Game Day: Nebraska vs. UCLA

Positive spin

When seven AP Top 25 voters got down to the final spots on their ballots last Saturday night, they made the determination that Nebraska wasn't good enough to make the cut. NU's players chose not to touch anything this week that had to do with ratings or respect or national perception. "We'll start getting the national attention when we start winning championships," senior offensive tackle Jeremiah Sirles said. "So that's the ultimate goal." With UCLA in town Saturday, the Huskers have high hopes that a win will be a big step toward that objective.

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2-Minute Drill by Jon Nyatawa

Nebraska rush offense vs. UCLA rush defense

Only a dozen teams allowed more runs of 30 yards or more last year than the Bruins, who gave up 12. Nebraska averaged 7.2 yards per carry in a 36-30 loss to UCLA last season, but the Huskers ran the ball only 36 times, their lowest total all year. Nebraska's mix of option and power should be enough to counteract the varying alignments from UCLA. Advantage: NU

Nebraska pass offense vs. UCLA pass defense

Assuming NU's running game gets going, the receivers should have room to roam against a young secondary. In UCLA's five losses last year (when teams established the run), the Bruins gave up a 73.2 completion percentage, 9.6 yards per pass play and 10 TDs (two interceptions). The key for Taylor Martinez is to throw when UCLA is thinking run first. Advantage: NU

UCLA rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense

Of the 12 Huskers expected to rotate at linebacker and on the defensive line, only Jason Ankrah and Thad Randle have extensive experience. And the Huskers are still trying to perfect a system that gave up more yards per carry last year (4.76) than ever before under Bo Pelini. The Bruins' sideline-to-sideline approach tends to create vulnerabilities. Advantage: UCLA

UCLA pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense

NU's veterans are in its secondary, but the Huskers have already given up 29 pass plays of 10-plus yards this year (third-worst nationally). QB Brett Hundley was 21 of 33 for 305 yards and four touchdowns against NU last year. Three of the TDs went to guys now in the NFL (Joseph Fauria and Johnathan Franklin), but the Bruins have restocked well. Advantage: UCLA

Special teams

NU has made it a point to redesign many of its units -- most notably on kickoff return, where the Huskers rank sixth nationally behind Kenny Bell. But UCLA has blocked nine kicks under Jim Mora. And the Bruins controlled field position last year vs. NU, when the Huskers' drives started at the 20.5-yard line on average. UCLA began its possessions at the 36.4. Advantage: UCLA

Intangibles

The Huskers are working in new players on defense, but UCLA is young all over. UCLA was only plus-11 in total point differential in seven games away from the Rose Bowl -- but plus-85 in the seven contests at home. Nebraska has won 10 straight at home. Also note the kickoff time: 11 a.m. That's 9 a.m. in L.A. Advantage: NU

Key matchup: UCLA's offense vs. Nebraska's linebackers

Josh Banderas, No. 52, Zaire Anderson, Nate Gerry, No. 25, and Michael Rose had better be ready. They'll be trying to corral UCLA QB Brett Hundley on scrambles and designed runs, attempting to help on the zone read or doing their best to cover running backs in the flats and receivers across the middle. UCLA will most certainly isolate NU's inexperienced linebackers in space. Are they up for the challenge?

Nebraska wins if ...

It's able to establish the ground game, avoid turnovers and keep Brett Hundley from getting comfortable.

UCLA wins if ...

It has a couple of spectacular plays to suck the energy out of the home crowd and forces Nebraska into passing situations.

Our take

How have UCLA players and coaches prepared for the game while coping with the death of WR Nick Pasquale? Sports can help us heal. But how ready are the Bruins to play? They'll be riding emotions, but can they match NU's focus? The Huskers need this game, for perception, for confidence, for momentum, for pride.

Our prediction: Nebraska 42, UCLA 38

Live updates

 

Videos

Extras

BRT Podcast

In this week's edition of "The Big Red Today Podcast," Jon Nyatawa and Sam McKewon break down the UCLA-Nebraska game before offering their predictions for the weekend's biggest matchups. Click here »

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Check out the Big Red Today page on Facebook to discuss the latest news with the top Husker fans, and follow us on Twitter to get instant updates and analysis whenever news breaks.

BRT app

iPhone and Android users, get your Husker updates on the go by downloading our free Big Red Today app from the App Store and the Google Play store. Omaha.com/BRTapp and Omaha.com/android

Game notes

Check out a PDF of the game notes for the Nebraska-UCLA game provided by the Huskers athletic department. Click here »

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