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October 20, 2006

Experts' view: Finding out who belongs

Week 8 Viewer's Guide
Conference Previews
The College Football Wire

Get the inside scoop on your favorite team:

How close is Nebraska to reclaiming past glory?

Which team is ready to prove it belongs in the top 10, Clemson or Georgia Tech?

The two marquee games this weekend will answer some interesting questions about some teams that may or may not be major players on the national stage.

The 17th-ranked Huskers (6-1) take on visiting No. 5 Texas (6-1) in huge Big 12 matchup. In the ACC, the No. 12 Tigers (6-1) and the No. 13 Yellow Jackets (5-1) clash at Clemson.

Here is Rivals.com's "Ask the Experts" for this week:

Big 12 Game of the Week
No. 5 Texas at No. 17 Nebraska
Saturday, 12:00 p.m., Eastern; ABC
Game Preview | Video Preview
Big 12 Breakdown | Video Vault
HuskersIllustrated.com's Sean Callahan and Orangebloods.com's Geoff Ketchum on Rivals Radio
Sean Callahan of HuskerIllustrated.com talks about Nebraska:
"I think Nebraska will try to spread them out on offense. Nebraska has used a lot of two and three tight end sets and just run it at people; you can't do that against Texas. They'll spread them out and go with a lot of short passes. I just don't know if you can realistically run the way they have this season against Texas.

"They'll definitely try to run, but they'll do it in different ways. They'll try to keep Texas off-balance. They've been very predictable this season. They've run it down people's throats, almost old-style Nebraska football. But Texas has so much speed and so many playmakers on defense. Nebraska has to show some things they haven't shown. Texas will expect them to run at them. For them to have a chance, (quarterback) Zac Taylor has to play best game of his career.

"On defense, Nebraska's strength is the front four. Adam Carriker and Jay Moore have been solid. They know they have to get pressure on Colt McCoy. That would be big. It will be a cold day, a high of 45, and it will be wet. It will be a tough road atmosphere for McCoy. If they can get after him early and try to set a tone, that would be a huge advantage.

"Statistically, the Nebraska defense doesn't have near the sack numbers it did last year, but people have schemed around them. Nobody is using 5- and 7-step drops. Teams are getting rid of the ball quick and limiting their sack totals.

"I think Nebraska's defensive tackle play has been the best since the late 1990s. Stopping the run has always been Nebraska's strength. They've had success against Adrian Peterson. I think they can contain Texas' run game, but that's the key matchup. Texas' offensive line is a great one, but this is the best d-line they have faced. That's probably where this game will be decided. It should be a pretty intense matchup along those lines.

Geoff Ketchum of Orangebloods.com talks about Texas:
"I think Texas first and foremost has to be healthy. They were missing two starters in the secondary last week against Baylor and it showed. They started a true freshman (Deon Beasley) at corner and a backup at safety (Matt Melton), and Baylor attacked them. They had some coverage issues and communication issues. But they're expecting Tarell Brown and Marcus Griffin back, and that answers those issues.

"If Nebraska wants success, they will have to establish the run. I also think for their offense to be effective they need help on defense. If Texas scores early and makes Nebraska one-dimensional, they'll play ball-control and take Nebraska out of what they want to do. That has been Texas MO all season get up early, make teams get out of their comfort zone.

"I've only seen a little bit of Nebraska, but I'm more impressed with the speed of their receivers than I am their running backs. USC is the only top run defense they've played, and they had only 68 yards on 25 carries. This front seven is much better than USC's. Plus the run support is good from the secondary. Statistically, no, Nebraska won't gouge Texas on the ground. They'll have to mix it up.

"I'm sure (the Texas offense) has a lot of confidence, but (quarterback) Colt McCoy is still a freshman. He's gotten away with making some questionable throws and did again last week. His touchdown pass to Jermichael Finley could easily have been an interception. He had another interception wiped away by a roughing-the-passer penalty. He will makes some mistakes and make some throws where he just trusts his athletes to go up and get it.

"Nebraska has to get to McCoy, force him to make turnovers. This game is not about Nebraska's offense against Texas' defense, it's about Texas' offense and Nebraska's defense. If Texas holds onto the ball and controls the line of scrimmage, I think they win pretty easily. If McCoy throws a couple of interceptions and Texas doesn't protect the ball, Nebraska could be in it."

ACC Game of the Week
No 13 Georgia Tech at No. 12 Clemson
Saturday, 7:45 p.m., Eastern; ESPN
Spotlight: Johnson surprising no one | ACC Breakdown | Video Vault
Chris Ard of TigerIllustrated.com talks about Clemson:
"Clemson certainly will go to its bread and butter on offense, and that's to try to move it on the ground. Plus they have some injury problems at wide receiver. Chansi Stuckey, the leading receiver in the ACC last year, I don't believe will be able to play. He was not in the rotation during workouts. I think the hope is he'll be back for Virginia Tech (Oct. 26).

"Georgia Tech has a good defense, so they'll try to put a few wrinkles in. They'll look at play-action, bubble-screen city, try to move things around. This won't be a game like Temple where Will Proctor only had to throw nine times. He will have to throw 20-plus times. But you can bet they'll line up and try to run the ball. They might try to spread them out a little, get the ball to Jacoby Ford. He's the fastest guy on the team. He ran a documented 4.18 (seconds) in the 40-yard dash in the track facility. He had four catches last week in Stuckey's absence. Of course, Aaron Kelly is the top receiver threat with Stuckey out.

"Senior running back Reggie Merriweather, who has missed the past three games, has been cleared to play. But freshman C.J. Spiller is expected to still be listed with the second team (both behind James Davis).

"Calvin Johnson didn't do that much against Clemson last year (four catches for 46 yards). They put safety Michael Hamlin over him and they'll do that again, with help over the top (Hamlin is 6 feet 3 to Johnson's 6-5. Clemson's corners are both 5-9). There won't be any man coverage. It's all going to be zone.

"I think Georgia Tech will be able to run the ball to some degree, but Clemson's front seven allows less than 70 yards per game on the ground. If Tech wins it will be because of Reggie Ball. I think they've cut him loose more. He has rushed for more than 300 yards, and he has gotten the ball to Calvin Johnson a lot more. If he can escape the pocket and get positive yardage, he can be the difference. (Clemson defensive coordinator) Vic Koenning has been talking all week about how much more consistent Ball has been this season."

Brandon Helwig of JacketsOnline.com discusses Georgia Tech:
"Tashard Choice is having a very good season. He actually had his best game last week against Maryland 130 yards. A lot of people think the whole Tech offense is strictly throw it to Calvin (Johnson), but it's a very balanced offense. They have done a better job this year of making sure Calvin gets the ball plenty, but they have a very good running game and they have been able to sprinkle in other receivers. Then you have Reggie Ball, who's very mobile. He's the leading rusher among quarterbacks in the ACC, and he's always a threat to break off a long run.

"This is the best defense they've seen. A lot of people expected Virginia Tech to be good defensively, but they may not be as good as people thought. I know last year (Clemson) doubled Calvin, and it will be interesting if they try to do that again. If Calvin is sort of taken out the game, Ball has been able to find other guys. James Johnson had a couple of big catches against Virginia Tech. They have some other receivers, and hopefully those guys can step up.

"The defense under Jon Tenuta is always solid. They saved the game against Maryland with a couple of big sacks by defensive end Michael Johnson. Clemson's running game will test them. But the Yellow Jackets did a pretty good job against Branden Ore of Virginia Tech (14 carries for 59 yards). Linebackers KaMichael Hall and Philip Wheeler have been tackling machines, and they know they will have to play well against the Tigers. They've been swapping the team lead in tackles, and they figure to get a lot of chances to make some more.

"I think the key to the game is probably Reggie Ball. He needs to stay consistent. He's been plagued by inconsistencies his whole career, but he has been pretty steady this year. As long as he doesn't turn it over if things aren't working out getting it to Calvin, don't make dangerous throws. He has to keep Tech in the game. I think it will be a close game just like it was last year (Tech won 10-9)."

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