July 20, 2009

Summer forecast: Oklahoma

No game on Nebraska's regular-season schedule will be bigger, at least on a national scale, than this one. When the defending Big 12 Conference champion Oklahoma Sooners come to town, the Huskers will get their best chance to shock the world with an upset of a team that very well could be ranked in the top-3 nationally.

In the latest installment of HuskersIllustrated.com's "Summer Forecasts" series, we take a look at Nebraska's biggest strength and weakness when they take on the Sooners on Nov. 7 in Lincoln.

NU's biggest strength: Suh and the front four

There's no question that Oklahoma enters the season with the most talented cast of skill position players than any team in the Big 12, if not the entire country. If anything could be considered a weakness, though, it would be its offensive line.

The Sooners return just one starter on their o-line from last season in senior tackle Trent Williams. Senior guard and first-year starter Brian Simmons joins Williams on the left side to help provide some experience, but the real question marks come in the middle and right side of the line.

Particularly, freshman center Ben Habern and sophomore guard Stephen Good must find a way to keep Heisman quarterback Sam Bradford upright and in the pocket. This is where Nebraska could be able to capitalize.

Led by Ndamukong Suh in the middle, the Huskers' defensive front and linebackers will likely test OU's young linemen early and often to try and get to Bradford and throw off rhythm. If they can, slowing down the Sooners' high-powered offense will suddenly become a much easier task.

NU's biggest weakness: Containing OU's firepower

As if facing the returning Heisman Trophy winner won't be tough enough, Bradford has a spoil of riches to work with.

With two of the best running backs in the conference in DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown, arguably the best tight end in the country in Jermaine Gresham and a slew of talented receivers, the Sooners are loaded offensively.

This poses one of the most daunting tasks the Huskers will face all year in that they will have so much to focus on defensively. While the defensive line should be able to hold its own, NU's linebackers and secondary will be put to the test trying to keep track of all of Oklahoma's weapons.

Last season in Norman, Bradford and the Sooners tore up Nebraska through the air to the tune of 315 yards on 21-of-30 passing. If the Huskers can't find a way to at least limit OU to one or two options offensively, then a repeat performance this time around isn't totally out of the question.

Early HI.com projected point spread: +9

Early HI.com final score prediction: NU 24, OU 35

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