Game Day: Nebraska vs. Miami

The heat is on

Hot. Humid. Muggy. Rain. Whatever gets thrown at the Huskers weather-wise on Saturday, the ultimate test will come from its opposition — a Miami team hungry for a victory. The chippy battle last year has set up quite the matchup — a fight for national relevance.

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2-Minute Drill by Jon Nyatawa

Nebraska rush offense vs. Miami rush defense

Aside from that NU game and a similar four-quarter gashing performed by Georgia Tech, Miami held up well against the run last year. UM allowed just 3.58 yards per carry and only gave up seven runs of 20-plus yards. But it's still difficult to ignore the dominant images of Ameer Abdullah running around, over and through the Hurricanes last season. It's Terrell Newby's turn now, perhaps with a sampling from quarterback Tommy Armstrong.

Nebraska pass offense vs. Miami pass defense

Armstrong has completed 63.4 percent of his throws for 589 yards and five touchdowns, showing clear improvement as a decision-maker in 2015. The new system, designed to stress defenses in pass coverage, has worked well for the Husker QB. The return of tight end Cethan Carter could open up the middle of the field a bit more. But Miami's secondary may be the most talented group Nebraska faces all year — UM is sixth nationally in pass efficiency defense.

Miami rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense

Nebraska's been committed to stopping the run so far this season, and that won't change Saturday. The Huskers are surrendering just 3.0 yards per carry — a rate that's boosted only by a couple BYU quarterbacks who scrambled away from an unbalanced pass rush in the season opener. Miami will lean on sophomore Joseph Yearby and freshman Mark Walton, but could abandon its ground attack unless there is early success.

Miami pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense

Nebraska had a week to fix its much-discussed issues in pass defense, but it may not be enough time. Especially considering the opponent. Quarterback Brad Kaaya, with pro potential, has new targets to throw to — but he's off to a fast start, gaining at least 10 yards on more than half his completions. The Husker coaches have hinted that there are schematic tweaks available to help their secondary. Those will be needed Saturday.

Special teams

The return of punter Sam Foltz does make a difference for Nebraska, which hasn't yet recorded many explosive plays and thus could benefit greatly from an significant edge in field position. The Hurricanes have picked up 83 yards on four punt returns (16th nationally). NU's return game should get its first real opportunities Saturday. Only seven teams have had more kickoffs returned against them than Miami. But U-M has given up an average of just 11.09 yards on those 11 attempts.

Intangibles

The relationship between Miami fans and their beloved program seems to get more strained by the day. Supporters want tangible progress, and until Al Golden delivers big-time wins, scrutiny will continue to increase. Translation: There's a lot of pressure on Golden and the Hurricanes to avoid a loss Saturday. For Nebraska, it is the first road trip under new coach Mike Riley. But his laid-back demeanor and calming presence should keep the Huskers from getting overwhelmed by the unfamiliar surroundings.

Key matchup: Miami RG Daniel Isidora vs. Nebraska DT Maliek Collins

It's Nebraska's top defensive lineman against Miami's potential all-conference blocker. Collins said Monday that he can't wait. The two battled throughout last year's game in Lincoln. They'll go at it again Saturday. Isidora and the Hurricanes need to control the line of scrimmage to keep their offense on track. NU, particularly Collins, is looking to create havoc up front.

Our take

If it's anything like last year's showdown, Saturday's rematch is a must-watch. Both teams absorbed the rivalry's history — and all of the pride, the tenacity and the passion that made the Nebraska-Miami duels so legendary. The programs are seeking a return to the sport's pinnacle, but they're at different places on the ascent. NU has a new staff hoping to impress and gain momentum. Miami's coaches could use a criticism-defusing win. So the urgency will be heightened on both sidelines. Expect big hits, big plays and big moments. The game will come down to the end.

Our prediction: Miami 31, Nebraska 24

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Live: TBL pregame, postgame

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Game notes

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Big Red Today coverage

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