By Frank Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The eight-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers head to the Pacific Northwest to challenge the Washington Huskies in non-conference action.
Nebraska is a perfect 2-0 on the young season, having easily dispatched with Western Kentucky (49-10) and Idaho (38-17), both at home. The Huskers are 2-0 for the sixth straight season, but a win in this clash with make them 3-0 for just the third time since 2004.
The Cornhuskers are coached by Bo Pelini, who has a record of 22-8 in this his third season at the helm.
A week after dropping its season opener at BYU (23-17), Washington evened its record at 1-1 with last week's home win over Syracuse (41-20). The Huskies are led by second-year head coach Steve Sarkisian, who took a winless team in 2008 to a 5-7 record last year for the best turnaround at the FBS level.
Washington has been particularly tough at home recently, winning three straight and five of the last six in front of the Husky Stadium faithful.
This bout marks the eighth all-time meeting between these two teams, with the series knotted at 3-3-1. Nebraska has won the last two encounters, the most recent coming in 1998.
Through two games, the Nebraska offense has demonstrated its dominance on the ground by churning out 649 yards on 74 attempts for an average of 8.8 ypc. There have been 11 runs of 20 yards or more, and nine TDs have been recorded.
Freshman QB Taylor Martinez continues to impress here in the early going, leading the team with 284 rushing yards and five TDs, while completing 65.6 percent of his passes, albeit for just 121 ypg. He has yet to throw a TD pass and has been intercepted only once. Niles Paul is the Cornhuskers' leading receiver with nine grabs for 123 yards and a TD.
As for Nebraska's RBs, both Roy Helu Jr. and Rex Burkhead are over 100 yards for the season, and they have combined for three TDs.
Despite piling up 360 rushing yards and putting up 38 points last week against the Vandals, coach Pelini wants his offense to continue to progress and put forth maximum effort.
"Our attention to detail needs to pick up, our attitude needs to pick up and our standard needs to pick up. We'll get that fixed this week. We'll be fully ready as a football team to go to Seattle. I can promise you that."
Defensively, the Huskers have allowed very little thus far, yielding a mere 13.5 points and 289 yards of total offense per game. They average four turnovers per outing, and P.J. Smith has notched two of the club's sin INTs.
Lavonte David is the team's top tackler at the moment, checking in with 20 stops, while Jared Crick and Baker Steinkuler have combined for five sacks, the team as a whole having logged eight sacks through the first two games.
In the win over Idaho, the Huskers came away with six turnovers, a fact Pelini was obviously ecstatic about. "It's huge. That is what we talk about, about attacking the football. Like I said, defensively we stepped up, those guys played well. We played very well defensively, we did a lot of good things. Now we weren't perfect, but I saw a lot of good things."
With his team trailing 10-0 to Syracuse last week, Washington QB Jake Locker made it his personal mission to bring his team back and he did just that as he threw a career-high-matching four TD passes to help the Huskies claim their first win of the campaign. Locker, who suffered a bruised wrist late in the contest but should be able to go this week against the Huskers, went 22-of-33 for 289 yards, while WR Jermaine Kearse finished with nine catches for 179 yards and three scores -- all career highs.
So far this season, Locker has completed 60 percent of his passes for 555 yards, five TDs and no INTs.
The UW ground attack also got into the action, as Chris Polk ran for 117 yards and a TD to help the team finish with 175 yards on better than five yards per attempt.
Sarkisian lauded the play of some of his offensive guys, "Jermaine Kearse had a fantastic outing. I thought Jake Locker had a tremendous ball game as well. Chris Polk, Jesse Callier, Devin Aguilar on offense were all great."
He praised the defense as well, "After the 10 points we gave them, our defense really set the tone for the game and getting the ball back to the offense. I thought our defensive line played well. I thought our corners played well."
Dennison Cort was high man on the defensive side of the ball for the Huskies with his dozen stops, while Mason Foster was credited with 10 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.
It was certainly a tale of two games for the UW defense, which surrendered 408 yards and failed to register either a sack or turnover against BYU the week prior. Foster had 14 tackles in the setback.
Washington is clearly the best team Nebraska will have faced thus far, and while the Huskies have some firepower on which to rely, they are likely to come up short. The home crowd will do its best to will UW to victory, but the reality is the Huskers are simply better.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nebraska 31, Washington 21