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OSU is closing the talent gap with Nebraska

The Cowboys can match the Cornhuskers' athleticism at several positions.
By Brandon Chatmon, Staff Writer, bchatmon@opubco.com Modified: October 20, 2010 at 8:24 pm •  Published: October 20, 2010

DEFENSE

Defensive line: Four defensive linemen rank among Nebraska's top eight tacklers, led by Jared Crick's 27 tackles and 2.5 sacks. OSU brings an underrated defensive line, which has 15 sacks in six games this season with Jamie Blatnick, Richetti Jones and Ugo Chinasa each having two or more sacks. Advantage: Even.

Linebacker: This game features two of the Big 12's top tacklers in OSU's Orie Lemon and NU's Lavonte David. Both players can go sideline-to-sideline and are sure tacklers. OSU's linebackers are productive and solid, but the Huskers linebackers are slightly more athletic so they get the nod. Advantage: Nebraska.

Secondary: Prince Amukamara and Alfonzo Dennard are elite cornerbacks. They allow Nebraska to play man defense with confidence. OSU safety Markelle Martin can hold his own against anyone, but the Huskers defensive backs are second to none. Advantage: Nebraska.

Overall advantage: Nebraska

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker: OSU's Dan Bailey and Nebraska's Alex Henery might be the Big 12's top two kickers. Neither has missed a kick this season, so you can't say one takes a back seat to the other. Advantage: Even.

Punter: Henery pulls double duty as the Huskers punter and is a good one at that. But OSU's Quinn Sharp gives the Pokes the nod thanks to his 40.13 yard net punting average, which ranks No. 13 nationally. Advantage: OSU

Punt coverage: 52 percent of Henery's punts are returned, and NU allows 12.31 per return. 33 percent of Sharp's punts are returned at an average of 9 yards per return. Advantage: OSU.

Punt returns: Both teams have returned punts for touchdowns, but neither return was by their primary punt returner. Niles Paul is solid, averaging 10.46 yards per return. OSU's Justin Gilbert (6.88 avg.) might not be 100 percent on Saturday. Advantage: Nebraska

Kickoff coverage: Nebraska's kick coverage isn't great (23.55) per game, but OSU has allowed two kick returns for touchdowns this season. Advantage: Nebraska

Kickoff returns: If Gilbert plays, it would be a boost as his 23.8 yard average is the best on either squad. If not, don't expect an explosive kick return from either squad. Advantage: Even.

Overall advantage: Even