For more Buffaloes coverage, check out The Ralphie Report
Penalties, Turnovers & Third Down Conversions
Last week, Colorado had two penalties, no turnovers and was 9-14 on third down. It was their best performance in all three categories this year. Nebraska ranks 109th in penalties averaging 7.8 a game, the Buffs rank 82nd averaging 6.4. Nebraska ranks 48th in turnover margin, the Buffs 38th. Nebraska ranks 49th in third down conversions, the Buffs rank 23rd, converting on almost 47% of their third downs. If Colorado can limit the mistakes and convert at a better rate than the Huskers like they have done all year, the CU should be in the game all the way until the end.
When you play the seventh ranked rushing offense and the ninth ranked defense, you know Colorado will have to play well in the trenches to win. The Buffs’ line has played great the last two weeks with huge rushing outputs and most important, only allowing one sack. Cody Hawkins has had time to throw and if they can keep Nebraska off of him today, Cody has shown he can be successful. If you can point towards a slight weakness on this Nebraska defense, it is their defensive line so if OG Ryan Miller and OT Nate Solder can move the Huskers front seven, Rodney Stewart should have some success.
The Buffs’ defense has been excellent against the run the last two weeks. They have also been able to get to the quarterback frequently. The last two weeks, Colorado has sacked the quarterback 14 times.
Limit the Big Play Early, Make Someone Other Than Helu and Burkhead Beat You
Regardless of who is at quarterback, Nebraska still has two big play makers in running backs Roy Helu and Rex Burkhead. Helu has averaged 6.9 a carry this year while Burkhead has averaged 5.8. The good news is starting QB Cody Green is not nearly the spread option threat Taylor Martinez is, allowing the defense to key more on the running back and less on the quarterback. This year, Martinez has totaled 974 yards with a 7.3 a carry average while Green has only averaged 2.8 per carry and 75 yards. Considering that the Huskers #1 receiver in Niles Paul is out of the game as well, Colorado should be able to load the box and make Cody Green beat them.
But the Buffs defense will need to sure up defending the middle of the field. Last week, Kansas State exposed the inexperience in the Buffs’ secondary with their ability to attack the middle of the field with slot receivers and tight ends. Defensive backs Tyler Sandersfield, Ray Polk and Terrel Smith will have to play better today.
Colorado has played at a higher energy level the past two weeks under Brian Cabral, they have been physically dominant and have shown more emotion than they ever did under Dan Hawkins. That same energy level and confidence needs to transfer on the road. We will know if Brian Cabral is head coach material if he can get his team to respond on the road like he did at Folsom. Cabral has highlighted this game like McCartney did, has expressed its importance, hopefully his team buys in.
I can see both teams loading up the box in an attempt to stop the run. The first team, in my opinion, to have success challenging the opposition downfield and loosening up the line of scrimmage will win this game. If the Buffs get too conservative, it might play right into the hands of the Huskers’ defense. Colorado has play makers on the edge in Scotty McKnight, Toney Clemons and Paul Richardson. If they can get a guy like Paul Richardson going early, the field should open up.