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Friday, September 15th 2006

Preview: Nebraska

This is going to have be short and sweet, I’m heading out of town.

For a game which is going to be on ESPN’s GameDay (surprisingly) and the center of national attention there is a lot talking trash coming out of Omaha. This from a CB who has been in town for less than a year.

To Nebraska cornerback Andre Jones, it’s not a matter of if the No. 19 Cornhuskers beat fourth-ranked Southern California on Saturday. It’s a matter of when.

“When we beat this team, we can show the world that we are a great team and we restored the order,” Jones said Tuesday.

Maybe he took a look at the USC Injured Reserve and that bolstered his confidence to open his mouth. Sedrick Ellis, the second stable part of USC’s defensive line, is out for several weeks.

This Is The Team To Beat USC?

The mouthing from the Cornhuskers might not be the only distraction, as there’s another one brewing in the Carroll household.

“What are in-laws?” Carroll asked, and I swear on USC’s entrance exam, I had to explain to him that his in-laws are his wife’s parents.

“Not all the distant relatives like aunts and uncles?” Carroll said. “I can’t remember their names. They lived in Nebraska somewhere…. ”

“Didn’t any of them give you checks as gifts at your wedding?”

“Small ones,” Carroll said. “Yeah, now I remember, Aunt Arlene and Uncle Harry,” although he couldn’t swear they were married to each other, and figured the way Uncle Harry looked the last time he saw him, he’s probably no longer with us.

You see, Coach Pete has spent some time in Nebraska,

I asked Pete Carroll if he had spent any time in Nebraska, and he mentioned his in-laws, a polka bar, beer and sleeping on a farm, and then said he could not remember the name of his in-laws.

I thought Carroll was kidding, but he said he really could not remember the name of his in-laws and suggested I not put that in the newspaper.

Still TJ Simers was a little hard on Carroll, considering HE WAS THE ONE WHO WAS WRONG. Sorry TJ, but “In-Laws” does not solely refer to the the parents. Its any relative by marriage. Including Aunt Arlene and Uncle Harry.

Nebraska Offense v. USC Defense
Nebraska’s QB Taylor is getting acclumated very well in his second season to Callahan’s west coast offense. He’s put up good numbers against chump opponents. Despite losing Pinkard (not good) and the fact that Sedrick Ellis is out for several weeks (and he is a fine pass rusher from the NT position), I feel comfortable with USC’s pass defense.

Blitzing out of the 3-4 will put Taylor on his back. Still, Taylor isn’t Johnson from last week. He isn’t going to throw it to USC DBs. And certainly, despite the fact that the Huskers are running by committee we can’t expect Lucky and the other HB’s to cough the ball up like Felix Jones. Those were gifts two weeks ago.

Nebraska is a slinging team, which might actually play into USC’s hands. I know we took it easy on Booty last week and didn’t ask him to make huge plays. But I feel confident he can if we get into a shootout. As well, USC gave up nearly 5 yards a play on the ground against Arky. More than 40% of those yards came in the fourth quarter, but it still speaks to a need to shape up on the run defense. With Sedrick Ellis out, it will be difficult to improve in that department. Which is why it might be a good think that Nebraska isn’t 5 yards and a cloud of dust kind’ve team.

USC Offense v. Nebraska Defense
Last week Kiffin ripped Jarrett and Smith (the most highly regarded parts of USC’s offense).

Kiffin said he “called out” his wideouts in practice last week. He gave them an “F.” He demanded improvement. Rode them hard, he said.

Most notably, Kiffin singled out preseason All-American Dwayne Jarrett, who made 91 catches last season.

“He might be living in the past, and that doesn’t do us any good right now,” said Kiffin, in his second season in charge of the Trojan offense.

I’m not sure where the hell Lane is getting that after watching the Arkansas game again, but clearly he knows better than me as the Offensive Coordinator. Still, Nebraska fans are obviously hoping his little Bill Parcells method of motivation (calling out players in public) backfires.

The Nebraska defense backfield is dissemated. Jones is a third stringer forced into action. John David Booty looked crisp and accurate against Arkansas. The Nebraska front seven should do better at getting in Booty’s face than Arkansas did, but if he can keep his composure expect Smith and Jarrett to have a “rebound” week.

It is quetionable how many carries Chauncey Washington will get this week. Stafon Johnson is back up off the scout team so we’ll get to see him for the first time.

Smile, Stafon! You’re playing your first college game!

Expect running back by committee again, with perhaps some more Bradford thrown into the mix. I expect no trouble in running the ball.

Nebraska may be rolling into the colliseum with as many as 10 or 15,000 fans (!) and they’re pumped up for this game. Despite my preseason prediction that this game is one of our’s most likely to lose I feel comfortable after the Arkansas game. Let’s hope distractions – from injuries, to Kiffin bad mouthing players in the media, to the horrible prospect of facing NCAA sanctions for this Bush mess – don’t lead to any drop off for the Trojans.

College Football News thinks the Trojans should be concerned about the Huskers nothing to lose mentality.

What further adds to the fear factor for the homestanding Trojans is that Nebraska–while having nothing to lose–has the coach in Callahan with an offensive mind fertile enough to not only take chances, but to do so creatively. Carroll, a defensive guru, and coordinator Nick Holt could have their hands full against a team that has every reason to throw a full playbook at the Cardinal and Gold defense. In some ways, this matchup is reminiscent of the Fresno State-USC game from last November at the Coliseum. A visiting team with no pressure on its back will enter LA with a full tank of energy and belief. If Nebraska’s confidence is fed and heightened early on, look out. John David Booty, just two games into his USC career as a starting quarterback, could find himself in a position where he has to win a shootout. Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush were able to overcome and outscore Fresno ten months ago; if a calculator game emerges this Saturday night in the City of Angels, it’s definitely to Nebraska’s advantage.

This game will be close, but if Booty stays composed and we end up with a positive turn over differential then the Trojans will win. I picked Nebraska to cover the spread of 19 points, but USC will still come out with a victory.

USC 31 – Nebraska 27
[CFN Prediction]
[Mandel’s Picks]

This is a huge week of college football. Keep your eyes open and your finger on the remote.

The Arizona preview will be more detailed next week.