Mel Kiper's archive: reviews, notebooks

Friday, December 29

Huskers infantry battles 'Cats air force

Alamo Bowl
Saturday, Dec. 30 (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Nebraska (9-2) vs. Northwestern (8-3)

When you look at the incredible offensive production of both Nebraska and Northwestern this season, points should be coming fast and furious in this one.

Eric Crouch
Eric Crouch leads Nebraska's potent ground attack against Northwestern.

Nebraska has a skilled option QB in junior Eric Crouch. He's decisive running the option, then combines all-the-way speed with tackle breaking strength as well as a very determined approach. Anchoring things up front is the Huskers outstanding pivot man, Dominic Raiola.

While Northwestern's linebackers Kevin Bentley, Billy Silva, and Napoleon Harris ranked as one of the more effective units in the Big Ten, the Wildcats overall defense had trouble even slowing down the opposition in several games. In fact, over the last nine games of the regular season, Northwestern's defense allowed over 30 points on six occasions, with Purdue scoring 41 and Michigan 51.

For Northwestern, junior signal-caller Zak Kustok did a masterful job this season running the Wildcats no-huddle, fast-break offense. He's excellent at delivering accurate strikes on the move. Kustok figures to present some problems for a Cornhusker defense that struggled some during the latter portion of the season. Here, Nebraska's defense will be challenged by junior RB Damien Anderson, a proven breakaway threat, coming off a sensational season where he averaged nearly seven yards per carry. With Ralph Brown and Mike Brown moving on to the NFL after last season, it should of come as no surprise that the Huskers' defensive secondary had their share of problems.

If Northwestern is able to at least contain or slow down Crouch and the Huskers option, they may be able to keep this one close and exciting throughout. That's because I would be surprised if Northwestern's potent offense wasn't able to produce 28+ points. Keep in mind, they managed to top that point total in nine of their 11 games.

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