October 29, 2011

MSU keys to victory and HOL staff predictions

Nebraska has arguably their biggest game of the season today in Memorial Stadium against Michigan State. If the Huskers want to make it to the Big Ten championship game a win over the Spartans is nearly a must.

NU enters today's match-up as a 4 point favorite over MSU, despite the fact the Spartans have strung off three straight impressive victories over Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio State.

As things get closer to kickoff here today's keys to victory for Nebraska over Michigan State.

Limit Michigan State's ground game

Michigan State comes into today's match-up ranked last in the Big Ten in rushing yards, despite the fact the Spartans returned All-Big Ten running back Edwin Baker.

Even though MSU has struggled to run the football this season, the Spartans will still try to establish Baker. A lot of their problems have been because of the youth and inexperience on the offensive line. It will be important for Nebraska's defensive line to make plays early and not let Michigan State get anything going on the ground.

Don't be intimidated by the Spartans

MSU's defense will come into Memorial Stadium as bullies. They are going to try and intimidate Nebraska early.

It will be important for the Huskers not to be intimidated by Michigan State's defense by making some early plays. NU can't get discouraged if the Spartan defensive line makes a few plays early, because with their talent up front it's probably going to happen.

See through MSU's cover four zone

Michigan State will attack Nebraska primarily with a cover four zone defense. You won't see the Spartans run very much man coverage.

It will be important for Taylor Martinez and Nebraska's wide receivers to find the holes in the zone. MSU's safeties will play deep though, so there won't be a lot of big plays over the top, but there should be plenty of opportunities to make plays underneath the zone.

Confuse and pressure Cousins

Quarterbacks like Michigan State's Kirk Cousins are the type of players Bo Pelini's defenses have had success against in the past.

I expect NU to bring pressure at Cousins in several different fashions today. I also think Pelini will turn his defensive ends loose on passing downs. I expect to see Eric Martin inserted into the game as well in pass rush situations. MSU has a young offensive line and Nebraska has to take advantage of that with pressure at Cousins.

Don't get in an early hole

With the way Michigan State dictates the style of play with their defense, the last thing Nebraska can do today is afford to get into an early hole.

If NU gets down and is forced to pass, that's when the Spartans can really tee off and go at Martinez. It will be important for Nebraska to make some early plays and get the crowd into the game and put the pressure on Michigan State to answer.

Callahan's weekly predictions

I really like this match-up for Nebraska. Cousins lack of mobility is a big advantage for Pelini in the way he schemes. I also think the home field will play a big factor and lead the Huskers to a key divisional win over the Spartans. I also like NU to cover the four point spread.

Nebraska 26 Michigan State 20
Wisconsin 23 Ohio State 19
Penn State 17 Illinois 10

Season Record: 12-9 overall; 11-10 vs. points

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