For me, Colorado is the Black Friday rival for Nebraska. The 2001 Colorado game was the first painful loss that I remember watching. Today, nearly 22 years later, painful losses like this have become a common occurrence. Nebraska has dominated the series all time winning over 70% of the games, but since that 2001 game the series is even and Saturday’s matchup will come with bragging rights for years to come. After Coach Prime pulled off a great upset at TCU, there is a fear that this Saturday could be a replay of 2001 with Travis Hunter and Jimmy Horn Jr. playing the roles of Chris Brown and Bobby Purify. I, along with Vegas, however, think this game will be a close one.
Colorado QB Shedeur Sanders was electric in his game against TCU. He became only the 12th player since 2000 to have at least 500 yards passing on 80% completion percentage. Even with a record-setting day, multifaceted Travis Hunter may have stolen the show becoming just the third player since 2000 to catch a pass as both an offensive and defensive player in a single game. While the Huskers also played a close game, it looked much different. It was a classic Big Ten slugfest that ended heartbreakingly for the Big Red in an all too common one-score loss. The Huskers did a lot of things right against Minnesota, but too many self-inflicted wounds to win the game.
If the Huskers want to get their first win of the season, they are going to have to do well on the ground. Colorado and TCU combined for the second most snaps played in week 1 with 204. This made a high-scoring shoot-out more likely and favored the talented Sanders and his array of weapons. Nebraska is going to want to take long, efficient drives that chew clock against a Colorado defense that gave up 262 yards rushing to TCU. However, Nebraska needs to give carries to someone other than Jeff Sims. Sims had the 4th most carries of a Husker in an opening game since 2004. With Heinrich Haarberg moonlighting as a skill position player, the Huskers can’t afford to have a QB1 with nagging injuries like we saw with Adrian Martinez. TCU was able to keep Colorado to just 55 yards rushing and no explosive plays on the ground. The Blackshirts front six will hope to do the same to free up the five DBs to cover the talented Buffalo WRs.
A ground control game also limits the player who might be the most exciting in college football this year – Travis Hunter. The Nebraska game plan should be to find him on the field and throw away from him every down. If Sims continues to stare down his target, Hunter will make him pay. I’d like to see Jaylen Lloyd get some snaps with the goal of making Hunter run on defense. Making him work on defense will greatly help limit him on offense.
Despite all the hype surrounding Colorado after an impressive week 1 win, I believe this remains a winnable game for Nebraska. While the line has moved heavily in Colorado’s favor, it does seem stuck as a close game. If the Huskers can control the ball and limit turnovers, this game will be winnable for Matt Rhule’s squad. Easier said than done against a Colorado offense loaded with talent.