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October 7, 2010

Callahan's take: Huskers need to strike early

MANHATTAN, Kan. - The Nebraska football team will open up Big 12 Conference play tonight against Kansas State in Manhattan.

As things get closer to kickoff, here are the five keys to a Husker victory against the Wildcats. NU enters tonight's game as a 12 point favorite against KSU.

Strike early on offense

Maybe the most important thing for Nebraska to do tonight is start fast against the Wildcats. If they can duplicate their start against Washington, it's going to be hard for them to lose this game.

Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder has a plan how he wants to take this game, the biggest thing for the Huskers to will be to take him out of that plan as soon as possible. A quick start and a 10 to 14 point will do that.

In last year's game in Lincoln the Wildcats stayed with the Huskers until NU broke things open with a deep play action pass that put them up 17-3 early in the third quarter.

Force KSU into passing downs

Kansas State running back Daniel Thomas is going to get his yards. Last year Thomas touched the ball nearly 35 percent of the time for KSU on offense and this year he's touching it over 40 percent of the time. Plain and simple Thomas is the Kansas State offense.

The key is taking the game out of his hands. If Nebraska can force KSU into some longer third down situations it will be very hard for the Wildcats to have success on offense. The Huskers feel that with their secondary and head coach Bo Pelini's ability to dial up the blitz nobody in the country is better than them on third down passing situations.

Make proper decisions in the zone read

During the South Dakota State game the Jack Rabbits defended redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez differently in the zone read and he didn't know how to react to it.

Martinez needs to learn from his mistakes against SDSU and keep the ball when it's there and give it up when KSU decides to key on him.

If anything, the film from the South Dakota State game should've served as a learning lesson for Martinez and the offense that teams are going to defend them in the zone read differently each week.

Control field position and special teams

Special teams and field position will be a big part of what Snyder will want to do tonight. If Kansas State is going to have a chance in this game, this is where they will make it happen.

It will be important for the Huskers not to give the Wildcats the short field or any big plays in the return game. KSU is not an explosive offense and anything they can get in this phase of the game will be a huge bonus for them.

Limit turnovers and mistakes

Martinez has had some trouble at times with both his ball security and decision making in the passing game. It will be important for him not to make any early mistakes in this area. The last thing you want to do is give Snyder a lead to work with, because once that happens the style of the game completely favors what he wants to do.

If the Huskers can limit their mistakes and have some successful early scoring drives I don't see how they lose this game. KSU just doesn't have the horses to run with Nebraska.

I'll take Nebraska to not only win, but also to cover the 12 point spread. The game will be close at halftime, but NU should be able to pull away in the third quarter.

Callahan's Prediction:Nebraska 37 Kansas State 17
Season Record: 4-0 overall; 2-2 vs. points

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