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
When Nebraska commit Brendan Radley-Hiles steps to the line against an elite receiver, that's when he unleashes the "Bookie." That's the nickname he's had nearly his entire life, but it's also become his persona — the embodiment of his confidence.
The World-Herald’s annual list of best Big Ten players is stacked heavily toward a trio of teams: Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin. Not surprisingly, it’s those teams that should start inside the top 10 when the coaches and media…
Four-star quarterback prospect Max Duggan of Council Bluffs Lewis Central made plans this week to visit Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. On Thursday on Interstate 75 near Atlanta, the rental SUV the family was riding in was rear-ended, causing whiplash to…
When Howard Griffith is breaking down Nebraska, he's doing it for two reasons. First, he's an analyst for BTN, so it's his job to see how the Huskers stack up with the rest of the Big Ten. But he's also…
Catch up on everything you might have missed during Thursday's episode of "The Bottom Line."
Who are the best 20 Huskers in the Big Ten era? With six seasons of data and top performances through which to sort, here’s the list – for now.
Houston Griffith has heard the criticism since he first started drawing recruiting interest as an eighth-grader in Chicago.
I’ve been reviewing preseason magazines in July for several years. Rarely have they collectively been this bearish on a Nebraska football season. It’s a contrast to the natural tendency of local media — myself included — to focus on the…
Brendan Radley-Hiles is approaching five-star status after the latest update to Scout’s recruiting rankings. The Nebraska commit moved up 27 spots to No. 22 nationally and is the nation’s No. 4 cornerback.
Nebraska’s 2017 recruiting class looks different now than it did five months ago. How might the class rankings change if the three players that won't be with Nebraska this fall weren’t included?
World-Herald staff writers Sam McKewon and Evan Bland tackle top local topics and the hottest headlines from across the country in the July 19 edition of "The Pick Six Podcast."
As Nebraska football re-emerged to prominence at the start of the 1980s after a pair of national championships a decade earlier, Dave Rimington laid the foundation for an enterprise that came to be known as “The Pipeline.”
Nebraska signee and four-star cornerback Elijah Blades will not be joining the football team this fall — and likely not ever. Now the Huskers’ focus turns to the six scholarship corners it already has while continuing to pursue multiple recruits…
The four-star wide receiver will continue to weigh options into the fall season.
For at least half the season — and perhaps all of it — the Huskers will be without a key piece of their defense after Jones, their top cornerback and a legitimate All-Big Ten candidate, tore the meniscus in his…
Plano (Texas) East and 2017 signee Deiontae Watts will not be playing football at Nebraska, his mother, Sandra, told The World-Herald on Sunday night.
Perhaps the best moment for Nebraska’s athletic department in 2016-17 happened more than 1,000 miles east of campus on Penn State’s baseball field May 20. With a Big Ten regular-season crown on the line, the Huskers blasted their struggling counterparts…
Nebraska coach Mike Riley announced Saturday that top Husker cornerback Chris Jones had knee surgery to repair his left meniscus.
Brendan "Bookie" Radley-Hiles proved at The Opening Finals earlier this month why he's the Huskers' highest ranked commit. Radley-Hiles earned near-unanimous praise from analysts in attendance, and he added another honor to his list Wednesday.
Changes could be coming to college football, and Nebraska's athletic director is part of a group of NCAA representatives tasked with making sure any tweaks are the result of exhaustive and informed study.
Cornerback Chris Jones, quarterback Tanner Lee and linebacker Chris Weber will represent Nebraska at Big Ten media days later this month.
All six of Nebraska's 2018 four-star football commits found themselves in the top 250 of 247Sports' best recruits, including three in the top 100.
Bob Elliott, a veteran college football coach hired by Nebraska in February, has died. Elliott coached 38 years with stops at nine schools, including Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas State and Notre Dame.
Former Husker linebacker Adam Skoda died Saturday after battling neuroendocrine cancer. He was 42.
Niles Paul, who turns 28 in August, enters his seventh NFL season with something to prove. Two injuries have sidelined him all but eight games since his breakout season of 2014. Can he stay healthy and revive his career?
While fans eagerly await the next starting quarterback — Tanner Lee — to take a snap at Nebraska, you might want to chew on this: The Huskers will likely face equally experienced — if not always equally good — signal-…
Now retired after playing eight NFL seasons, Usama Young laughs at the memory of himself as an upperclassman cornerback at Kent State in 2005 and 2006. His defensive backs coach regularly broke down game film by explaining what every participant…
The Opening Finals brought together many of the nation's top college football recruits, and Nebraska commit Brendan "Bookie" Radley-Hiles stood out with his performance and personality.
Not surprisingly, Ohio State is on top. Not surprisingly, the Big Ten East dominates the top five. But Nebraska is holding strong.
Bob Diaco, who hadn’t chatted with any reporters in more than two months, was gracious to give an hour of his time. We talked about a variety of topics, including and especially his love for food, but he doesn’t always…