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the Gekko File: Nebraska

The old line "Familiarity breeds contempt" is one that is so common that nobody is credited with quoting it.  It is true, however, that Mark Twain was credited with noting that "Familiarity breeds contempt – and children".  While I can’t speak to the procreation habits of my fellow blogmates (or, at least I choose not to), I can assure you that there ain’t no football program in the nation that we are more familiar with than the Nebraska Cornhuskers.  With that notion of familiarity in mind, I will give you another familiar quote credited to one George Sand: "Admiration and familiarity are strangers."  Not only should you interpret that to mean that I do not admire any of my fellow Dawgpounders, but you should also take it to mean that I’ve about had it up to my eyeballs with the Cornhuskers … and I’m pretty sure the feeling is mutual (although, gosh darn it, I will miss the gentlemanly visits by JDHusker to our little blog).  With this lack of admiration in mind, I offer you some some Nebraska tidbits and a preview generated from this week’s Gekko File.

  • Everyone knows that Nebraska and UW split two games last year making this year’s matchup the rubber game of the "series".  However, it is also the rubber game of the all-time series as UW and Nebraska have played each other to a 4-4-1 all-time record.  Surprisingly, Nebraska has had less luck with the Cougars – they are 1-3 against them all-time (but, they are 5-1 vs the Ducks!)
  • The 2011 Cornhuskers are a familiar group to Husky fans.  They will once again feature stars Taylor Martinez, Alfonzo Dennard and Jared Crick from a team that has won 10 games or more for two straight years.  However, this team has lost some key pieces including RB Roy Helu, K Alex Henery, CB Prince Amukamara, WR Niles Paul, QB Zac Lee, QB Cody Green and three of their starting O-Lineman from last year.  This is a different team, for better or worse, than what we saw in the Holiday Bowl.
  • The Cornhuskers have the nation’s longest consecutive bowl game appearance streak going right now.  They are the model of consistency, just like their highway system.
  • Florida gave us GatorAde.  Nebraska gave us Kool-Aid.  You all drink purple Kool-Aid.  You all look like Kevin Bacon.  There you have it.
  • Nebraska’s offensive and defensive lines are known for their girth.  Some attribute it to all of the corn grown in that God-forsaken state.  However, it may also be a comprehensive conspiracy.  After all, Nebraska has the largest weight room in all of the NCAA – it covers almost ¾ of an acre.
  • Nebraska's cheerleaders are also known for their girth.  There, I said it.  You were thinking it.  Let's move on.
  • The state motto of Nebraska is "Equality Before the Law".  This has been an important rallying cry for Huskers, but it presents a bit of a quandary.  The general public is so unequal in terms of overall intellect that the entire society has devolved into a bunch of degenerate criminals.  Lawrence Phillips comes to mind.
  • That said, the University does like to cite the fact that they have produced more Academic All-Americans than any other Division 1 school.  What they don’t tell you is that they are the only school that still references the term "Division 1" and, therefore, are the only team that still produces "Division 1" Academic All-Americans.  Those sneaky Huskers.
  • Nebraska has had some awesome players come through its program over the years.  There can be no debating that the cream of that crop is Dave Rimington, an offensive linemen who played at Nebraska between 1979-1982.  Rimington won the Outland trophy twice, the Lombardi trophy once and actually finished fifth in the Heisman voting in 1982, as an Offensive Center!  The Rimington Trophy was first awarded in 2000 and honors the nation’s best center every year.
  • Defense – the Blackshirts – is the tradition at Nebraska.  Almost 2/3 of all Nebraska players drafted in the NFL draft since 1990 have been defensive players.
  • Nebraska has claimed five national championships including three in a span of four seasons between 1994-1997.  That was an unbelievable run.
  • I was really saddened to hear that superstar recruit, Bubba Starling, decided to pass on the opportunity to play QB for the Cornhuskers so that he could play baseball for the Kansas City Royals.  Very, very heartbroken.  Matt Tuiasosopo.  Sorry, instinctual reaction.
  • Father Edward Flanagan founded Boys Town in Nebraska in 1917…and the Catholic Church has never been the same.  Ok, that was too easy.  And I’m Catholic.

Washington at Nebraska:  A Preview

We all know how this game is going to be played out given how familiar each team is with the other.  Despite six new starters on offense and five new starters on defense, the Nebraska gameplan is pretty easy to predict.  On offense, I expect that we will see a lot of Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead running the ball with Taylor looking to take shots selectively against what is currently the worst statistical pass defense in the NCAA.  The Huskies will counter with a more consistent rotation of DL’s than what Nebraska saw last year including heavy doses of two new faces in Lawrence Lagafuaina and Danny Shelton as this promises to be the first run-oriented offense that UW will see this year.  The ability (or inability) of these two young players to step up and shine is going to be a key element in this game.  The passing game is going to be interesting to watch.  The Cornhuskers feature Junior TE Kyler Reed, Senior WR Brandon Kinnie and a bunch of talented young guys who are still trying to find their games (look out for Sophomore Quincy Enunwa and Freshman Jamal Turner).  I’m not sure if they will have it all worked out by the time Washington arrives, but expect them to test our inconsistent secondary as long as the O-Line can give Martinez a pocket.

Defensively, the Huskers are still dominant no matter what happened last week against Fresno State.  Chris Polk embarrassed them in the Holiday Bowl and it is a certainty that Bo Pelini has reminded his stud DTs of this fact repeatedly.  That front seven has had this game circled and I expect that they’ll rise to the challenge.  I sense that this game is going to be put into the hands of our QB and our deep WR corps early.  Their ability to respond positively is probably the only prayer we have at generating some offense and getting the Blackshirts on their heels.  No doubt that Keith Price's performance against Hawaii has opened the Huskers' eyes, but expect them to play that aggressive form of man-to-man nonetheless.  To counter that, we will probably see the Huskies spread it out more frequently and look for opportunities to run out of three and four wide sets in order to add deception to our gameplan.  Unlike last year, the Dawgs have third, fourth and fifth receivers who matchup favorably against Nebraska's LB/Secondary.  In addition, the Huskies will add a TE rotation to the mix that will be a new twist for the Huskers to cope with.

If the Huskies can keep the game close, they have a decided advantage in special teams as the Huskers are breaking in both a new punter and a new kicker along with several new role players.  Keep an eye on this situation.

Prediction:  UW 20 – Neb 28

I expect UW to hang with Nebraska for a good chunk of this game mostly because I sense that Nebraska will have trouble running the ball against our front line defense and I'm gaining confidence in Keith Price's ability to manage a game.  He just seems to know how to keep it close.  However, I do expect our offense to have a lot more trouble with the Blackshirts and field position will likely become a big advantage for the Huskers.  The Huskers are a well-conditioned bunch and they know how to put a game away in the fourth quarter (see 21 points in the fourth quarter against Fresno St). 

My Prediction: the Dawgs will put up a good fight and go home having left it all on the field.  Reports from traveling Dawgfans will focus on the hospitality of the Husker fans and the strange liquor that Corn Nation Blogger Jon Jonston served up to his guests from the Northwest.  Husker Mike will pop over to the Dawgpound and take back anything he ever said about the Huskers losing the Holiday Bowl because "they didn’t want to be there" and JDHusker will be the good sport he always is and wish us the best in 2011 (to which I respond in a Corn-Liquor-drunken-haze "go %$#@ a cow").

Other Predictions:

…Chris Polk will have a nice but not dominating game - averaging 3.7 yards a carry and one TD
...Rex Burkhead will break off two runs over 15 yards each, but otherwise get contained
…Taylor Martinez will break contain and make some big plays
...Taylor Martinez will get hit and get hit hard.  Freshman Brion Carnes will get some play.
Bo Pelini will yell at his offensive coordinator.  Many times.  Using bad words.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins will get schooled on a few blocking assignments, but make at least three catches that make us all forget about it.
The Huskers will record four sacks in a game that serves as another wakeup call for Coach Coz
The UW secondary will pick off two Taylor Martinez passes, one each by Sean Parker and Quinton Richardson
...The Huskers will commit more penalties that UW, including three PI's, which will keep UW in the game til the end