Game Day: Nebraska vs. Northwestern

Switching is seldom old hat

Nebraska's Mike Riley and Illinois' Lovie Smith have each been in both the NFL and college, where daily coaching and mentoring of student-athletes differ from dealing with professional players.

READ MORE »

2-Minute Drill by Rich Kaipust

Nebraska rush offense vs. Northwestern rush defense

The Huskers have been hitting their stride deeper into games — capped by averaging 5.87 yards a carry in fourth quarters — and it happened again vs. Oregon. The downside is that Nebraska hasn’t been running the ball as effectively from the start, contributing to the first being its lowest-scoring quarter so far. Northwestern threw down a challenge last year when it held the Huskers to 82 rushing yards and dominated the line of scrimmage.

Nebraska pass offense vs. Northwestern pass defense

Northwestern has some injury issues in the secondary to possibly deal with this week, which Tommy Armstrong and the Nebraska passing game can exploit. The Wildcats also have allowed their first three opponents to complete 65.9 percent of their throws, while not seeing the caliber of receivers and tight ends that the Huskers will bring to Evanston. Armstrong threw a pick six last year vs. Northwestern but has just one interception through three games.

Northwestern rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense

The Wildcats have one of the Big Ten’s best backs with Justin Jackson, but sub-par line play has kept them from maximizing his threat so far. Northwestern has had a 100-yard rusher four straight years against the Huskers, including last year when quarterback Clayton Thorson got there by killing them on two long scrambles. Nebraska needs to patch things back up after allowing Oregon to go for 336 last week, the most by a Husker opponent since the Wisconsin debacle in 2014.

Northwestern pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense

Thorson already has been sacked 11 times in three games, and his completion percentage (49.0) is the worst among Big Ten starters. Nebraska is getting solid secondary play and already has seven interceptions. If the Huskers take away the Wildcat run game, this will lean even heavier into Nebraska’s favor.

Special teams

Nebraska got a huge boost last week with not only freshman punter Caleb Lightbourn having his best game but De’Mornay Pierson-El breaking his first big punt return of 2016. The Huskers also were good in kick and punt coverage to limit the explosiveness of Oregon. Northwestern has been decent just about everywhere but doesn’t have a sure-footed kicker like Drew Brown.

Intangibles

The first thing you take into consideration is Nebraska transitioning to the natural grass at Ryan Field, and how it might affect or neutralize the Husker speed. But Nebraska also will have plenty of red in the seats to nullify some of the Wildcats’ home edge. No telling if there is any lingering hangover from the Oregon win for Nebraska, but Northwestern and Pat Fitzgerald have not backed down an inch from the Huskers since they joined the Big Ten.

Key matchup: Nebraska's O-line vs. Northwestern's front four

Nebraska assistant coach Mike Cavanaugh said the Wildcats did nothing exotic or fancy a year ago, just won battles up front (with help behind them in the box). The result was the Huskers averaging 2.2 yards per carry, their I-backs managing no run longer than 9 and Northwestern having nine tackles for losses. Some names change on the Northwestern side, but the mentality does not.

Our take

It comes down to scoring points, and Nebraska is doing it this season (43.3 a game) while Northwestern is not (17.3). The Wildcats’ hope would be to run the football and shorten the game, but their offensive line is hindering that right now. Unless Nebraska returns to its turnover woes of a year ago, its improved defense and current momentum should be enough to get a win to start Big Ten play.

Our prediction: Nebraska 28, Northwestern 13

Live updates

Photos

World-Herald fan photos »

#Huskers on Instagram

Videos

Extras

Game notes

Check out a PDF of the game notes for the Nebraska-Northwestern matchup provided by the Husker Athletic Department. Click here »

Husker History

Find information on every win, loss and tie in Husker history. With historical World-Herald front pages, photos, stories, key stats and more, our ever-growing Husker History Database is your new home for archiving one of the nation's most tradition-rich programs. Click here »

On social media

Check out the Big Red Today page on Facebook to discuss the latest news with the top Husker fans, and follow us on Twitter to get instant updates and analysis whenever news breaks. Plus, look back at historical moments in Nebraska football by following @HuskerHistory on Twitter.

BRT app

IPhone and Android users, get your Husker updates on the go by downloading our free Big Red Today app from the App Store and the Google Play store. Omaha.com/BRTapp and Omaha.com/android

Recruiting updates

Visit the Big Red Today recruiting page to find the latest updates on potential future Huskers, including player cards for those athletes already committed. Click here »

Email alerts

Sign up for the Big Red Today email newsletter to get the Husker news, analysis, daily headlines and more delivered to your inbox. Click here »

Big Red Today coverage

Recruiting: 'Impressive' visit with Scott Frost, NU helps Casey Rogers commit to Huskers

Casey Rogers thought Nebraska was the school for him when his official visit ended Sunday. Less than 24 hours later, with three Cornhusker coaches standing in his prep school in Avon, Connecticut, he knew it.

Three quick takes on the commitment of defensive end Casey Rogers to Nebraska

Avon (Connecticut) Old Farms defensive end Casey Rogers committed to Nebraska.

Pick Six Podcast: Changing Nebraska football's culture, Husker hoops and more

World-Herald staff writers Sam McKewon and Evan Bland tackle the hottest Husker Headlines in the Jan. 16 episode of the "Pick Six Podcast."

Anthony Banderas keeps Huskers in the family, commits to Nebraska's walk-on class

Lincoln Southwest senior Anthony Banderas wants to follow in his family's footsteps. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound linebacker has heard from his father and brother what it's like to suit up for the Huskers. Now, after committing to NU as a preferred…

Scott Shanle says Husker linebackers to get education in football under Barrett Ruud

Barrett Ruud gets a seal of approval from Scott Shanle as Ruud returns to the Nebraska football program as an assistant on Scott Frost's coaching staff.

Best of TBL, Jan. 16: Lee Barfknecht, Mike Gabinet, Sam McKewon, Scott Shanle and more

Nebraska got a basketball win that it needed Monday night and also announced that Jordy Tshimanga would be returning to practice, and World-Herald beat writer Lee Barfknecht was on "The Bottom Line" on Tuesday to discuss both Husker matters.

Recruiting: Doug Johnson, a 340-pound O-lineman, ready for long-awaited visit to Nebraska

There has always been a short list of college teams that comes to mind for Doug Johnson when it comes to a history of producing quality offensive linemen.

Recruiting: Husker football coaches busy making in-home visits across the country

Nebraska’s football coaches hit the recruiting trail Monday to lock in official visits for the next three weeks and immediately follow up with a prospect who just saw NU with his family.

Syracuse makes hiring of former Nebraska assistant coach Mike Cavanaugh official

Syracuse on Tuesday officially announced the addition of former Nebraska assistant Mike Cavanaugh to its football coaching staff.

Drew Brown wearing Sam Foltz's old number for East-West Shrine Game

Former Nebraska kicker Drew Brown will be wearing No. 27 during the East-West Shrine Game in a tribute to former teammate Sam Foltz.

Carriker Chronicles: What former Husker Barrett Ruud can bring to the Blackshirts as a coach

All year round, former Husker and NFL veteran Adam Carriker is taking the pulse of Husker Nation. In Monday's episode, Carriker gives his take on former Blackshirt Barrett Ruud being named to Scott Frost's coaching staff.

Newly committed Breon Dixon could play a variety of defensive positions for Huskers

Nebraska football’s immediate roster makeover continued Sunday when the Huskers accepted their second transfer player in a week.

Three quick takes on the commitment of Ole Miss transfer Breon Dixon to Nebraska football

Nebraska received a commitment from Ole Miss transfer Breon Dixon, who will join the Huskers’ program.

Legendary announcer Keith Jackson held Nebraska football fans in high regard

Keith Jackson, whose signature phrases like “Whoa, Nelly!” made him the down-home voice of college football during more than five decades as a sportscaster, died Friday. He was 89.

Recruiting: New Husker coaching staff makes rounds to check out local talent

Nebraska's football staff made several stops on Friday, including Omaha North, Burke, Creighton Prep, Bellevue West and Lincoln High.

Husker Hall of Famer Dave Rimington sees award growing in importance

When friends convinced Husker legend Dave Rimington to put his name on a trophy that honors the nation’s best collegiate center, he wanted to make sure it reflected the duties and importance of the position.

Recruiting: Late changes to Nebraska's official visit weekend

Nebraska experienced several changes to its official visitor recruiting list this weekend.

Nebraska signee, juco wideout Jaron Woodyard not yet enrolled on campus

Jaron Woodyard’s immediate future with Nebraska appears uncertain as the early junior college signee has yet to enroll in classes and is not on campus.

Carriker Chronicles: Wahoo Neumann grad Noah Vedral reunites with Husker coach Scott Frost

All year round, former Husker and NFL veteran Adam Carriker is taking the pulse of Husker Nation. In Friday's episode, Carriker gives his take on Wahoo Neumann grad Noah Vedral transferring to Nebraska and reuniting with Scott Frost.

Carriker Chronicles: Tom Osborne vs. Nick Saban — who is the best coach of all time?

All year round, former Husker and NFL veteran Adam Carriker is taking the pulse of Husker Nation. In Thursday's episode, Carriker presents the facts and debates the greatest coach of all-time, Nebraska's Tom Osborne or Alabama's Nick Saban.

McKewon: Big recruiting weekend an opportunity to begin Blackshirts rebuild

Nebraska's first big recruiting weekend of January feels in part like an attempt to address some of the defense's deficiencies from last season. Among the visitorsare two pass rushers with national recruiting profiles, their top remaining target at defensive end,…

Outland Trophy notes: Bobby Bowden’s advice buried Tom Osborne in bad bowl stretch

Tom Osborne said when he noticed how well Bobby Bowden was doing down at Florida State, he took a trip down to Tallahassee.

Recruiting: Three takes on Mike Williams' commitment to Nebraska

East Mississippi Community College wideout Mike Williams committed to Nebraska Wednesday night. Three takes on the decision.

Carriker Chronicles: SEC scheduling, an eight-team playoff and UCF's final ranking

All year round, former Husker and NFL veteran Adam Carriker is taking the pulse of Husker Nation. In Tuesday's episode, Carriker offers his take on Scott Frost's comments on ESPN about the SEC's easier scheduling, a potential 8-team playoff and…

Legends on hand for Outland Trophy banquet, but former FSU coach Bobby Bowden focused on Scott Frost

In a small side room at the DoubleTree Hotel in downtown Omaha, Bellevue West senior AJ Forbes shook the hand of Florida State legend Bobby Bowden.

Risk pays off for junior college wide receiver Mike Williams as he commits to Huskers

Junior college wide receiver Mike Williams announced Wednesday that he was committing to Nebraska.

Husker coach Scott Frost awarded again; Iowa State's Matt Campbell, Iowa Western's Scott Strohmeier honored by AFCA

Nebraska coach Scott Frost was named AFCA FBS Coach of the Year at the American Football Coaches Awards presentation Tuesday.

Former Husker QB Zac Taylor promoted to L.A. Rams quarterbacks coach

Former Nebraska QB Zac Taylor was promoted to quarterbacks coach by the Los Angeles Rams, the team announced on Tuesday.

Outland Trophy winner Ed Oliver fought through storm, injuries to have standout season for Houston

There was a horse named Oreo who Ed Oliver is convinced tried to kill him. “Swear to God,” the 2017 Outland Trophy Winner said on Tuesday. “Ask my dad.”

Cowboys DT Maliek Collins has surgery to address a nagging foot problem from 2017

Dallas defensive tackle and former Nebraska star Maliek Collins had recent surgery to address a stress reaction in his left foot, the Cowboys announced Tuesday on their website.