Nebraska rush offense vs. Illinois rush defense
The Illini defense has had success slowing down the run games of Western Illinois, Kent State and Middle Tennessee State, but North Carolina — which resembles Nebraska's old offense — averaged 6.86 yards per carry. NU's current run game has been hot and cold, but offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf has found creative ways to create good plays in the run game. Against Illinois, he'd be wise to lean more on quarterback Tommy Armstrong and designed QB runs.
Nebraska pass offense vs. Illinois pass defense
Armstrong is off to a terrific start, having thrown for 1,266 yards and 11 touchdowns in four games. His receivers had a strong game against Southern Miss, and the Huskers should get De'Mornay Pierson-El back in some capacity. Illinois' secondary — and its whole defense — is much improved from last season. Illinois' pass rush, featuring Jihad Ward, will give NU's offensive line as many problems as Miami did.
Illinois rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense
The Huskers sell out to stop the run — at the expense at stopping the pass, so even though Illinois has a crafty running back in Josh Ferguson and a better offensive line than it's had in recent years, chances are good that the Illini don't run for more 100 yards in the game. NU dissuades it as much as possible.
Illinois pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense
NU's secondary and linebackers looked really good for three quarters against Southern Miss and appeared to be a complete mess in the fourth quarter. The back seven have yet to put together a complete game, and Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt is strong-armed and smart enough to take the Huskers apart. Ferguson is one of the nation's better pass-catching running backs, while Geronimo Allison is a strong deep threat. The Huskers' secondary has to figure itself out.
Nebraska has been a mixed bag through four games. Made and missed field goals. A few decent punt returns offset by a whiff on an onside kick. Good kick coverage offset by a few punts off the foot of punter Sam Foltz. Nothing has been consistent thus far. Illinois has blocked three kicks already this year and returner V'Angelo Bentley is dangerous.
The Huskers should have a good group of fans who make the trip to the other Memorial Stadium in the Big Ten West. That'll help. But Illinois can play this game a lot looser than NU. What do the Illini have to lose? Nothing; the head coach has already been fired and the interim is a long shot to get the permanent job. Nebraska is going to feel the pressure to win and keep winning, even with a new coaching staff.
Key matchup: Wes Lunt vs. a low-confidence secondary
There's just no way to feel great about where Nebraska's defensive backs are right now, and NU defensive coordinator Mark Banker is already starting to repeat himself on what needs to be fixed. It all needs to look better, and Illinois — with its spread, no-huddle offense — is not really the team to make it easier on the Huskers. But if Nebraska can rattle Lunt, it should win this game.
Illinois is a bad matchup for the Huskers for a lot of reasons, but mostly because the Illini's offense is diverse and dangerous in the same ways Southern Miss and Miami were. Nebraska's defense may be without linebacker Josh Banderas and defensive tackle Vincent Valentine by game time. Then again, Armstrong is playing the most confident football of his career. He believes he can bring the Huskers back from big deficits and he likes the new offense. That counts for a lot.
Our prediction: Nebraska 38, Illinois 30
Big Red Today coverage
Nebraska will have some of their top recruits in the 2018 and 2019 classes on campus this weekend for the Friday Night Lights camp and Big Red Weekend.
Richie Incognito flips his white hat backward and squats into a stance, feet spread wide, eyes forward. His teal Nike T-shirt clings to his barrel chest. Tattoos cover his forearms. Sweat mats his hair.
You figure we’d learn. That Nebraska media and fans would pump the brakes when it comes to recruiting and expecting too much too soon from freshmen who are figuring out how to be an adult as they find their place…
Brendan "Bookie" Radley-Hiles feels it's been too long since there was greatness at Nebraska, and he plans to bring it back.
Flip on Hayden Conner's highlights and you'd probably wonder what a grown man is doing on a football field with a bunch of middle schoolers.
Council Bluffs Lewis Central quarterback Max Duggan, a top 2019 quarterback target for Nebraska, is considering attending the Huskers’ second and star-studded Friday Nights Lights after he performed well at the first one.
Garrett Nelson on Friday had what any high school athlete in Nebraska would consider a fantastic day.
Nebraska safeties coach Bob Elliott has moved to a defensive analyst position due to personal reasons, the school announced Tuesday in a press release, and Scott Booker has been promoted to replace him as a full-time assistant.
Nebraska receiver Keyshawn Johnson Jr. — the star Calabasas (California) receiver who signed with the Huskers and was at the center of a recruiting movement in California — is taking a leave of absence from NU's program just six months…
Nebraska had 2018 offensive tackle Chris Bleich high on its list of targets, but the 6-foot-6, 305-pounder — who visited for NU's spring game — committed Monday night to UCLA via Twitter.
Joshua and Jordan Moore’s dad had a Father’s Day stuffed with emotions. He’d mourned and rejoiced in one afternoon.
Our Husker Camp Countdown begins Monday, and it’s never been harder trying to pick the 50 Nebraska football players we think will be big factors in the upcoming season.
Yoakum (Texas) receiver Joshua Moore committed to Nebraska Sunday, picking the Huskers over Florida State and Texas A&M. What’s it mean for Nebraska?
The relationship Keith Williams started with Joshua Moore eventually paid off in a major commit for the Huskers’ 2018 recruiting class.
He’s the first athlete of the year from Beatrice since Bob Hohn in 1960. He’s also only the fourth junior honored in 67 years, following Gerry Gdowski of Fremont in 1985, Leodis Flowers of Omaha Central in 1986 and Ron…
In Lee’s final season at Tulane — the last data point we have for Nebraska’s new starting quarterback — he played four games, nearly half his season, with at least one finger tied behind his back, if you will.
Nebraska’s first Friday Night Lights of the year kicked off under the lights in Memorial Stadium. But within an hour, the coaching staff shifted the event inside before severe storms smacked the city.
For the second straight year, an in-state defensive linemen received a scholarship offer from Nebraska directly after a Friday Night Lights camp.
One of our new recruiting features at The World-Herald will be a monthly Big Ten recruiting rankings update. We're doing a second one this month to recap a busy stretch in the recruiting cycle.
A short stroll down Stadium Drive was all it took to get a feel for how Nebraska’s inaugural Fan Fest was going. Whether Husker fans or not, those present all spoke enthusiastically about the Friday evening event that felt, looked,…
World-Herald prep recruiting specialist Mike Sautter was in attendance at Nebraska's Friday Night Lights camp and highlights the top in-state prospects at the camp on Friday, June 16.
For the 173rd week in a row, seemingly, the talk of Nebraska recruiting has something or other to do with a wideout.
The Huskers spread all over the country to work satellite camps and evaluate potential recruits. Here's a closer look at some of those recruits that landed NU offers after their performances at the satellite camps.
Nebraska offered a scholarship to a football prospect heading into his freshman year of high school. His name is Dacari Collins and he's from Atlanta, Georgia. He's 6-foot-3 heading into high school. It should surprise no one he also plays…
There weren’t any 2018 prospects of note at the Lindenwood University event, but Nebraska wouldn’t have minded if Cameron Brown made an appearance. In his absence, the three-star receiver did make an appearance, so to speak.
Tyjon Lindsey has never settled in. Not really.
Wide receiver Cameron Brown said Ohio State wasn't the reason he decommitted from Nebraska on Saturday, but the timing will leave Husker fans wondering.
Mike Riley is here in the region with a purpose — to continue building inroads for that handful of top players each year who come out of the St. Louis area.
Nebraska's football staff is near the end of its whirlwind week of satellite camps. At Lindenwood University — a pleasant, private Division II school west of downtown St. Louis — there were some good-looking athletes.
Lee and nine other position group leaders — established by team vote during winter conditioning — have enlisted Husker strength coaches to install an accountability program that Lee thinks will help Nebraska finish strong and compete for a Big Ten…