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November 5, 2011

Northwestern keys to victory and HOL staff predictions

Nebraska will try to keep things rolling today in Lincoln as they go for their eighth win of the season against Northwestern.

As things get closer to kickoff, here are today's keys to victory over the Wildcats.

The Huskers enter today's match-up as a 17.5 point favorite over Northwestern and need to keep winning each week to keep their Big Ten title hopes alive.

Establish the run early

Northwestern is ranked 95th nationally in rushing defense and 98th overall in total defense.

With that said Nebraska should run all over the Wildcat defense. Offensive coordinator Tim Beck shouldn't even have to get cute with his running plays. Beck needs to just run the ball straight at Northwestern and make them stop it.

Even in a win last week against Indiana, the Hoosiers ran for 318 yards on the ground. I don't think much more needs to even be said.

Tackle in space

Wildcat quarterback Dan Persa is completing 75.5 percent of his passes. What that should tell you is Persa doesn't throw down field a ton, but makes more high percentage passes to his receivers in space.

This will test Nebraska's secondary and force them to use sound fundamentals and tackle in space.

Use the wind to your advantage

The weatherman is calling the potential of 30 to 40 mile per hour wind gusts in Lincoln today. If this forecast prediction holds up, it's really going to play a factor in both the passing and kicking games.

Luckily for Nebraska they won't have to worry about throwing a ton and Brett Maher should be more experienced in kicking in these types of conditions since he'll know how to play the wind better in the stadium.

You may see Maher do more low line drive kicks and punts if the win is indeed a factor.

Disrupt and confuse Persa

You have to think Northwestern is going to be a little confused as to what to expect from Nebraska's defense.

Will the Huskers come at Persa with a fierce pass rush like they did last week, or will they play conservatively up front and try to keep him in the pocket.

I expect to see Pelini really try and confuse Persa with as many different looks as possible to force him into some bad decisions.

Keep it rolling

Nebraska is the hottest team arguably in the Big Ten. They are starting to understand Tim Beck's new offense and they are playing Bo Pelini defense for the first time this season.

It will be important they keep it rolling again today and send a message to the rest of the Big Ten that the Nebraska team you saw early on this season was much different than the one on the field right now.

Callahan's weekly predictions

Northwestern has one of the worst defense's in the Big Ten. They gave up over 300 yards rushing in a win last week over Indiana. I just don't see how they stop Nebraska, but they will put a few scores on the board. I like the Huskers to roll by 25 points and to cover the 17.5 point spread.

Nebraska 45 Northwestern 20
Iowa 34 Michigan 31
Alabama 27 LSU 24

Season Record: 14-10 overall; 13-11 vs. points

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