It is rare for the Nebraska Cornhuskers to be an underdog at home, but that is the case this weekend.
Coach Mark Dantonio and his Michigan State Spartans have received varied amounts of attention for their efforts this season. Some would argue that the Spartans have not received enough accolades as a result of their one-loss season. Others would argue that the Spartans have been over-publicized as they are a team with an outstanding defense but lack productivity elsewhere on the field.
It has also been argued that the Spartans have had a very meek schedule this season and when they were faced with a true challenge early in the season, they failed in their effort against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Still, the Spartans are favored over the Huskers this week and many believe that the Huskers are going to have to have a lot of things go their way to win the matchup this week. The Huskers are still riding a hot streak that includes a last-second Hail Mary pass from Ron Kellogg III to Jordan Westerkamp to beat the Northwestern Wildcats, as well as the huge road win over the Michigan Wolverines last week.
With the Huskers on a hot streak, many believe that it is time for Coach Bo Pelini to let his luck ride and get a little risky in this week’s game.
We have already seen a great increase in the amount of blitzes called by Pelini and defensive coordinator John Papuchis. The intensification of the Huskers’ pass rush has paid enormous dividends for the young Nebraska defense. It is almost certain that the Huskers will continue to swarm and attack the Spartans’ offense.
The Spartans’ offense is already operating like wounded prey, and the Huskers would be wise to attack until they force turnovers and possibly score some defensive points in this matchup. The Huskers are averaging 35 points per game. If they got at least seven of those on defense against the Spartans, that would help a lot seeing as the Spartans are allowing less than 12 points per game.
The Huskers should attempt an onside kick in this game. This is much less of a risk than one might think. First of all, consider the fact that if the attempt is failed, it would not result in the ball being given to the Spartans in scoring range. This would give the Huskers’ defense an opportunity to get a stop and get the ball back anyway. The Huskers could recover and simply move the ball for a couple of first downs and be in field goal range.
The Huskers should attempt a fake punt for the same reason. This could be especially effective if they catch the Spartans’ defenders when they are tired. A fake punt is successful much more often than a fake field goal or an onside kick, and it can be very demoralizing for a defense that assumed they had just forced a punt.
The Huskers can risk going for it on fourth down, but must be cautious when doing so against the Spartans’ because of their prowess. Unlike a fake punt, the Spartans will have a better idea of what to expect if the Huskers line up in their conventional offensive set on a fourth down. Nebraska is looking for momentum-changers in their favor, not anything that can fire up a defense that is already so dangerous.
If the Huskers can score 24 points at home against this dominant Spartans team, they have a great chance of winning this game. 10 points from defense and special teams could go a very long way to winning this game for Nebraska.