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Two-Minute Drill: Key matchups that will decide Nebraska-Oklahoma
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Two-Minute Drill: Key matchups that will decide Nebraska-Oklahoma

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Sam looks at the three things Nebraska must do to come out of Norman with a win.

Each week, the Two-Minute Drill provides an in-depth breakdown on all the key matchups that will decide a winner in the Husker game. Today we look at what Oklahoma brings to the showdown with Nebraska.

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WHEN NEBRASKA RUNS THE BALL

Nebraska's preseason goal of a run-first attack with a featured rusher has yet to materialize as it continues to sift through running backs and search for consistency along the offensive line. Quarterback Adrian Martinez has filled the void so far with a pair of sprints of 70-plus yards, but can that continue with the step up in competition? The Huskers lean on Martinez’s legs in big games — 20 carries against Ohio State in 2018, 21 against Iowa in 2019 — and likely will again. The Sooners have been top 30 against the run this year (2.63 yards allowed per carry) and were top 20 last season. EDGE: OKLAHOMA

WHEN NEBRASKA PASSES THE BALL

Injuries may determine success. NU would receive a major boost from the return of Oliver Martin, Omar Manning, Austin Allen and Travis Vokolek. OU boasts some monster pass-rushers and has a deep but young secondary that may be missing multiple contributors. Nebraska found success last week with big plays by Samori Touré (pictured), and this week faces a defense that gives up the occasional bust. OU allowed an average of about one pass play per game of 30-plus yards last year, and this season gave up nearly 300 yards and three scores to Tulane. Does NU have the personnel to do something similar? EDGE: OKLAHOMA

WHEN OKLAHOMA RUNS THE BALL

The Sooners have actually run more than they’ve passed the past five years — 56.2% of the time — even with two Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks and others in consideration. Spencer Rattler isn’t a huge rushing threat, though, and running backs Kennedy Brooks and Eric Gray haven't exploded this fall. Nebraska’s front seven has been good, not great, in gumming up running lanes and is coming off one of its better overall linebacker performances. But the Blackshirts can’t sell out to stop the ground game against this opponent. EDGE: OKLAHOMA

WHEN OKLAHOMA PASSES THE BALL

Weapons around the quarterback haven’t been a problem for a long time at Oklahoma, and this group is no exception. It starts with Rattler — a Heisman contender and high NFL draft prospect who finished with 15 touchdowns and two interceptions the last seven games in 2020. With top-shelf arm strength and accuracy, he can roll up yards in a variety of ways. A veteran Husker secondary that has largely gone untested will get a big one this week. Does it have the speed to keep up with so many home run threats? EDGE: OKLAHOMA

SPECIAL TEAMS

OU’s third unit has thrived when given a chance. Gabe Brkic hit three field goals from 50-plus yards in the opener, and has four overall from that range. Arizona State transfer Michael Turk has only been needed for one punt this year, and it went for 57 yards last week. And electric returner Marvin Mims is a threat to pop anytime. Nebraska, meanwhile, has a suddenly erratic kicker, a punter still learning the American game and a major mistake in the return game for three straight Saturdays. At least its touchbacks on kickoffs have been reliable. EDGE: OKLAHOMA

INTANGIBLES

The atmosphere in Norman should be rocking and thick with nostalgia for a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Game of the Century, but an 11 a.m. kickoff means the crowd likely won’t loom as large. The Sooners will be eager to prove they learned to never let up after a close-call victory against Tulane two weeks ago. Nebraska has little to lose as a three-touchdown underdog after playing three straight games it was expected to win. The pressure is on Oklahoma, which has already proved to be mortal, after the Huskers captured a little momentum the past two weeks. EDGE: NEBRASKA

KEY MATCHUP

Oklahoma is going to get points. The Sooners have been a top-six scoring offense six straight years and are comfortable in shootouts. But if Nebraska’s front seven can limit OU’s ground game — which doesn’t have an established alpha behind blockers who weren’t dominant against Tulane — it might have a chance to force sacks and turnovers against a one-dimensional attack, allowing the NU offense more margin for error. Conversely, rushers ripping off chunk plays mean Oklahoma can do whatever it wants. That would be a recipe for Big Red disaster.

OUR TAKE

Recent history says Nebraska doesn’t win these games, dropping 12 straight against Top 25 competition. Oklahoma has an elite offense and special teams, a disruptive defense and historically strong home-field advantage (125-11 since 1999). Nebraska has Martinez and the hope its chronic inconsistencies and self-harming ways suddenly disappear. A Husker upset would change the entire conversation about the program under Scott Frost. More likely: The nature of defeat will offer additional clues about what to expect for a critical Big Ten slate ahead. OKLAHOMA 45, NEBRASKA 21


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