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November 8, 2008

Match-up watch: Nebraska vs. Kansas

Each week, Huskeronline.com will breakdown the three key match-ups heading into Saturday's game. This week we break down three match-ups that should play a big role in determining Nebraska's success today against Kansas.

Nebraska's passing game vs. Kansas's zone blitz

The Jayhawks have found plenty of success this season using their linebackers in a variety of zone blitzes up the middle and off the edge. On the year, Kansas linebackers James Holt, Mike Rivera and Joe Mortensen have combined for seven sacks and 21 tackles for loss, with Holt leading the way in both categories with four and 11.5, respectively.

By blitzing their linebackers and dropping defensive linemen back into coverage, the Jayhawks have been able to confuse opposing quarterbacks into throwing 12 interceptions against them this season.

Last week against Oklahoma, the Huskers' passing game was essentially a non-factor, as quarterback Joe Ganz threw two interceptions in his first three pass attempts. If the Jayhawks' potent offense is able to put some points on the board, it will be imperative the Nebraska be able to find success throwing the ball in order to keep up.

Nebraska's pass rush vs. Kansas's o-line

If Nebraska can find a way to get pressure on KU quarterback Todd Reesing with its front four, it will open up the rest of the defense to help drop back into coverage and containing Kansas's high-powered passing game.

In the Jayhawks' loss to Oklahoma earlier this season, the Sooners were able to get to Reesing all day, ending with five sacks and two interceptions. The Huskers will likely be looking for similar results today, as they'll likely try to take advantage of KU's two first-year starters at left and right tackle.

Last week against the Sooners, Nebraska wasn't able to get any kind of pressure on Sam Bradford, and he was able to pick apart the secondary to the tune of 311 yards and five touchdowns through the air. If NU can't get to Reesing and at least throw him off rhythm, a repeat of Bradford's performance certainly isn't out of the question.

Joe Ganz vs. Kansas's defense

If you recall, the Ganz era officially began last year in Lawrence, Kan., when the Jayhawks handed NU a 76-39 drubbing in Ganz's first career start. However, Ganz was able to put up some pretty hefty numbers against a secondary that was far more talented last year than it is this season.

Throwing the ball essentially every down, Ganz ended last season's game 25-of-50 passing for 405 yards and four touchdowns. The only problem was he also had four interceptions in the game as well. Either way, he gave Kansas's defensive backs fits all day, and now with all-Big 12 cornerbacks Aqib Talib and James McClinton out of the picture and Ganz a year wiser, he's set up to have an even better performace.

Not only does Ganz pose a threat with his arm, his ability to create plays with his feet provides an added dimension that should cause KU's defense problems, especially with how much the Jayhawks like to blitz.



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