Should NU Play Five Linebackers Against Northwestern?
The book on Northwestern's offense is an easy read. Quarterback/receiver Kain Colter can kill you with his legs. Running back Venric Mark can kill you with runs and in the return game. No one else does much of anything. Given the Huskers' great difficulty in stopping running quarterbacks, how do you handle that? Load the box. Bring nine men near the line and dare them to beat you in the passing game. So far this season, they haven't done much of that. Even when Colter went a perfect 10-10 passing last week, that produced just 63 yards.
Sometimes, the Wildcats opt to bring in pro-style quarterback Trevor Siemian and use Colter as a receiving weapon. Nebraska can only pray they do this, since Bo Pelini defenses have been so effective against pocket passers. If Northwestern is smart (and they're kind of known to be), we won't see much of Siemian on Saturday. Which is why (the real) NU's starting safeties should be thinking like linebackers.
Expect the run. Fill a hole. Trust your corners to be good enough against a very ordinary batch of receivers. Siemian and Colter have combined for a mere four touchdown passes in seven games. Make them complete passes to score points. Do everything you can to take away the run.
On offense, the Huskers can air it out. Northwestern has been a good rush defense but not so good against the pass. They don't get a lot of pressure on passers. Kenny Bell, Kyler Reed, and Jamal Turner can all have big days. Nebraska can also throw the ball to Ameer Abdullah and Rex Burkhead out of the backfield.
The Wildcats are an opportunistic team. They know they can't match their opponents at the line of scrimmage. Instead, they exploit opportunities by winning the turnover battle and using big returns to get short fields. Then they rely on Colter and Mark to do the rest. The Huskers need to be aggressive offensively and stuff the run defensively. Otherwise a rerun of the upset in Lincoln is a real possibility.