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September 11, 2010

Callahan's take: The next step

The Nebraska football team will take the field today at 11:30 a.m. against Idaho in hopes to show improvement off last week's 49-10 win over Western Kentucky.

The Huskers will enter today's match-up as a 28 point favorite over the Vandals, but they should face a much stiffer test this week compared to what they saw last Saturday. As things get closer to kickoff, here are five keys to a Husker victory over Idaho.

Taking the next step

The saying a team makes its biggest improvement from week one to week two gets beaten to death, but the fact is it's true in a lot of cases.

Last week the Huskers had a lot of butterflies in their stomach lining up against Western Kentucky. With a new quarterback on offense and several fresh faces on defense, there were quite a bit of first week mental errors that should get shored up today.

It's important that Nebraska takes a step forward from today game. Idaho should present a much stiffer challenge than what NU saw last week. Quarterback Nathan Enderle has the ability to cause some trouble with his arm strength and accuracy. He should serve as a good gauge for where this defense is at heading out to next week's showdown in Washington.

Improve defensive communication

Head coach Bo Pelini called last week's defensive performance against Western Kentucky "embarrassing."

I think the main thing Pelini was upset about was the lack of communication on the field, which ultimately led to the Huskers being in the wrong defensive alignment at times.

I expect to see NU take a big step forward in this area today against Idaho. Naturally players like Lavonte David and Alonzo Whaley at linebacker were going to struggle in week one. They should be much more comfortable out there today.

Responding to adversity

The one thing we didn't see from redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez last week is how he responds to adversity.

The Huskers took control of the game against the Hilltoppers early last week, and Martinez could literally do whatever he wanted. It's not going to be this easy every week. The question I still have is how Martinez will respond to adversity?

Until he faces some crucial big third down plays and his put in some tougher situations we won't know the answer to this question. Hopefully we can see a little bit of that today.

Exploit Idaho's offensive line

The biggest stat Nebraska's defensive coaching staff has to be looking at from Idaho's 45-0 win over North Dakota last week is the fact the Vandal offensive line gave up four sacks in the first half.

With four new starters on the offensive line the Huskers should be able to exploit this weakness and get after Enderle.

Last week NU only had one sack against WKU. A lot of that had to do with their type of offense and the way they moved the quarterback around. Today I'm predicting the Huskers get at least five or six sacks on Enderle and force a couple of turnovers with their pressure packages.

Set the alarm clocks

These early games can sometimes be tough to get up for. Nobody likes playing at 11:30 a.m. on a Saturday. The fans don't like it because it cuts down on their pregame tailgating. The players don't like it because it requires an early wake-up call.

However, NU is going to have to get used to these early kickoffs. I'm told next year in the Big Ten almost all of Nebraska's games could start at 11 a.m. or 2:30 p.m. and we won't see near as many night games as we've become accustomed too.

With that said NU has to come ready to play today and get off to a good start. The game I still remember that was an early kick where NU had trouble came against San Jose State in 2008. Idaho is a similar type of veteran ball club and they will give the Huskers trouble if NU takes them lightly.

I still like Nebraska to cover the 28 point spread, but I think Idaho will be able to put up 20 points because of their veteran offense. A year ago they scored 23 points on Washington and 25 points on Boise State. Their lowest point total from 2009 was 21 points.

Callahan's Prediction:Nebraska 51 Idaho 20
Season Record: 1-0 overall; 1-0 vs. points

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