Photo courtesy of Nebraska athletics
Exactly two months separate us from the start of Nebraska football.
Year No. 3 of the Scott Frost campaign has fans in Lincoln excited. Hopefully, expectations are controlled after last season’s 5-7 finish.
The Cornhuskers bring back roughly 15 starters from the 2019 season. The loss of JD Spielman will hurt, but the continual pursuit of getting that true ‘Husker football culture back is well underway. In this 12-part series, we’ll be giving an early-season preview of each game.
In the fifth part of the series, we look at Nebraska’s first contest in October and its first road game. On Oct. 3, the Cornhuskers will head to Evanston to take on Northwestern.
Nebraska defeated the Wildcats in a Big Ten West contest last season, 13-10. Northwestern had won the previous two. All-time, Nebraska leads the series, 8-5.
The first four predictions in this series for Nebraska have been wins. If that holds true, the Cornhuskers will be looking for their first 5-0 start since 2016.
Why Nebraska Will Win
Speed is the biggest difference between these two programs. Nebraska will bring that to the table, but in the past years, that hasn’t shown up enough. The last two years have been slugfests and really close games. If Nebraska can utilize this speed horizontally and combine that with the power of Dedrick Mills and Adrian Martinez vertically, it could be tough to stop.
Another key is Northwestern’s grad transfer quarterback, Peyton Ramsey. A true pocket passer is what the Husker defense has had more success against in recent history. Also, the problem with saying that is Ramsey threw for 351 yards and two touchdowns last year for Indiana in a victory against Nebraska.
Wide receiver Whop Philyor was the issue for Nebraska last year in its loss to the Hoosiers, but the Wildcats don’t have that true playmaker or threat like Nebraska. Wan’Dale Robinson is gonna have to come huge just like last year for Nebraska to get out of Ryan Field with a win. A good day from Martinez can go a long way in deciding this one. The “Blackshirts” had a great day last year against this traditionally non-lethal Northwestern offense.
Why Northwestern Will Win
The Wildcats should be coming in with a 2-2 or 3-1 record depending on the outcome of their opener against Michigan State. Typically, Pat Fitgerald-led teams are very resilient and tough throughout the course of the whole season. Northwestern should come into this game hungry for a win after losing the previous week to Penn State in State College.
It’s hard not to like what Peyton Ramsey brings to the table because of his ability to utilize less dynamic weapons from his days at Indiana. Ramsey has an experienced wide receivers group with three seniors and an offensive line that returns five upperclassmen. All of them started at least nine games in 2019.
Also, arguably Northwestern’s best players haven’t even been mentioned yet in running back Isaiah Bowser and one of the better middle linebackers in the country in Paddy Fisher. Northwestern returns at least nine starters on defense with at least eight games of starting experience as well.
This is a defense that ranked 25th in total defense and 43rd in scoring defense just a year ago. Lots of veteran experience from a group playing at home is a dangerous spot to be in if you are a Cornhusker.
This game should be an absolute dogfight in the first road game of the year for the Huskers. It’s easy to like the playmakers for the Huskers and the momentum they should have coming into this game. The big question is whether Nebraska can get enough pressure on Ramsey in order to not let him repeat his performance from a year ago. A young Cornhuskers’ defensive line going up against a veteran squad will be tough for Frost’s team. The Huskers make one too many mistakes and let Bowser eat at the clock late.
Final Score: Northwestern 27, Nebraska 24