Nebraska sells out to stop the pass and it worked well for them late last season in games against Texas and Arizona. Nebraska's defense will sometimes play up to 7 DB's at a time. The Cornhuskers ran about 85 percent of its defensive snaps last year out of a "dime" package to slow down spread offenses.
Steve Sarkisian on Nebraska playing up to seven DB's - "One, you'd like to think you have better odds of running the football, but they hold up pretty well. The minus is, they've got defensive backs not only covering your wide receivers but covering your tight ends and covering your running backs out of the backfield. So they're able to stay close to guys. There's not a lot of error, not a lot of room to throw balls. So there's a real onus on the quarterback to know what coverage it is and anticipate throws and be accurate.''
The Nebraska base defense uses 4 down linemen, 3 linebackers, and 4 defensive backs. Bo Pellini still considers it a 4-3 alignment, but they use personnel that would normally be found in a Nickel formation. One of the 3 linebackers is really another defensive back or hybrid LB, often referred to as the "nickel back," so in reality it is a 4-2-5, known in Nebraska as the "Peso."
The Blackshirts return six starters from a unit ranked 1st nationally in scoring defense in 2009. All America candidate Jared Crick returns to anchor the defensive line, while CB Prince Amukamara anchors a secondary that is well stocked with experienced players.
Eric Hagg is the hybrid who will be the 5th DB in the Peso. When opposing offenses are in passing formations, the 6-2, 210-pound Hagg becomes a defensive back. Against running formations, he plays like a linebacker.
The Huskers don't have DT Ndamukong Suh or LB Larry Dillard clogging the middle this year, indicating Nebraska could struggle stopping inside runs out of their 6-in-the-box base defense on Saturday. Perhaps this is the week that the "Locker" QB draw works for Washington and we see Chris Polk carry the ball 25 or more times.
Washington will be facing a 4-6 man front most of the game, giving the Huskies room to run the ball. Lowly Western Kentucky picked up 179 yards on the ground against the Cornhuskers in 40 rushing attempts in the opener. You have to think that Jake Locker and Chris Polk would be a big step up in competition for the Blackshirts.
Even though Nebraska uses an extra DB or three to stop the pass, they still get a formidable pass rush. The Huskers picked up seven sacks against Idaho to compliment their five interceptions. Nebraska brought pressure up the middle against the Vandals, and expect them to do that again against Washington in obvious passing situations.
Expect Locker to counter the pressure by throwing quick passes, as he did against Syracuse, resulting in four TD passes. If Nebraska brings too much up the middle it could mean some big runs around the ends if they break contain on Jake. Most of us have been asking where the roll out is and we could see a lot more of it this week.
In my mind, expect the biggest match up of this game is going to be between UW WR Jermaine Kearse and Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara. You have strength going against strength, and whoever wins this battle likely wins the game. Kearse ranks third in the nation with 143.5 receiving yards per game,14 receptions, and 4 TD's in 2010. His sidekick, Devin Aguilar, is also dangerous with the ball in his hands and has proven to be a devastating downfield blocker. Prince Amukamara is the best cornerback UW will see all season. He may end up being the first CB chosen in the 2011 NFL draft.
Keep an eye on this match up from the onset because if Nebraska succeeds in shutting down our receivers it could be a long day.
(Editors Note: Due to travel and a power outage I was not able to finish this article correctly...so if it seems it ends in a strange place without a summary...that is the reason.)