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November 12, 2011

PSU keys to victory and HOL staff predictions

STATE COLLEGE, Penn. - After one of the more dramatic weeks in recent college sports history, Nebraska and Penn State will finally play football.

It's hard to know what to expect from the Nittany Lions after everything they have gone through this week. As things get closer to kickoff, here are today's keys to victory for NU.

The Huskers enter today's 11 a.m. CST game as a 2 point favorite over Penn State.

Withstand the emotional buzz saw

Penn State's players, fans and coaches have been through the wringer this week with everything that's happened in Happy Valley.

With that said Nebraska will face an emotional buzz saw from the Nittany Lions, as everyone in Beaver Stadium is ready to release some tension.

Maybe the biggest key to today's game for the Huskers is how they withstand that initial surge of emotion Penn State comes at them with early. If they are able to handle it, you really have to like Nebraska's chances to win this game.

Keep Penn State off-balanced

PSU will attack Nebraska with a very aggressive front on defense. The Nittany Lions rank 7th in total defense, 5th in pass defense and 8th in rushing defense nationally. You are going to be hard pressed to find a defensive unit this dominant in the country through nine games.

To have defensive numbers like this tells me one thing - Penn State guesses right most of the time. When you call a run play they typically know its coming and when you call a pass play their rush has been relentless.

Offensive coordinator Tim Beck has to keep PSU off-balance with a solid mix of passes to compliment NU's run game on early downs. If Beck can do this, it will go a long way in opening things up for both quarterback Taylor Martinez and running back Rex Burkhead.

Pressure McGloin

Like Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins, Penn State signal caller Matt McGloin is not the most fleet of foot.

I expect defensive coordinator Carl Pelini to really dial up some heavy pressure packages at McGloin to hopefully cause a few turnovers or tough passes down field. McCloin is completing 55.6 percent of his passes on the season and has played pretty well the last few weeks in wins over Northwestern and Illinois.

Limit Redd's big runs

Really the key to the Nittany Lion offense is running back Silas Redd. Through nine games Redd is one of the leading rushers in the Big Ten with 1,006 yards on 195 carries to go along with seven touchdowns.

Everything Penn State wants to do on offense is set up through Redd. If he's able to get going and wear down NU's front seven, that will open up things for McGloin in the play action, which could be trouble for Nebraska's safeties and corners.

Don't play from behind

Whenever you're on the road in front of over 106,000 people you never want to play from behind, but when you add that up with everything Penn State has gone through this week I think it's even more important for Nebraska to start fast.

NU cannot get in an early hole, because if PSU jumps on the Huskers early it has the potential to cause major problems for Nebraska. I even go back to the 2002 game in State College. The Huskers got off to a bad start and Penn State jumped up early. It was game over from that point on.

Callahan's weekly predictions

Like Michigan State two weeks ago, this is a great match-up for Nebraska. PSU doesn't have an explosive offense or mobile quarterback, which plays in the hands of the Husker defense. I also don't think they've seen an offense like Nebraska's. I like the Huskers to get out of Happy Valley with a win and I think they'll also cover the points.

Nebraska 19 Penn State 13
Iowa 27 Michigan State 24
Michigan 23 Illinois 20

Season Record: 15-12 overall; 15-12 vs. points



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