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September 12, 2009

Callahan's take: Expect a tougher test

I know when Nebraska fans see another Sun Belt team on the schedule, they are probably expecting things to be just as easy as last week's 49-3 win over Florida Atlantic.

However, when you look at Arkansas State this game should be much more competitive than last week's FAU game, as the Red Wolves return veteran offensive and defensive units. Here are the fives keys to victory for the Huskers against ASU.

Don't look past these guys

I can still remember sitting in the press box last year and seeing the score that Arkansas State had just beaten Texas A&M 18-14 in College Station.

The Red Wolves racked up 415 yards of offense that day, including 255 yards on the ground led by running back Reggie Arnold's 145 yards. ASU also gave No. 2 ranked Alabama all they wanted in Tuscaloosa last season, as that game was 14-0 late into the third, before the Crimson Tide blew the door open to win 35-0.

What I'm saying about this team for Nebraska is they cannot afford to look past the Red Wolves. They have enough talent to give the Huskers a game if they come out flat similar to last season's San Jose State game where the Spartans only trailed 14-12 in the fourth quarter before NU pulled away to win 35-14.

Expose ASU's offensive line

The one area where Arkansas State lacks depth and experience is on their offensive line. The Red Wolves suffered a major blow last week against Mississippi Valley State when they lost their best offensive lineman Dominic Padrta for the season with a leg injury.

With plenty of questions and inexperience on the offensive line, the Huskers should be able to expose this weakness on Saturday with players like Ndamukong Suh and Jared Crick up front.

Contain Corey Leonard

The Red Wolf offense stops and goes with the success of quarterback Corey Leonard. ASU head coach Steve Roberts will feature Leonard in a multitude of different ways on Saturday and it will be important for Nebraska not to let him establish any early confidence.

A quarterback like Leonard should also serve as a good early measuring stick for what the Huskers will see next week at Virginia Tech when they face off against the dangerous Tyrod Taylor.

Keep Carrington in check

Next to Suh, there won't be a better NFL prospect on the field than Arkansas State defensive end Alex Carrington.

As a junior, Carrington recorded 10 sacks and 19 tackles for loss en route to Sun Belt Conference defensive player of the year honors.

Last week Nebraska's offensive tackles really didn't receive much of a test from Florida Atlantic's undersized defensive ends. This week will be different story, as Carrington and this talented Red Wolf defensive line should give NU a pretty good test.

Make an early statement

The Huskers cannot afford a slow start on Saturday, especially from quarterback Zac Lee, who will enter the ASU game fresh off a solid opening debut against Florida Atlantic.

It will be important for NU to continue to build confidence with their young football team today as they start to look ahead for next week's showdown in Blacksburg.

I expect to see a tighter game this week, but I obviously expect the Huskers to win. I don't think they will cover the 21 point spread.

Callahan's Prediction: Nebraska 37 Arkansas State 17
Season Record: 1-0 overall; 1-0 vs. points

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