PASADENA, Calif. - You typically find out a lot about your team on the first road trip of the season. Today Nebraska will travel to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena to play a UCLA team coming off an impressive 49-24 win at Rice in week 1.
As things get closer to kickoff, here are today's keys to victory for Nebraska over UCLA, along with our HuskerOnline.com staff and guest predictions for week 2. The Huskers come into today's game a 5-point favorite over the Bruins.
Continued first down success
When you look at Nebraska's win over Southern Miss the success the Husker offense had on first down was simply amazing. On 38 first down plays NU racked up 343 yards of offense alone.
That early down success allowed offensive coordinator Tim Beck to really open up his playbook and do different things on second and third down.
If Nebraska can continue their success on first down of gaining 5 to 6 yards or more per play, it's going to be impossible for UCLA to slow down this offense. Quarterback Taylor Martinez is already hard enough to scheme for, and when you don't know what's coming on second and third down it makes it that much more difficult.
Establish multiple offensive weapons
With senior running back Rex Burkhead most likely out for today's game, the Huskers once again need to have a "committee approach" in establishing different offensive weapons.
That's what makes this offense potentially so dangerous. It's more than just Martinez and Burkhead. The Huskers will once again need to get Ameer Abdullah, Braylon Heard and Imani Cross going at running back, and Kenny Bell, Quincy Enunwa, Jamal Turner and Kyler Reed at wide receiver.
If they are able to get more guys involved again like last week, UCLA is going to have to account for several different things today, which should take the pressure off of Martinez.
Contain Hundley in the QB run game
It's well-documented that Bo Pelini's defenses at Nebraska have had their troubles slowing down and containing mobile quarterbacks.
UCLA will come at the Huskers today with a very athletic QB in Brett Hundley, who ran wild against Rice a week ago.
Hundley is just a freshman, so he doesn't have a ton of experience underneath his belt. My guess is you'll see Pelini try to confuse him with blitzes and different coverage packages.
Be ready to cover deep shots down field
The one area Southern Miss didn't really test Nebraska last week was with the deep ball. I expect UCLA head coach Jim Mora to call his fair share of deep shots down field.
I also wouldn't be surprised if he used Hundley's athletic ability to his advantage with play fakes and play actions to try and get Nebraska's safeties and corners to cheat up. Limiting the deep ball will be maybe the most important thing for the Husker defense today.
Keep the 'business trip' approach
With guys like Martinez, Enunwa, Cameron Meredith, Eric Martin, Daimion Stafford and Josh Mitchell having a ton of family and friends at the game today, there's the potential that could cause some distractions.
It will be important for NU's players to treat this like a business trip. After the game is over with they'll have plenty of time to say hi to family and friends around the locker room, so they need to stay dialed in even though there will be a lot of potential distractions for them this weekend in Los Angeles.
Callahan's weekly predictions
I was very surprised with how low the spread for this game opened up on Sunday night. What it tells me is either the odds makers must want to see more from Nebraska's offense, or UCLA's win over Rice was more impressive than most of us realize. Personally I see this game going a lot like the Huskers win at Washington in 2010. I see NU wearing down the Bruins with their power game and a motivated Martinez playing another good game in front of his friends and family. I like Nebraska and I think they will cover the 5 point spread.
Nebraska 45 UCLA 31
Iowa 23 Iowa State 20
Wisconsin 37 Oregon State 27
Missouri 27 Georgia 21
Florida 23 Texas A&M 17
Season Record: 4-0 overall; 3-1 vs. points