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November 20, 2010

Match-up watch: Nebraska vs. Texas A&M

NU Run Offense vs. A&M Run Defense
One of two matches that will pit two of the nation's best units against each other, Nebraska's seventh-ranked rushing offense (282.3 yards per game) will go head-to-head with Texas A&M's 13th-ranked rushing defense (112.2 ypg).

With redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez being either limited or held out for the past two and half games because of his high ankle sprain, NU's rushing attack hasn't been nearly as explosive in recent weeks. The Huskers will need Martinez to be at his best going against an Aggie defense that shut out Baylor and star quarterback Robert Griffin in the second half a week ago.

Edge: PUSH

NU Pass Offense vs. A&M Pass Defense
Last week against Kansas, Martinez stayed in the game until the very end despite Nebraska holding comfortable lead. Not one was he in, he was still throwing in the final seconds. While it may have looked like the Huskers were trying to run up the score, it had more to do with getting Martinez back in groove against live action before taking on A&M's defense.

Martinez threw 24 passes against the Jayhawks, the second-most he's throw in a game this season, and NU's coaching may have known then that Martinez would have to be able to make some plays in the air for the Huskers to avoid the upset in College Station. Texas A&M has been extremely suspect against the pass this season, giving up more than 250 yards a game through the air.


A&M Run Offense vs. NU Run Defense
After leading rusher Christine Michael (631 yards) was lost for the team to injury, junior Cyrus Gray stepped up as the new feature back for Texas A&M and picked up right where Michael left off. Gray already has more yards (673) than Michael and his 10 rushing touchdowns rank sixth in the Big 12 Conference.

Nebraska has had its struggles against the run this year, as it ranks 63rd nationally with 152.7 rushing yards allowed per game. However, the Huskers looked like a big red brick wall last week against Kansas, giving up just 72 yards to the Jayhawks on 34 attempts. Nebraska will need to do its best to have a repeat performance tonight in order to make the Aggies one-dimensional.


A&M Pass Offense vs. NU Pass Defense
This is the other key math-up of the game, as Nebraska's greatest defensive strength will go up against one of Texas A&M's greatest offensive strength. Since Ryan Tannehill replaced Jerrod Johnson as the starting quarterback three games ago, A&M's pass offense has been as good as any team in the country. In leading the Aggies to three straight win, Tannehill has thrown for more than 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns.

On the other side is Nebraska, which boasts arguably the best pass defense in all of college football. The Huskers gave up just 15 passing yards to Kansas last week, and they've given up an average of just 140.2 yards per game through the air to rank second nationally. NU's 16 interceptions are also just one shy of the highest total in the country.

Edge: PUSH

Special Teams, What If's and The X-Factor
Nebraska had some trouble with its kick coverage last week against the Jayhawks, and that is definitely not a comforting sign heading into tonight's game against Texas A&M. While the Aggies have a number of weapons at their disposal, none as been more explosive than kickoff return man Coryell Judie, who's returned a kick of a touchdown in each of A&M's pas two games, including a 95-yarder last week against Baylor.

The good news for the Huskers is they have just the guy to make Judie a non-factor in kickoff specialist Adi Kunalic, who ranks third in the country with 31 touchbacks. Like always, Nebraska will need kicker/punter Alex Henery to be his normal, consistent self, and Niles Paul could make a huge impact with a big play or two in the return game.


Nebraska Will Win If:

It can get far more production from its offense than it did last week and give its defense some help. Martinez is probably as healthy as he's going to be until after the Big 12 Championship, so the Huskers will need him to get back to being the playmaker he was before his injury. Also, getting after Tannehill on defense could throw off his rhythm and force him to make some mistakes with the football, which could result in some more big turnovers for the Blackshirts.

Texas A&M Will Win If:

Tannehill, Gray and company can continue to roll and get out to an early lead with some big plays. By forcing the Huskers to throw the ball, they'll be able to limit NU's running game and force Martinez to prove that he's back to normal as a passer.


With an expected 30,000 students in the stands for one of the most anticipated home games in recent years for Texas A&M, the "12th Man" will be in full force when the Huskers come to town. Nebraska has played in its share of hostile environments this season, but none will be as loud for as long as the dedicated A&M faithful. How well NU handles the pressure of Kyle Field will go a long way in deciding whether it can clinch the Big 12 North title tonight.

Prediction: Nebraska 41, Texas A&M 27

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