Three keys for Oklahoma, Nebraska

November, 7, 2009
11/07/09
12:41
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here's a look at what Oklahoma and Nebraska need to do for success in tonight's pivotal game in Lincoln.

Three keys for Oklahoma

Establish the running game: The Sooners need to get Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray involved early to take some of the steam out of the pass rush keyed by Ndamukong Suh and Jared Crick. If they can get in some manageable down-and-distance situations, it will reduce the pressure quarterback Landry Jones will face.

Get the blitz going: Oklahoma should have a favorable situation against inexperienced Nebraska quarterback Cody Green. The Sooners will be aiming to confuse him from the start of the game, keeping him discombobulated with different blitz combinations throughout the game. It’s a formula that has made Brent Venables’ group one of the nation’s best for most of this decade.

Play strong on special teams: It’s been a mixed bag all season for the Sooners with occasional success but just as many struggles on special teams. They can’t make mistakes tonight and expect to win. That means better coverage on kickoffs, making field goals and not fumbling.

Three keys for Nebraska

Start fast: Green needs some early confidence to get the Cornhuskers off on the right foot. Their struggling offense has produced only three touchdowns since that 27-point offensive explosion in the fourth quarter against Missouri. They need some early success to get the crowd into the game early.

Emphasize their defensive line advantage: Suh has been playing at an Outland Trophy level all season. Crick trumped that last week with a five-sack performance against Baylor that tied the school single-game record. And Barry Turner and Pierre Allen combine to give strong pressure from the flanks. It combines to make the Nebraska defensive front one of the best in the nation. They will have their chances against an inexperienced Oklahoma offensive front that has allowed only eight sacks this season, but still hasn’t faced a challenge like the Blackshirts.

Run the ball effectively: With Roy Helu Jr. hobbling, the Cornhuskers have struggled moving the ball on the ground. That’s where Green will be important. And freshman I-back Dontrayevous Robinson has been steadily getting more confidence in the offense. It might be asking a lot for the Cornhuskers to produce a lot of yards against a Sooner defense that ranks third nationally against the run and eighth in scoring defense. But Nebraska needs some kind of ground presence to give Green a chance.

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