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Game on: A closer look at how the Huskers and Huskies line up

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Stanley Morgan

Nebraska wide receiver Stanley Morgan.

HOW DO THE HUSKERS LIGHT UP THE SCOREBOARD?

1. Clean play, clean living. Four turnovers ended drives against Oregon last week, as did a procedure penalty. Think about that: The Huskers scored 35 points at Oregon and gave away five possessions. Part of the reason coach Mike Riley was more testy than normal on Monday.

2. Keep the ground game churning. NU didn’t give up on the run until Tre Bryant left the game in the fourth. Playing from in front would allow the rushing attack to lean on Northern Illinois. On Saturday, the Huskers will have to do with Mikale Wilbon instead of Bryant, who will not play due to a knee injury.

3. Cash in the money down. NU missed two key late third downs against Arkansas State and was 2-of-14 against Oregon. That’s no way for an offense to succeed.

4. Let the receivers work. Stanley Morgan is off to a great start. Can the Huskers get JD Spielman and Tyjon Lindsey the ball with some room to work?

HOW DO THE BLACKSHIRTS SHUT 'EM DOWN?

1. Start fast. How big would a couple of early three-and-outs feel for this group?

2. Space savers. Bob Diaco’s talked about teams making them defend 53 1/3 yards, the width of the field. Overall NU tackled fairly well against Oregon, but extra yards come fast when tackling falters.

3. Rally to the ball. One of the most striking things about last week’s second half was the number of red jerseys around the ball, even on the perimeter. NU needs that all the time.

4. Mix it up on the edge. The Huskers seemed to use a wider variety of looks with their corners against Oregon’s bunch and stack formations. Make life more difficult for Northern Illinois QB Daniel Santacaterina with different alignments.

UNDER THE RADAR

Cole Conrad

C, No. 62: Communication up front starts with the center. Conrad has never had live reps against a 4-3 from the middle. Look for the junior to continue his arc toward being comfortable in command on NU’s line. If Tanner Lee has a clean pocket, Riley said Monday, the offense will produce.

Mick Stoltenberg

DT, No. 44: Hard for a guy as big as Mt. Mick to be too far below the radar, but he was disruptive against the Ducks. If the Huskers are going to be good against the run, Stoltenberg’s ability to move people and take up two blockers will continue to be a key.

THREE NUMBERS TO KNOW

94: Winning percentage among Big Ten teams, per Riley, when they outrush an opponent and win the turnover battle.

91: Percentage of NU’s running back carries from Bryant (51 of 56) through two games. That will drop with Bryant out this week.

0: Huskers players to open a season with back-to-back 100-yard receiving games before Morgan did it last week.

MARQUEE MATCHUP

NU junior wide receiver Stanley Morgan vs. NIU junior corner Shawun Lurry

Morgan is the first Husker in history to open a season with back-to-back 100-yard games. Lurry is on every major preseason watch list for defensive backs. Lurry earned All-America recognition from college football analyst Phil Steele in 2015. Morgan has done damage on a variety of route concepts early in the year.

BIGGEST MISMATCH

NIU’s four starting defensive linemen average 6-foot-2¾ and 263 pounds

NU’s five probable offensive starters average 6-4½ and 305. The Huskers should be able to make that discrepancy felt, regardless of who's carrying the ball.

PREDICTION

Nebraska 38, Northern Illinois 28

I don’t see a reason to think the Huskers will fail to take care of business on their home field. Will it be a big, reassuring blowout? Eh, it’s not out of the question, but I’ll believe it when I see it. Many in the program this week talked about consistency. The prediction here is that Huskers fans will see a more complete effort, but not a full clean-up. Wait, is that consistency?

Contact the writer at pgabriel@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.

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