This week Nebraska faces an Idaho team that is much more experienced and talented than the competition the Huskers faced last Saturday. The Vandals are coming off an eight win season and their first bowl game since 1998. Nebraska has repeatedly gotten bashed for their "cupcake" schedule this season, but the Vandals are not a team to take lightly.
In the team's opener Idaho made quick work of North Dakota, trouncing the Fighting Sioux, 45-0. The shutout was the Vandals first in nearly 13 seasons, setting the tone for the team both offensively and defensively.
The Vandal offense focuses around quarterback Nathan Enderle. The Nebraska native (North Platte) has thrown for over 7,000 yards in his career along with 54 touchdowns. The Huskers typically don't have too much trouble with pocket passers, but Enderle also does a great job of getting yards with his feet when needed. Princeton McCarty is a solid running back for Idaho, but the key for the Blackshirts will be shutting down the passing game.
I wouldn't be surprised if Enderle is able to put a couple touchdowns on the board against the Huskers, but I also think this could turn into a sack-fest as well. What's probably consider the biggest weakness for the Vandals is their depleted offensive line. Idaho returns just one starter up front are easily facing the best defensive line they will see all season. Nebraska had some communication and assignment issues last week, but Pelini seems confident those are ironed out, which is very bad news for the opposition.
The player the Huskers will most have to keep an eye on when on offense is safety Shiloh Keo. The veteran leader of the Vandal defense, Keo helped shutdown his own team's offense a couple weeks ago when in a scrimmage the senior tallied three interceptions and a forced fumble, according to the Spokesman-Review.
The Huskers shouldn't have too much trouble consistently moving the ball. Not only does Taylor Martinez and his dual-threat abilities make it tough for the opposition to game plan around, there's still the idea Nebraska might throw three different quarterbacks into the game. I also believe Watson will give all the running backs more carries in preparation for the game in Seattle next week.
A great amount of the run plays in the first game for Nebraska were out of the zone-read. It appears as if that's the play Shawn Watson wants to base the offense around and we should see plenty of it ran again in Lincoln this weekend. Taylor Martinez is the perfect quarterback for this system, not only because of his elusive running ability but because of his sneakiness as well. Time after time Martinez stuck the ball in the running back's gut, only to keep it himself and take off for a big gain. The freshman also showed off his arm last week which could become a big threat on zone-read fakes.
Overall the Huskers shouldn't have a hard time taking care of this one. The Vandals are a solid team and could hang with Nebraska throughout the first half, but the speed, athleticism, size and depth of the Big Red will eventually be too much for Idaho to overcome. Even though I expect Enderle and the offense to put a few points on the Blackshirts, I think the lack of time the quarterback will have in the pocket will cause some turnovers and some sacks for the Blackshirts. Nebraska, as expected, will be 2-0 heading into their anticipated match up with Washington.
Prediction Nebraska 42 Idaho 17