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October 25, 2008Nebraska will try to make it two in a row today when they take on Baylor in Lincoln. The Bears will come to Memorial Stadium with first year head coach Art Briles' diversified spread offense, led by talented freshman quarterback Robert Griffin.
Here are today's keys to victory for the Huskers (4-3, 1-2) as they get ready to square off against the Bears (3-4, 1-2).
Containment of Robert Griffin
Nothing will be more important for Nebraska in winning this game than their overall containment of Griffin. Head coach Bo Pelini said the Huskers will have a plan in place to keep containment on Griffin, and you hope it will be a little more successful than the plan they had last month against Tyrod Taylor of Virginia Tech.
Griffin is probably the fastest quarterback in the country and his world class caliber speed in the hurdles makes him a home run threat every time he breaks into the second and third levels of the defense. The Huskers cannot let this young freshman establish any sort of early confidence.
Shore up the punting problems
Right now Nebraska ranks 119th in the country and last in the Big 12 Conference in overall net punting. This has been one of the bigger disappointments for NU through their first seven games.
Heading into the season everybody just assumed senior punter Dan Titchener would pick up where he left off and average between 40 to 45 yards punt. That hasn't been the case, as NU's net punting average has been less than 30 yards per attempt. In a game like todays, the Huskers cannot afford to give Briles and his young offense any sort of good field position.
Stopping the Bear ground game
Everybody wants to talk about Baylor passing the ball, but a little known fact about the Bears is they actually rank third in the Big 12 Conference in rushing yards per game.
Bear running back Jay Finley has 438 yards rushing on 73 carries, while Griffin has 433 yards on 97 carries. What really stands out about Baylor's ground game is they have five different players that have carried the ball 24 times or more for 109 yards or more. You'll be hard pressed to find that distribution on very many teams across the country.
The Huskers will not only have to worry about Finley and Griffin today, but they also must be aware of several other faces that are potential threats in the ground game.
Attacking Baylor's corners
One big question for Baylor today will be the health of their secondary. Right now the status of Bear starting cornerbacks Dwain Crawford and Krys Buerck is in jeopardy for Saturday's game.
Both Crawford and Buerck went down in last week's Oklahoma State game and head coach Art Briles is being tight lipped on their status. Word out of Waco is that freshman Tim Atchison has actually moved over to corner from safety this week to help shore up Baylor's depth issues at corner.
Because of Baylor's corner concerns, Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz should be able to really attack the Bear secondary. Look for offensive coordinator Shawn Watson to attack their corners early and often to see what type of things the Huskers can exploit.
Don't start flat
The last time Nebraska played an 11:30 a.m. game at Memorial Stadium they got off to a poor start against San Jose State. In fact, until Niles Paul's kickoff return for a touchdown, the Spartans arguably had the momentum and the crowd was taken out of the game.
Nebraska cannot afford a slow start like that at home again. They have to use Memorial Stadium to their advantage and do their best to rattle Griffin. Memorial Stadium will easily be the most intimidating environment Baylor has played in this season. Their other road games have been at Connecticut and Oklahoma State.
Griffin will make his plays today, but in the end the Huskers have too much fire power on offense and Pelini will make the necessary in game adjustments that will allow Nebraska to pull away in the second half.
PREDICTION: Nebraska 38 Baylor 20
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