September 4, 2010

Callahan's take: Is it Martinez time?


In what has felt like one of the longest off-seasons in recent memory, the Nebraska football team will finally take the field tonight against Western Kentucky in Memorial Stadium at 6 pm.

The Huskers enter tonight's game against the Hilltoppers as a 38.5 point favorite. As things get closer to kickoff here are HuskerIllustrated.com's five keys to victory along with our score prediction for Saturday. We also chime in on who we think will start at quarterback for NU.

Who will play at quarterback?

When I look at the quarterback position heading into this game out of fall camp, it would not surprise me at all if redshirt freshman Taylor Martinez gets the start on Saturday.

I think this is the perfect opponent and the perfect opportunity to turn him loose. Head coach Bo Pelini and his staff have seen him make plays on the defense all August and I think now it's time to see what he can when the bullets are live.

However, I expect to see sophomore Cody Green quite a bit on Saturday as well. I think Green and Martinez will probably split reps in the first half and whoever plays the best will start the second half.

As for senior Zac Lee, it remains to be see what type of role he'll have on Saturday. The question I want to know is can all three really play equally or can you only settle on two? My thing with Lee is everybody already knows what he can do against inferior Sun Belt competition.

No matter what, Lee is always going to be there and we know what he can do. With Martinez and Green, I think it's important to use these early games to find out what they are made of. After these first two weeks it's going to be very hard to do this later in the season.

Offensive line play up front

We've heard all August about how improved Nebraska's offensive line play is heading into 2010. I sometimes laugh though because it feels like NU has said that every year since 2002.

Can this line finally return to the glory days when the Huskers had some of the best play at this position in all of college football?

I expect to see Jeremiah Sirles start at left tackle, but junior Jermarcus Hardrick will play as well. I think Ricky Henry, Marcel Jones and Mike Caputo are all poised for big seasons. As for Keith Williams, I want to see how he holds up durability wise before I make any type of predictions on his season.

Two other linemen to watch closely will be freshman Andrew Rodriguez and redshirt freshman Brent Qvale. Both of them had good camps and they should see plenty of snaps on Saturday.

Linebackers will be tested

I don't care what you say or how you spin it -- the loss of Will Compton and Sean Fisher at linebacker is huge.

If I would have told you NU would be without both of these guys to start fall camp, most people would've been concerned.

The pressure is on junior college transfer Lavonte David to make his impact early. Sophomores Alonzo Whaley and Eric Martin also need to step up their games with Compton and Fisher out. I expect opposing defenses to test NU's linebackers early and often to see what types of weaknesses they may have.

NU has depth on defense

The biggest reason why this defense can be as good as or even better than a year ago is the depth in numbers Nebraska now has.

Two years ago NU had absolutely no depth after their front line starters. Now that isn't the case, as Nebraska is eight to 10 deep on the defensive line and at least eight deep in the secondary.

With this type of flexibility expect Nebraska to sub early and often and work in several different players on defense. Carl Pelini feels like it will help keep Nebraska's defense fresher down the road with this type of substituting.

Setting the early tone for 2010

We all know the expectations and the bar have been set high for the 2010 season. The Huskers are ranked inside the top 10 for the first time since 2002. With that said today's game with Western Kentucky will lay the first brick of the foundation.

It's important for the Huskers to make a statement to the college football world that their offense is back and they still have one of the nation's elite defenses despite the loss of Ndamukong Suh.

I like Nebraska big and I'll take them to cover the 39 points as well.


Callahan's Prediction:Nebraska 51 Western Kentucky 7




 

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