Keys to the Game: Colorado Buffaloes vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers

For three or so hours today (1:30 pm MT, ABC), we can try and forget about the next 365 days and hope our Buffs come out and play their hearts out, sending Nebraska to Dallas with a disheartening loss that will lead to a 70 - 3 Texas win in the national spotlight. That would make us feel better, right? Deliver the Huskers a little reality while we are in our nightmarish state? Sounds really good to me.

But in all honesty and looking at things realistically, this Nebraska team (8-3, 5-2) is the type of squad that can really frustrate the Buffs (3-8, 2-5), although we have seen in the past that this game can go very different that what each team has shown in the previous 11 games of the season. 

The statistic that just jumps out when looking at Nebraska is 10.27. That is the number of points they're giving up a game, 3rd best in the NCAA. Colorado's offense, on the other hand, has only scored 22.5 a game which is 91st in the nation. As you can see from the chart below, Colorado has not won a game this year against a team that has a had a top 50 scoring defense. In fact, Colorado's offense is 91st in the nation in scoring offense. What is even more depressing about that stat is the average defense Colorado has faced this year is 62nd overall. If you take out Texas, the average defense the Buffs have gone up against is 68th in the NCAA.

Opponent Pts. Allow Rank Buffs Pts W/L
Toledo 37.64 115 38 L
Texas A&M 31.18 99 35 W
Colorado St 31.00 97 17 L
Wyoming 28.27 84 24 W
Kansas 27.27 80 34 W
Kansas State 23.30 48 6 L
Missouri 23.27 46 17 L
Iowa St 22.50 43 10 L
Oklahoma St 21.27 33 28 L
West Virginia 21.20 32 24 L
Texas 13.27 7 14 L
Average 25.47 62 22.5
Nebraska 10.27 3 ? ?

 

Everyone knows about the struggles Colorado has had protecting the quarterback (3.91 sacks/game, 117th in the nation) and running the ball (83.7 y/g, 113 in the nation). It won't get any easier today as Nebraska ranks 14th in rush defense (99 y/g) and sacks with 2.91 per contest. The Huskers are even better in not allowing the opponent in the end zone. So the first key of the game is the Buffs' offensive line, who has severely underperformed this year. Tyler Hansen has been sacked 31 times this year in just six starts.

The Huskers deploys four down linemen that are all very good, starting with DT Ndamukong Suh. Suh has one of the more impressive stat lines you will ever see for an interior defensive lineman - 65 total tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, 1 interception, 10 pass breakups, 15 quarterback hurries and 3 blocked field goals. He is tied for the team lead in pass breakups as a 300 pound defensive lineman. Can you say top three NFL pick? Today, you must watch Suh and see how the Buffs try to counter his presence. If you cover him one on one, this Buffs' offense will go no where. But don't forget DT Jared Crick as well. He leads the team in sacks with 9.0, has 65 total tackles and 12 tackles for loss. He also has 12 quarterback hurries. No doubt Crick has been the benefactor of Suh being double teamed but these two form a very strong duo. Colorado native DE Pierre Allen always seems to play well in this game against Colorado as well. Last year, Allen had a sack and a tackle for loss against the Buffs.

It's pretty simple, the team with the best performance up front when Colorado has the ball will win this game. Unfortunately, Colorado's track record this year has been one of mis-communication up front. Mis-communicate today and the Huskers will make you pay.

the other four keys to the game after the jump...

Other Keys:

Colorado_mediumMake Big Plays on Special Teams and Offense

This one is clearly stolen from last year's game when the Buffs almost upset the Huskers in Lincoln. Colorado, an 18 point underdog in 2008, jumped out to a 14 - 0 lead scoring on a 68 yard reception by Riar Geer and a 36 yard run by Demetrius Sumler in the first five minutes of the game. Then the Buffs got some special teams help when CB Jimmy Smith picked off a fake field goal pitch and went 58 yards for the score. Colorado could use some special teams help like they got last week from kick returner Brian Lockridge as he went 98 yards on a kick return to give the Buffs the lead in the fourth quarter.

Colorado_mediumWin the Turnover Battle

It is one of the best ways to determine an outcome in all of sports. Despite a 31 point output a year ago from the Buffs, Colorado turned the ball over 4 times, which led to 10 Nebraska points. The Huskers only turned the ball over two times and ended up winning the game. This year, CU is 82nd in the nation in turnover margin, averaging -.36 a game, while the Huskers, who have won eight games is 53rd with a +.18. Don't be fooled by that number, though. Nebraska is much better in the turnover margin category considering they turned the ball over a whopping eight times against Iowa State while the Cyclones didn't turn the ball over.

I give the Buffs a great chance to emerge victorious if they win the turnover battle.

Colorado_mediumFind WR Markques Simas Early and Often

Getting QB Tyler Hansen out of the pocket in run/pass options and finding WR Markques Simas on quick routes early is key today. Don't let Hansen be stationary in the pocket or the Huskers will target him all day. We all saw what Colt McCoy did last night with his legs. Tyler Hansen is a weapon with his feet, hopefully we use that today instead of letting him get killed in the pocket.

Simas has been exceptional the past three weeks and the Buffs need to make sure they feature him early. Against Oklahoma State, Simas had six receptions in the first half and was thrown to 10 times. More of that today is needed to soften up the defense in the box.

Colorado_mediumPlay Smart and with Emotion

For the past month or so, Colorado players have told us they support Dan Hawkins and they came to the school because of this current coaching staff. It is time for actions to speak louder than words. If you want this staff, play for this staff and play smart. The Buffs lacked focus in prior games suggesting the opposite of what the players are saying during the week. Colorado is 118th in the nation averaging 9 penatlies and 79.36 yards lost per game. Turnovers and big plays have plagued this team as well. Today, the players, need to take control of these three factors to the best of their ability and confirm that they believe in this coaching staff.

Thanks to the seniors for the last four or five years. It has been a roller coaster but we wish you the best in the future. I wish it would have been better for you. I wish you would have played in more than one bowl game and had a winning season under Dan Hawkins. Hopefully, you can leave a legacy with a victory today over Nebraska as something we can look back on three or four years down the line and say this game was the beginning of the turnaround of Colorado football.

Go Buffs!

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