Game Day: Nebraska vs. USC

2-Minute Drill by Rich Kaipust

Nebraska rush offense vs. USC rush defense

Ameer Abdullah is four weeks further into his recovery than he was for the Huskers' last outing, and NU will need the senior I-back's best against USC. Nebraska likely will have two first-time starters on its offensive line (Paul Thurston at center, Matt Finnin at right tackle) and the Trojans allow just 132.5 yards per game and 3.9 per carry. It's been a tough road for the Huskers of late, with just 179, 118, 174 and 161 yards rushing in their last four games.

Nebraska pass offense vs. USC pass defense

Tommy Armstrong has completed less than 50 percent of his passes in three of the last four games, but was sharp against Minnesota (12 of 19 for 223 yards) and rallied against Iowa with four touchdowns. USC starts two freshmen in its secondary and allows 267.7 yards passing per game, so if NU can protect Armstrong he could have some success — and maybe Kenny Bell can pad his school-record stats one final time.

USC rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense

Nebraska tightened up against Iowa after Wisconsin and Minnesota punished the Huskers' run defense, but USC will be a sturdy test with junior tailback Javorius Allen (1,337 yards, nine TDs). The Huskers' injuries defensively will be something to watch, because they will need all hands on deck against the Trojans.

USC pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense

The Huskers allow opponents to complete just 47.5 percent of their passes and have as many interceptions (12) as touchdowns allowed (12). A lot of those statistics were compiled against Big Ten teams, however, so USC quarterback Cody Kessler (3,505 yards, 36 TDs), receiver Nelson Agholor (97 receptions, 11 TDs) and the rest will be way more to handle. Kessler has had four or more touchdown passes in six of 12 games, something NU can't allow to happen here.

Special teams

Each team has one of the more flamboyant punt returners in the nation with De'Mornay Pierson-El for NU (17.8 yards, three TDs) and Agholor for USC (10.6, two TDs). The Trojans throw in a kickoff return threat with Adoree' Jackson (27.7, one TD). The coverage units are similar, but USC has been a tad more reliable with its field goal kicking, albeit with fewer attempts.

Intangibles

It's hard to look at all that has happened to Nebraska in the last month and not wonder if it has taken a toll. The team also will be in the hands of an interim head coach against a USC program that has won 66.7 percent of its previous bowl games. The Trojans will be staying on the West Coast and playing on grass, own a huge edge in turnover margin and don't have some of the same injury questions as the Huskers.

Key matchup: NU secondary vs. USC's Nelson Agholor

Nebraska saw just one Big Ten receiver with more than 60 receptions (Illinois freshman Mike Dudek), so it will have to brace for the likely onslaught of targets to USC junior Nelson Agholor (97 catches, 11 TDs). That will call for solid performances from cornerbacks Josh Mitchell and Daniel Davie against the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder who has had at least seven receptions in eight games and as many as 16 against Cal.

Our take

Nebraska is 1-2 in three previous Holiday Bowls, and couldn't have looked better in 2009 or worse in 2010. This one will require some mental toughness and fortitude after the Bo Pelini drama that started Nov. 30 and was slow to go away. USC has showed signs of wanting to return to the upper tier and its wins over Stanford, Arizona and Notre Dame were better than any Husker victory if you go by the Sagarin ratings. As with any bowl game, though, who knows?

Our prediction: USC 40, Nebraska 24

Live updates

Live Blog Husker Talk Live: Game Day

Photos

World-Herald fan photos »

#Huskers on Instagram

Videos

Extras

Live: TBL pregame, postgame

"The Bottom Line" pregame show with Mike’l Severe will broadcast live Saturday at 5:30 p.m., then tune in after the game for a complete breakdown and call-in show. Click here »

Husker History

Find information on every win, loss and tie in Husker history. With historical World-Herald front pages, photos, stories, key stats and more, our ever-growing Husker History page is your new home for taking a look back into the history of one of the nation's most tradition-rich programs.Click here »

On social media

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

Recruiting updates

Visit the Big Red Today recruiting page to find the latest updates on potential future Huskers, including player cards for those athletes already committed. Click here »

Email alerts

Sign up for the Big Red Today email newsletter to get the Husker news, analysis, daily headlines and more delivered to your inbox. Click here »

Big Ten coverage

Look for additional updates on our Big Ten page to get the best coverage of the conference from both The World-Herald and some of the best writers from across the country. Click here »

Big Red Today coverage

Pick Six Podcast: March Madness, Creighton hoops, Big East realignment, Husker spring football, Oscar movies and more

World-Herald staff writers Sam McKewon and Jon Nyatawa tackle top local topics and the hottest headlines from across the country in the latest edition of "The Pick Six Podcast."

Recruiting: Nebraska targeting pass-rushing outside linebackers to fit new 3-4 defense

Nebraska has started recruiting to fit Bob Diaco’s new 3-4 defensive scheme, and finding pass-rushing outside linebackers will be a big focus. The Huskers offered within the last 24 hours at least four prospects that fit the same mold —…

What’s the catch? Husker quarterback Tommy Armstrong works at receiver ahead
 of pro day

Tommy Armstrong was always going through the quarterback drills during Nebraska practices, but Keith Williams would notice from time to time just how naturally Armstrong would handle the football or catch it when thrown his way.

Shatel: Winding road with many connections led Mike Riley's confidant Dan Van De Riet to Nebraska

One of the most powerful men in the Nebraska football program never played football at all — well, one year he did suit up — and somehow, he found his way to Lincoln, Nebraska, where he goes to work every…

Kade Warner, son of former NFL QB Kurt Warner, will join Huskers as preferred walk-on

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound son of NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner announced his decision to sign with the Huskers late Thursday night on Twitter. He will join NU as a preferred walk-on over identical offers from ASU, UCLA, Iowa,…

Recruiting: Nebraska sets dates for Friday Night Lights camps

The Friday Night Lights events drew top national prospects — and were open to the public — last summer, becoming a hit with recruits and Husker fans alike.

Trent Bray stays put and gets raise, pushing Nebraska assistant salaries near $4 million

Nebraska’s assistant football coaches are set to collectively earn nearly $4 million next season, according to recent updates to their contracts, and every assistant will eventually have a deal that runs through the 2018 season.

Cethan Carter, Nate Gerry will represent Nebraska at NFL combine

Cethan Carter and Nate Gerry were teammates, roommates and good friends through their Nebraska football careers — and now both will head next to the NFL combine.

Recruiting: Nebraska ups pursuit of big-bodied wide receivers with recent offers

Keith Williams has upped his pursuit of a big-bodied receiver in the early days of the 2018 recruiting cycle. He extended three offers this week to receivers that measure 6-3 or taller, and the majority of the 17 wide receivers…

Examining new Husker assistant Bob Elliott's recruiting results over last decade

New Nebraska safeties coach Bob Elliott has recruited a variety of positions in the last decade. Some of those signees have gone on to be key contributors, while others struggled to ever find the field.

New Husker safeties coach Bob Elliott is respected technician who has worked in the territory

Bob Elliott has officially been named Nebraska's new safeties coach. The World-Herald reported last week that the longtime assistant was expected to join the Huskers' staff as Brian Stewart's replacement. Nebraska made the news official Monday when it announced Elliott's…

Shatel: Husker hire Bob Elliott has veteran coaching chops, Midwest football know-how

Elliott has a college coaching career that spans four decades. He’s the caliber of a coach along the lines of Milt Tenopir, Charlie McBride, George Darlington and Ron Brown. In short, he could have coached for Tom Osborne.

From Bob Diaco's influence to emphasis on 500-mile radius, 10 storylines for Nebraska's 2018 recruiting class

Bob Diaco has a vision for the personnel he wants in his 3-4 scheme. That's one of the major storylines for Nebraska as it starts to put together its 2018 recruiting class.

Nebraska hopes to go 2 for 2 with quarterback targets Tanner McKee, Colson Yankoff

Should Nebraska’s dream scenario play out, it would sign Colson Yankoff and Tanner McKee as scholarship quarterbacks in February 2018.

McKewon: 25 recruits to watch for Huskers' 2018 recruiting class

Nebraska’s march toward the 2018 recruiting class has already resulted in three commitments — Cameron Jurgens of Beatrice, Masry Mapieu of York and Eric Fuller of Los Angeles. Who might join them? Here are 25 names to watch.

Former Husker defensive coordinator John Papuchis named North Carolina DC after Gene Chizik steps down

Linebacker coach John Papuchis is being promoted to defensive coordinator. Before joining North Carolina in 2015, Papuchis spent seven seasons as an assistant with Nebraska, including three seasons as defensive coordinator.

Huskers are expected to hire veteran coach Bob Elliott to coach safeties

Nebraska is prepared to bring a veteran hand to a young defensive staff with the addition of Bob Elliott.

Huskers looking to neighboring Missouri to stock next recruiting class

In his signing day press conference, coach Mike Riley made a point of mentioning NU’s need to win more recruiting battles in the 500-mile radius. He then zeroed in on Missouri.

Recruiting: Early scholarship offers can benefit Nebraska's 2018 class like they did in 2017

Nebraska just wrapped up the 2017 recruiting class, but the Huskers are already about to enter an important stretch for the next one.

Soaring Rocket: Freshman McKenna Minter, daughter of former Husker Mike Minter, already among state’s best players

As the daughter of a former Nebraska football star, Lincoln Northeast freshman McKenna Minter already faced high expectations. The 5-foot-8 guard has delivered.

Pick Six Podcast: NU's 3-4 defense, 2017 recruits, Bluejay basketball, Super Bowl 51 and more

World-Herald staff writers Sam McKewon and Jon Nyatawa tackle top local topics and the hottest headlines from across the country in the latest edition of "The Pick Six Podcast."

Recruiting: WR Kade Warner, son of new hall of famer Kurt Warner, went under radar but will visit Nebraska

Kade Warner, who set the Arizona state record for career receptions with 241, will take a visit to Nebraska this weekend. Kade's dad is Kurt Warner, who found out Saturday he was headed to the NFL Hall of Fame.

Crete native Lyle Sittler helped coach Bob Devaney turn Nebraska into a winner

Bob Devaney started the Nebraska football turnaround in 1962, and Lyle Sittler was right there as the Huskers went 28-5 and played in the Gotham, Orange and Cotton bowls during Devaney’s first three seasons.

Notre Dame assistant Bob Elliott to meet with coach Mike Riley about NU's open assistant position

Bob Elliott last month lauded the Nebraska hire of Bob Diaco as defensive coordinator. Elliott now might be among the candidates to join him on the Husker staff.

Paying with 
a chance to play: Defensive line coach John Parrella sees ‘serious potential’ in Central City's Jordan Paup

Jordan Paup once hurdled an offensive lineman to break up an extra-point try. He outruns most high school receivers and can squat upwards of 465 pounds.

In survey, Huskers' 2017 class gets positive marks; Fans expect Tyjon Lindsey, Jaylin Bradley to have impact

A poll of World-Herald readers gave Husker coaches overwhelmingly positive reviews for their work putting together the 2017 recruiting class.

Husker recruiting roundtable: Experts analyze Nebraska's 2017 class

This year’s signing day is over. Let the analysis begin. Here’s a look at how three recruiting experts break down Nebraska’s recruiting class of 2017.

Opportunity knocks for incoming Husker defensive linemen

A year ago, Mike Riley had a mess on his hands. At what might be the most important group on a football team — the defensive line — NU was starting over.

Mike Riley still supports earlier official visits after coaches 'chickened out' on summer signing period

College football coaches have voiced unanimous support for an early signing period in December, but Mike Riley said on signing day that “we chickened out” when it came to implementing one for the summer.

From the archives: Tommie Frazier's surprise signing provided a Big Red boost — and shocked his own mother

On Feb. 4, 1992, a young quarterback from Bradenton, Florida, shocked the nation — and his own mother — when he chose to become a Husker.