capable offensive lineman and three very good running backs, the Huskers plan to run the ball 50 times or more today.
If Nebraska can meet their goals on the ground, it will do wonders in helping the defense develop in 2008. A ground game will allow NU to control the time of possession and keep their young and inexperienced defense off the field.
The most interesting thing will be to see how the carries will be divided up between senior Marlon Lucky and sophomores Quentin Castille and Roy Helu. Lucky is the Big 12's leading returning rusher, while Helu had arguably the best spring of all the backs and Castille had the best fall camp according to Pelini at Friday's Big Red Breakfast.
Pressure Tim Hiller
Nebraska was last in the Big 12 in sacks in 2007, after leading the nation in sacks in 2005 and being one of the better teams in that number in 2006. There's no question that a big reason why NU's defense dropped off so much in 2007 was because of the lack of physical play and pass pressure produced by the front four.
The Huskers return all four starters on the defensive line, and getting pressure to Western Michigan quarterback Tim Hiller will probably be one of the biggest keys to success for Nebraska's defense. We've heard about the improvements guys like Barry Turner and Ndamukong Suh have made in the off-season, it's time to see them on Saturday.
Contain Simmons and Ledbetter
The two biggest offensive weapons for the Broncos will be wide receiver Jamarko Simmons and tight end Branden Ledbetter. It will be very important for Nebraska's young secondary and linebackers to keep tabs on these players. Both Simmons and Ledbetter will be as good as any receiver or tight end the Huskers will see this season.
New playmakers need to step up
New playmakers need to step up for Nebraska today on both sides of the ball. Everybody knows guys like quarterback Joe Ganz, wide receiver Nate Swift and Lucky will make plays for NU, but some other faces need to step up around them on offense.
Potential playmakers on offense for NU will be sophomore wide receiver Niles Paul, junior wide receiver Menelik Holt, redshirt freshman wide receiver Curenski Gilleylen and sophomore tight end Mike McNeill.
Defensively, look for senior linebacker Cody Glenn to step up his game and become a playmaker for the Huskers. Another player to watch will be sophomore cornerback Anthony West, who appears to be poised for a breakout type season.
It's no secret that Pelini is an emotionally charged head coach. Look for the night game atmosphere and the emotion of Pelini to really rub off on this football team. Nebraska will win this game, but it will be a very good test for week one.
SCORE PREDICTION: Nebraska 34 Western Michigan 21