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September 17, 2011

Gameday report: Washington at Nebraska

Matchup: Washington Huskies (2-0) vs. No. 10 Nebraska Cornhuskers (2-0)

Kickoff: Saturday, 12:30 p.m. (PST), Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.

TV, Radio: The game will be televised nationally on ABC and ESPN depending on your market. Sean McDonough, Matt Millen and Heather Cox will provide the commentary. It can be heard in Seattle on the radio on KJR 950-AM with Bob Rondeau doing the play-by-play, Damon Huard doing color commentary and Elise Woodward reporting from the sideline.

Coaches: Steve Sarkisian, Washington (third year); Bo Pelini, Nebraska (fourth year).

Series: The teams' recent history is well storied as Nebraska dominated Washington during the regular season, 56-21, in Husky stadium last year. The Huskies got revenge in the Holiday Bowl by stunning the Cornhuskers, 19-7. Saturday's meeting will be the 10th time the teams have met with the series tied 4-4-1. The most recent matchup in Lincoln was in 1998 when Nebraska crushed the Huskies 55-7.

About the Cornhuskers There is no secret about the offense of Nebraska. Quarterback Taylor Martinez is extremely quick, probably one of the fastest players in the nation. They like to run the option with Rex Burkhead as their tailback. With Martinez and Burkhead in the backfield, teams often will be looking for the run all game, but Martinez is an improved passer. He's probably never going to win a game with his arm, but his throwing ability will keep opposing defenses somewhat honest. Last season, Martinez and Burkhead both ran for over 100 yards in the regular season meeting at Washington. Nebraska will likely stay on the ground for the majority of the game and attempt to repeat that statistic, but knowing Martinez has the ability to throw will make the offense even more dangerous.

On defense, the Cornhuskers are led by a young secondary that is hopeful to get one of its biggest stars back Saturday. Preseason All-American cornerback Alfonzo Dennard is listed as doubtful with a leg injury that's kept him out of the team's first two games. Even without Dennard, the Cornhuskers boast a formidable secondary that's going to make life difficult for the Huskies. The defensive front of Nebraska is anchored by senior defensive tackle Jared Crick, who has 34 career tackles for loss. He is a stout run defender that clogs up the middle forcing opponents to go to the air.

About the Huskies: The Huskies offense is going to rely heavily on running back Chris Polk to carry the load. He carried the ball 34 times for 177 yards in the Huskies' Holiday Bowl victory and Sarkisian has said he's prepared to do that again. Coming off of his fourth consecutive 100-yard performance, Polk does face a tough defensive front, but he is a fierce runner who won't go down on first contact.

Keith Price will attempt to go to the air for the Huskies with a deep receiving group that has six different players who have the ability to have a huge game. The X-factor could be true freshman tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who broke out last week against Hawai'i, catching three passes for 91 yards and a score.

Washington's defense specializes in stopping the run, but up to this point in the season the Huskies haven't had a team even try to run the football. Alameda Ta'Amu is the Huskies' top defensive lineman in the middle and after his dominating in the Holiday bowl, the Cornhuskers are going to be ready for him.

The linebackers of the Huskies are a point of concern with two young starters on the outside. Freshman John Timu and sophomore Princeton Fuimaono are highly unproven and this game will have them running all over the place trying to catch Martinez.

What to expect: In the third game in a year, the Cornhuskers have home-field advantage and that should go a long way in this matchup. They will be ready to play and won't be underestimating the Huskies like they may have done in the Holiday Bowl. Martinez also has to be licking his chops against such a young front seven. He should run wild in this one and will probably have to because the Huskies offense is improved from last season. This won't be another 19-7 slugfest like the Holiday Bowl. It could be another blowout by Nebraska, but the Huskies are probably too talented offensively to let that happen again.

UDubNation.com pick: Nebraska, 38-24

Follow UDubNation's Mitchell Larsen on Twitter @MLarsen_Rivals


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