Each week, HuskersIllustrated.com will breakdown the three key match-ups heading into Saturday's game. This week we break down three match-ups that should play a big role in determining Nebraska's success against New Mexico State on Saturday.
Nebraska's cornerbacks vs. Chase Holbrook
It is absolutely no secret what New Mexico State's offense is going to do when the Aggies take the field on Saturday, and that's throw the ball, throw the ball and throw it some more. With little concern of a running game, Nebraska will dedicate almost all of its attention in trying to stop NMSU quarterback Chase Holbrook from ever getting into a rhythm.
To do this, the Huskers will line up primarily with four and five defensive backs to face the Aggies' four and five receiver sets. This puts heavy pressure not only on Nebraska's starting cornerbacks, but also its nickel backs and second- and third- string corners.
Holbrook is known for throwing the ball all over the field, so NU's secondary is going to have to be on its toes all game in order to keep the Aggies' offense in check. Look for guys like Eric Hagg, Prince Amukamara and Lance Thorell to play big roles for the Huskers' defensively.
NU's front four vs. NMSU's O-line
With the loss of senior defensive end Barry Turner for the season to injury last week, Nebraska's pass rush took a major hit in losing its sack leader from last year. Sophomore Pierre Allen did well in replacing Turner last week with 10 tackles, but how he will respond to his first start will be interesting to watch.
Along with Allen, guys like Clayton Sievers and Nick Covey will be counted on to step up and help provide much-needed depth for the Huskers up front. It will also be interesting to see what NU does with true freshmen Josh Williams and Cameron Meredith, as both have been mentioned as possible candidates to burn their redshirts an play this season.
The Aggies return three starters from an offensive line that ranked 67th nationally in sacks allowed with 28. If the Huskers can find the right defensive line combinations, they should be able to get pressure on Holbrook and help disrupt NMSU's passing game.
Nebraska's passing game vs. the Aggies' secondary
For as much attention as New Mexico State's 3-3-5 defense has received during the past week, one has to wonder just how effective it actually is after looking at the numbers. The Aggies return two of their five starting defensive backs from last year, when they finished in the nation's cellar in pass defense at 105th, allowing nearly 262 yards per game.
Nebraska struggled to find its rhythm in the passing game last week against San Jose State, but it showed in its season opener against Western Michigan that it could be as productive as any team in the country. If the Huskers's running game is once again shut down, it will be imperative that quarterback Joe Ganz be able to pick apart the Aggies secondary.
NMSU returns All-WAC safety Derrick Richardson and cornerback Davon House, last season's team interception leader (4). Outside of those two, the Aggies will have three DBs making their first collegiate starts on Saturday. As long as the vaunted 3-3-5 doesn't get into Ganz's head and throw off his game, it should be a very good day for the Huskers' passing attack.
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