The last two weeks Kansas faced opponents that on paper left at least the opportunity to optimism. Kansas ended up with one win and one loss in the process and a great comeback to go along with it.
This week, most would say that on paper chances are slim. Nebraska has been a top 15 team all year. Their only loss inexplicably came at the hands of the Texas Longhorns and they look to have an offense to go with their defense that has carried over in a lot of ways from a year ago.
If you head into a game assuming that you have "x" number of scores/opportunities that create the gap between an underdog and a favorite you have to find ways to narrow that gap. That's what our keys are about today. Ways to narrow that predicted 42-10 score or whatever it may be and make Kansas competitive. At that point, you just never know what might happen.
Establish the Run
When James Sims get's going, Kansas does better. Sounds simple but it couldn't be more true. In the three games where James Sims has eclipsed the 100 yard mark, Kansas has won.
When the offensive line controls the line of scrimmage and the Jayhawks have a balanced offense predicated on the run, it can lead to nice, long, time consuming drives. Against Nebraska, that will be important.
Here's a quick example. The first two drives in the second half against Colorado:
14 plays, 69 yards, 6:35 in time of possession and a TD.
9 plays, 66 yards, 3:42 in time of possession and a TD.
Including those two drives Kansas wasn't stopped once in the second half and everytime the offense got the ball they were able to move it faster, and in bigger chunks than the drive before.
Nebraska has a pretty good defense. They're decent at creating turnovers and Kansas hasn't necessarily been with any consistency. The good news is Nebraska does tend to put the ball on the ground.
A week ago in the comeback Tyler Patmon was johnny on the spot and winning the turnover battle was HUGE. If Kansas is going to pull the upset, it's likely going to be just as huge in Lincoln.
Turner Gill wants three or more. I'd say you need three or more and the margin needs to be three or more. Maybe it's too much to ask that Kansas take the ball away and completely avoid giving it away, but in a game like this when you're a major underdog, you have to be excellent.
Limit the Big Play
I'm not sure how Carl Torbush does this because we're not talking bend but don't break against a spread. We're talking assignment football for 60 minutes and finding the ball and making a tackle.
If Martinez doesn't play it certainly helps but this is a key that is big regardless of how difficult it is. Limiting the big play and forcing a few empty or three point trips helps close the gap just a little bit more.
Be special on special teams.
I've said it before and I'll keep saying it. This is a key every game right now because it's one area where you don't have to have the most talent or the best players to make it happen.
Kansas showed a few improvements and a few wrinkles in this area a week ago, they also won the field position battle as a result. Just another way to keep sawin wood and try to weaken the tree that is Nebraska.