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November 14, 2009

Match-up watch: Nebraska vs. Kansas

NU Run Offense vs KU Run Defense
For the first time in weeks, Nebraska's offense showed some life when it lined up in the old school I formation and ran the ball right at Oklahoma's stingy defense last week. If the Huskers can find a way to equal that success and utilize it consistently against the Jayhawks, it could go a long way in reeling in their third straight victory.

Junior running back Roy Helu finally got back to his usual form against the Sooners, putting up 138 yards on 20 carries to help Nebraska pull off the upset win. Don't be surprised if Helu continues his recent pace this week, as he faces a KU defense that he rushed for 115 yards and hauled in a game-high eight receptions for 61 yards against last season.

Not only that, but Kansas's run defense took a beating last week against instate rival Kansas State. The Wildcats rushed for 266 yards on 43 carries, marking the most yards the Jayhawks have allowed in a game this season.

Edge: NEBRASKA
NU Pass Offense vs KU Pass Defense
It's not as if Kansas's pass defense has been anything to write home about this season, but Nebraska's pass offense has just been that bad the past few weeks. Even though the Jayhawks are giving up nearly 230 yards through the air per game this season, the Huskers have barely managed to string together consecutive completed passes.

Against the Sooners, the combination of freshman Cody Green and Zac Lee passed for a total of 39 yards on 7-of-14 passing. Nebraska's coaching staff hasn't named who the starter would be for today's game, but whoever it is, the Huskers have to find a way to balance their running game out with some plays in the passing game.

However, as the Jayhawks proved last week, just because a team can't pass on them doesn't mean they can't beat them. The Wildcats completed just 7-of-16 passes for 66 yards last week but still managed a 17-7 victory.

Edge: KANSAS
KU Run Offense vs NU Run Defense
This is probably the most clear advantage of any aspect in this game, as Kansas's running game has been essentially a non-factor this season. On the other end, Nebraska's defense hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher since its loss to Virginia Tech.

Led by running back Jake Sharp, the Jayhawks come into the game boasting the nation's 85th-ranked rush offense, averaging a little less than 128 yards per game. During their recent four-game losing streak, the Jayhawks have averaged just 51 yards on the ground per contest.

On the other end, Nebraska comes with the No. 10 rush defense in the entire country. The Huskers are only giving up less than 95 rushing yards per game and have allowed just five rushing touchdowns all season.

Edge: NEBRASKA
KU Pass Offense vs NU Pass Defense
Coming into the season, Kansas was supposed to have a huge advantage at quarterback with senior Todd Reesing standing as the most experienced signal caller in the Big 12 North division. However, Reesing has almost turned into more of a liability than an asset the past four weeks.

Reesing has contributed the Jayhawks' four-game losing skid as much as anyone, as he's accounted for 10 total turnovers (five interceptions and five fumbles) the past four weeks, resulting in 49 points for KU opponents. At one point, head coach Mark Mangino benched Reesing during a game to make sure things didn't get any worse.

The Huskers on the other hand are coming off arguably their best pass defense performance of the Bo Pelini era last week against Oklahoma, has they picked off Sooner quarterback Landry Jones five times and held OU to 245 passing yards on 58 attempts.

Edge: NEBRASKA
Special Teams, What If's and The X-Factor
Nebraska gets more good news in knowing that it has an advantage in pretty much every special teams unit on the field. Kansas has really struggled on special teams this season, especially in its return units and its kick and punt coverage. The Jayhawks don't rank any higher nationally than 66th in any of those categories, and they rank 91st in both kickoff and punt returns. As for the Huskers, everyone knows about junior kicker/punter Alex Henery, and even though he's struggled the past couple weeks, he's still one of the best special teams weapons in the Big 12.

Edge: NEBRASKA

Nebraska Will Win If: It follows the same game plan as last week and also manages to put a few more points on the board, just to be safe. If the Huskers can get to Reesing and force him to continue to make bad decisions with the football, there should be plenty of opportunities to make some plays off of turnovers.

Kansas Will Win If: It can limit the turnovers and jump out to an early lead. If the Jayhawks can make Nebraska's offense play from behind, the Huskers will likely press to make plays, which judging from their recent performances should only end badly for NU. Also, containing Helu and the running game will be crucial.

X-Factor: When redshirt freshman fullback Tyler Legate came into the game and Nebraska lined up in the I formation last week against Oklahoma, the Huskers' offense showed a spark as it ran right at the Sooners defense. Look for Legate to play just as much if not more this week, as the Huskers should try to ride a physical running game all day to not only produce some offense but also control the game clock as much as possible.

Prediction: Nebraska 13 Kansas 3



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