Nebraska rush offense vs. Wyoming rush defense
The Cowboys are shifting to a 3-4 set that has the flexibility to look like a 4-3. They have two experienced ends, Eddie Yarbrough and Patrick Mertens, to anchor the line. But Wyoming is young in the middle of the line and has few proven linebackers. NU’s Terrell Newby had a strong preseason and is the fastest of the backs.
Nebraska pass offense vs. Wyoming pass defense
NU will put its most ballyhooed WR trio — Kenny Bell, Quincy Enunwa and Jamal Turner — back on the field. Taylor Martinez has further refined his throwing motion. There are whispers that freshman TE Cethan Carter could be one of the big surprises. Wyoming’s secondary is the strength of the team, but the pass rush was toothless last year.
Wyoming rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense
The Cowboys return their top seven rushers, but none of them ran for more than 374 yards last year. The best of the bunch is D.J. May, who has the ability to break a big run. Wyoming uses the run to keep defenses honest, not to win. NU is revamping its D-line, which will use eight to 10 players on Saturday.
Wyoming pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense
Wyoming’s strength is the relative efficiency of QB Brett Smith and a group of quick, sure-handed WRs led by Robert Herron. The Cowboys will target inexperienced dime backers and new starting safeties Corey Cooper, Andrew Green and Harvey Jackson. The Cowboys will make some plays, but Smith takes few chances throwing into traffic.
Both squads are breaking in a new punter. Nebraska seems excited about redshirt freshman Sam Foltz’s ability to flip the field. NU coaches still haven’t said whether Mauro Bondi or Pat Smith will kick. Stuart Williams will handle kicking and punting for Wyoming. New NU returners Bell and Newby (kickoffs) and Turner (punts) could provide a spark.
Nebraska is opening its new East Stadium addition and will welcome the largest crowd in school history. Wyoming has to play another tough, season-opening road game in high heat. Texas beat the Cowboys 37-17 in similar conditions last year. But UT didn’t have NU’s offense or no-huddle tempo. Wyoming was plus-7 in turnover margin last year.
Nebraska has its biggest, most athletic, cohesive and experienced offensive line of the Bo Pelini era. Chances are good that four seniors and a fourth-year junior take the field for the opening snap. The Cowboys gave up 232 rushing yards per game in 2012 — and that was with a more experienced set of linebackers. Wyoming has to hold up in the heat against NU’s no-huddle attack, with a unit ill-equipped to do so. It’s quite a challenge.
Nebraska wins if ...
The offense gets rolling like it should, and the defense forces four or five punts.
Wyoming wins if ...
It forces five turnovers and finds a way to string consecutive touchdown drives together.
The Huskers have won 27 straight season openers, the nation’s longest streak. The offense is champing at the bit to put another defense in submission, and NU’s coaches are surprisingly confident in the defense. Wyoming plays with a nice discipline on offense, but its defense doesn’t have the horses to ride against the Huskers’ guns.
Our prediction: Nebraska 52, Wyoming 21