Nebraska rush offense vs. Indiana rush defense
The Huskers’ commitment to the ground game was no more evident than the fourth quarter against Illinois, when they churned out 114 yards behind the work of I-back Terrell Newby after having just 89 in the first three quarters. They should be healthier up front against the Hoosiers after a bye week. Indiana gives up 169.6 yards per game and 4.2 per carry, but got dinged for 290 last week at Ohio State.
Nebraska pass offense vs. Indiana pass defense
Among the first things to note is that NU will be without Jordan Westerkamp, the latest setback to a receiving corps fighting injuries all season. Nebraska has remained fairly efficient, though, with Tommy Armstrong completing 58.9 percent of his passes, with nine touchdowns and just two interceptions. Indiana has allowed just six passing TDs and held Ohio State under 100 yards, but just a year ago ranked No. 127 nationally when opponents threw for an obscene 4,079 yards and 32 TDs.
Indiana rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense
An underrated aspect of the Hoosier attack the last few seasons, and something Nebraska defensive coaches know can trigger their passing success. The Huskers will get a steady dose of Devine Redding, who is on pace for a second straight 1,000-yard season. NU hasn’t been happy with its tackling the last few games, and Oregon, Northwestern and Illinois combined to average 5.97 yards per carry. That figure has to be lowered.
Indiana pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense
Nebraska will try to put the brakes on a Hoosier passing attack that leads the Big Ten and ranks No. 26 nationally at 293.0 yards per game. Its own improvement has started with cornerbacks Chris Jones and Joshua Kalu playing at a high level, and no opponent has thrown for more than 251 yards on the Huskers thus far. Indiana has several threats, however, and both Nick Westbrook (20 receptions) and Ricky Jones (18) are averaging better than 21 yards per catch.
Neither team appears to have any kind of significant edge, although Nebraska has been slightly better with its return numbers. Both rank near the bottom of the Big Ten in net punting, but NU is better with its kickoff coverage. If it comes down to a late field goal, which it could, the Huskers have the more reliable kicker with junior Drew Brown.
The game sets up better for Nebraska, which is coming off a bye week while Indiana is preparing for its third straight Top 25 opponent. NU still has some injury issues, mainly Westerkamp and tight end Cethan Carter, but has others getting back near full speed. The Huskers likely finish with a time-of-possession edge for the sixth straight game, considering the Hoosiers’ up-tempo pace, and they hold slight edges with turnovers and red-zone efficiency.
Key matchup: Indiana offensive line vs. Husker defensive line
Indiana puts a lot of faith in two underclassmen to protect quarterback Richard Lagow’s blind side, with true freshman Coy Cronk starting at left tackle and sophomore Wes Martin at left guard. Hoosiers head coach Kevin Wilson said this week that the Nebraska edge rushers will be a good challenge for Cronk, and the Huskers will dial up some other pressures against a quarterback who isn’t all that mobile.
Indiana appears to be fixing some of its past defensive problems, but Nebraska will be a handful with its run-pass balance and offense that is producing 37.0 points a game. NU also has been converting 53 percent of its third downs, so the Hoosiers will need to find a way to get off the field. Still, look for an improved Indiana to give Nebraska all it can handle, and test whether or not the Huskers can own another fourth quarter.
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World-Herald staff writer Sam McKewon logged on Monday for a special edition of “Husker Talk Live.”
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