A look at Nebraska.
Last year SC rolled to an 18-point victory over Nebraska at the Coliseum. There were many Nebraska fans that were frustrated at the conservative play calling by Bill Callahan. With so many inexperienced freshmen on the team last year I was surprised that Callahan didn't try to do more to pressure that inexperience. Last year Callahan had a great defense yet SC still won by 18 thanks to USC's new defense stepping up. The offense did their share too and the line did a great job at keeping a great defense at bay.
The Nebraska defensive line has lost all four starters and it showed against Wake Forrest giving up 236 yards in rushing, the front four has registered just six tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Their linebackers are talented but seemed to wait for the plays to come to them instead of them going to the plays. Steve Octavien is the leader of this group and while he is sure to be a factor in every play Bo Ruud will be right there with him. Both the Ruud and Octavien can drop into pass coverage as well so Booty needs to wary of their presence, if SC's offensive line are able to open some lanes for the running backs they need to wary of Ruud and Octavien coming up and turning it into only short gain. Big gains will be needed to really put this game away. If Sc can establish the run it will open up some passing lanes and that could turn this game into a shoot out.
In the secondary Nebraska is a bit small in size; Murillo is 6'0" Grixby 5'9" and Bowman is 6'2". Last season Jarrett owned Grixby and this season may not be much different. With Ausberry and Turner being in the 6'5" range it could get interesting if SC is able to open it up. Safeties Asante and Green will both have prominent roles in this game. Even though the linebackers are stout it is Asante (SS) that leads the team in tackles with 13. Green (FS) has played cornerback in the past so he will be in on the double team when SC goes to the air. One thing that is telling about Asante's leading in tackles, that is an obvious sign that the Nebraska defensive line has some problems stopping the run, if that stays true to form, it will be another indication of SC putting it up in the air and if Turner, Ausberry and Hazelton are on the mark it could be a long night for the Nebraska secondary.
The offense lives and dies with Marlon Lucky. Yes, they have Sam Keller but more on him later. Lucky has been the workhorse in the Nebraska offense, he is averaging 6-yards per carry gaining 327 yards in his first two games. SC shut Lucky down last year with only 27 yard on 10 carries, Callahan's conservative play calling, having Lucky try and make plays and gain yards between the tackles, had more to do with Lucky's "lackluster" performance than anything else. Lucky can also catch the ball so I wouldn't be surprised if Nebraska threw him a couple of Wheel-Route's to open up the field. Quentin Castille is the other running back to keep tabs on. He is quick and can get the ball downfield. He had a great game against Nevada going 78 yards on 18 carries. Against Wake he went 28 yards on six carries against a much better defense.
The receivers benefit from having a QB who make some plays and there is no reason to think why Keller won't try to put the ball in either Purify, Nunn or Swift's hands. Maurice Purify is coming off a terrible off-season with two arrests and the tragic death of his brother. He had a decent game against Wake but he may have his hands full against the SC secondary. Nunn has never had big numbers but he has the opportunity to become Nebraska's all-time leading receiver. Nuun is a scrappy player who always finds some open space to make a play but the key to Nunn will be not to shut him down but simply make him ineffective. Swift is a lot like Nunn with his ability to make plays underneath when the opposing defense will give up yards underneath in order to prevent anything getting over the top. Both Nunn and Swift won't light up any secondaries but they will always make the easy play and scrap for yardage underneath. The offensive line is key to giving Keller time to throw and to getting Lucky some space to run and they are effective as they have not given up a sack and they the NCAA in that category.
Back to Keller; Keller has shown he can play against SC, at least for a half, he had a decent game against Nevada though he looked shaky against Wake. Keller is a better fit for Bill Callahan's pro style West Coast Offense and he has the confidence to put it up and he may be looking to exorcise some demons from his last game against SC in 2005. Keller can be a bit ballsy as he is very capable of threading the needle so I expect him to try and take advantage of someone like Sharrece Wright with his inexperience when he is in the game. Sometimes though that gutsy type of play gets the better of him as he is apt to force passes into coverage and tries to make plays he isn't capable of making. SC needs to keep Keller from getting into a rhythm so that he can't get comfortable and dink and dunk you for short yardage plays. If the defense can rattle him or shutdown those short yardage throws it will force Keller to try and create something farther down field and that is where he can get into trouble. USC Needs to get some takeaways and Keller may just oblige them if SC keeps the pressure on him and take him out of that rhythm.
Callahan is the other factor, will open up the playbook or stay conservative. Will his new offensive coordinator have better luck than Jay Norvell who has since moved on to ucla.
The key to the game will SC's defense against the Nebraska offense. Lincoln will be rocking that's for sure. I expect the Nebraska faithful to give it their all and because of the passion that permeates Nebraska football I do not see this as a blow out.
USC 35 Nebraska 24