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October 16, 2010

Match-up watch: Nebraska vs. Texas

NU Run Offense vs UT Run Defense
Nebraska comes into today's game with the nation's second-ranked rushing attack, putting up a staggering 337.6 yards per game and 21 rushing touchdowns. Redshirt freshman Taylor Martinez has been arguably one of the top two rushers in all of college football, and when he comes in with the right focus, there hasn't been a team on the schedule who could stop him.

Texas, on the other hand, boasts the No. 19 run defense allowing just 104 yards on the ground per game. What makes the Longhorns such a formidable threat is their overall defensive team speed. Texas will do everything in its power to keep Martinez and Co. from getting to the outside and breaking a long run, and there's no question they have the talent to keep up with the Huskers.


NU Pass Offense vs UT Pass Defense
Should Texas be able to contain or at least slow down Nebraska on the ground, the Huskers' hopes of a pulling out a win will rely on Martinez's right arm. The Corona, Calif., native has been hot and cold in the passing game so far this season, but he's shown he's capable of making the big throws when he has to. However, the undisputed strength of Texas's entire team is its secondary. The Longhorns feature arguably one of most talented and experienced defensive backfields in all of college football, and their 150.2 passing yards allowed per game this year rank eighth nationally. Needless to say, this will far and away be the biggest test of Martinez's young career.

UT Rush Offense vs NU Rush Defense
Nebraska out many of the doubts surrounding its run defense to rest last week when it shut down Kansas State's Daniel Thomas, the Big 12's leading rusher, for just 63 yards on 23 carries. Junior linebacker Lavonte David is emerging as one of the top tacklers in the nation, as his 60 total tackles and 12 tackles per game lead the conference by a longshot.

That doesn't bode well for a Texas team that has struggled to get any sort of consistency from its running game this season. Despite coming into the year promising to dedicate the offense more towards the run, the Longhorns have averaged less than 130 rushing yards per game, which ranks 82nd nationally.


UT Pass Offense vs NU Pass Defense
Nebraska's pass defense was tabbed the strength of the team before the season even began, and its done nothing but live up to that title thus far. The Huskers come into today's game as the No. 1 pass defense in all of college football, only giving up 128 yards per game with 11 interceptions to just four passing touchdowns allowed.

On the other side, Texas sophomore quarterback Garrett Gilbert has struggled to live up to the promise he showed in last year's national championship game. He's thrown more interceptions (five) than he has touchdowns (four), and his 118.82 passer rating ranks 82nd overall.


Special Teams, What If's and The X-Factor
After Kansas State was able to average 31 yards per kickoff return last week compared to Nebraska's 16 ypr, head coach Bo Pelini said he was going to make some changes to Nebraska's special teams this week. The coaching staff wouldn't go into what those changes were this week, but it looks like the Huskers made it a point to not let the Longhorns get any big plays via special teams while their offense struggles. As for NU, the return game has been pretty much inconsistent all season. If return man Niles Paul could find a way to finally break one on a punt on kickoff return, it would be a huge boost for the Huskers.

Edge: PUSH

Nebraska Will Win If: It can continue to run the football like it has been doing all year and get the same type of performance out of its defense. There's a reason Texas has lost two straight games coming into today's showdown, and the same weakness that led to those losses will be there again for the Huskers to exploit even more.

Texas Will Win If: It can limit Nebraska's running game and force Martinez to try and beat them through the air. Having Martinez throw against such a talented secondary is the ideal situation for the Longhorns, so forcing NU into 3rd-and-long situations is going to be key. Also, Gilbert is going to have to limit his mistakes just as much as Martinez will in order to keep UT close.

X-Factor: Of all the match-ups across the board in this game, there's one intangible that Nebraska has and Texas does not - the revenge factor. As much as Pelini and his team tried to downplay the notion that the Huskers are looking for redemption for last year's Big 12 Championship game this week, there's no way that game isn't still lingering like a black cloud over Memorial Stadium. The team isn't wearing those "0:01" bracelets just because they cool.

Prediction: Nebraska 31 Texas 21

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