Nebraska rush offense vs. Rutgers rush defense
Through three games, Nebraska’s run game has been hot and cold. Although running backs Tre Bryant and Mikale Wilbon have been effective and stout in those games, blocking from NU’s line and tight ends has been inconsistent, especially on zone-blocking plays. Rutgers’ run defense, meanwhile, has been excellent through three games, giving up 2.9 yards per carry, which ranks 20th nationally. Rutgers defensive tackles Kevin Wilkins and Sebastian Joseph are tough to move. Nebraska will face tough sledding here, and it won’t get easier with true freshman Brendan Jaimes starting at right tackle and sophomore Michael Decker potentially starting at center.
Nebraska pass offense vs. Rutgers pass defense
The Huskers can’t get much worse in the passing game than the last two weeks, when quarterback Tanner Lee threw seven interceptions — two of which were returned for touchdowns by Northern Illinois — and was hit over and over by NIU and Oregon’s front seven. Rutgers’ secondary is the weak point of its defense — it is prone to giving up the big play — and, if Lee can settle down and throw a few passes to his backs, Rutgers’ linebackers are so-so tacklers. Lee needs time from the offensive line. If he gets it, he needs to read the defense, not lock in on receivers. It'll help if Stanley Morgan, who's battling neck pain, can play.
Rutgers rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense
The Scarlet Knights have two heavy-legged, tough-running backs in Gus Edwards and Robert Martin. Neither is easy to tackle. Toss in 6-foot-3, 240-pound true freshman quarterback Johnathan Lewis, and Rutgers is clearly building toward a read-option scheme built on bulk and power. But Lewis is more of a spot guy than a full-time player, and Nebraska’s defense is likely to make Rutgers pass the ball to win. RU will run the ball — perhaps a lot — so Nebraska’s defense will be tested here.
Rutgers pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense
Rutgers doesn’t have a lot of weapons at wideout. The leading receiver (Janarion Grant) is more of a return specialist, and the No. 2 receiver is a tight end transfer from Miami. Rutgers quarterback Kyle Bolin — a Louisville transfer — is an accurate short passer, but he’s not a stretch-the-field guy. Look for the Husker corners to challenge Rutgers’ receivers a little bit more than usual and force the Scarlet Knights to win deep.
Rutgers has Grant, who has returned eight kicks/punts for touchdowns in his career. He’s pretty special, and Drew Brown/Caleb Lightbourn will have to keep the ball out of his hands. Rutgers gave up a punt return for a touchdown against Washington; NU did the same against Arkansas State. RU’s kickoff coverage unit is one of the nation’s best through three weeks. Nebraska’s punt return game looks like a bit of a mess with De’Mornay Pierson-El, but perhaps he’s close to breaking a big play.
Rutgers hasn’t won a Big Ten game since 2015 and arrives in Lincoln with nothing to lose. RU must know Nebraska is on the ropes and should play without anything to lose. If it does, it just might walk out of Memorial Stadium with a win. Historically, when the Huskers have their backs against the wall, and they’re playing at home, they don’t respond that well. Instead, NU puckers and panics, knowing coach Mike Riley’s future may be at stake, especially since Shawn Eichorst has been fired as athletic director. The Huskers desperately need a good start in this game. If it’s rough, the worrisome Nebraska fans will respond accordingly and the whole stadium will get a shiver.
Key matchup: Nebraska's O-line vs. Rutgers' D-line
The success of the 2017 season always started with the offensive line. It had to improve from mediocrity in 2016. Coaches were confident it would. It hasn’t yet. Rutgers will load up the box and dare Tanner Lee and the Husker receivers to beat them. And those guys should — if the line can protect. It would help, too, if the line can blow open a hole or two in Rutgers’ front seven. Nebraska’s season could go all the way in the tank the next two weeks, but good offensive line play keeps these Huskers alive until early October, when Wisconsin comes to town.
The state is just about ready to burn after a 21-17 loss to Northern Illinois. Eichorst is out. Riley’s coaching tenure is on the ropes. Football is important in these parts — perhaps too much — and losses to MAC teams just don’t compute. Riley has already had three head-scratching losses in his tenure — Purdue and Illinois in 2015, and NIU this year. He gets no more. Rutgers is really young on offense and is probably the weakest overall team the Huskers will play this season. Can Nebraska get its chin up, find some confidence and play like the better team? We think so. NU staves off disaster for one week. Even if Eichorst couldn’t avoid the ax, Riley will. For a week.
Our prediction: NEBRASKA 28, RUTGERS 16
Big Red Today coverage
Miles played 12 years in the CFL with Montreal and British Columbia, winning a Grey Cup with both teams, and finished his career with 66 interceptions.
Nebraska football rises and falls on the strength of its run game, and there weren’t a lot of holes blasting open the last few years for the Huskers.
When Scott Frost begins teaching players his system, he gives them the entire playbook. No baby steps. No half measures. “We're going to give them everything," said assistant coach Sean Beckton.
Stanley Morgan and JD Spielman give the Huskers a proven 1-2 punch, but the real question of the spring is: Who joins them?
All year round, former Husker and NFL veteran Adam Carriker is taking the pulse of Husker Nation. In Wednesday's episode, Carriker talks to Nebraska native and NFL veteran Danny Woodhead about his career accomplishments, playing in the Super Bowl and…
The Indianapolis Colts have signed former Nebraska offensive lineman Matt Slauson.
Running Back U is in need of a polish. Maybe a lull should have been expected, but it definitely hit in 2017, when an injury to Tre Bryant sunk the Huskers’ run game.
Nebraska's coaches focused heavily on recruiting the southeast while at Central Florida. They've brought that strategy with them to Lincoln and won't be afraid to go head-to-head with SEC and ACC powers in trying to pull elite prospects out of…
All year round, former Husker and NFL veteran Adam Carriker is taking the pulse of Husker Nation. In Monday's episode, Carriker takes a deep dive into the Huskers' defensive personnel heading into spring practice and where the Blackshirts can improve.
Scott Frost and quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco have to find at least one guy — preferably two — who can run the high-octane, fast-paced spread system the way McKenzie Milton has at Central Florida and Marcus Mariota did at Oregon.
The offensive lineman had just finished the least enjoyable football season he could remember. His team lost games in bunches. If he wasn’t part of the worst line in program history, it felt that way.
As Nebraska’s new outside linebackers coach begins to pour out his mind and explain concepts, his words pick up pace and his ideas expand beyond the football field.
One of Nebraska’s biggest strengths when it joined the Big Ten has now become one of its biggest question marks — despite the return of the top four rushers from last season. And the one back who flashed the most…
Nebraska’s new football coach had to have a few cups of coffee Friday morning. His first spring practice began before sunrise.
Upperclassmen are going all in with the new coaching staff, coach Scott Frost said Friday morning, and those players will continue to be key as Nebraska makes a transition to new schemes on offense and defense this spring.
Scott Frost is all about walk-ons. He’s preached the importance of the walk-on program, he’s thrown around the idea of having 150 players at practice (meaning a large influx of walk-ons) and has said over and over he needs Nebraska…
Nebraska football announced its summer camp schedule Thursday, choosing to keep the Friday Night Lights event that was created and popularized by former coach Mike Riley.
Which Huskers are ready to evolve into valuable contributors and prove it during practices in the coming weeks? Here are five players to keep an eye on.
A smile crept across Carlos Davis’ face. The rumors are true, he said. Winter workouts under new strength coach Zach Duval were as hard as everyone’s heard. Maybe even harder.
Plug your nose, Nebraska traditionalists. Because this one might hurt. The fullback position at Nebraska is pretty much gone.
A former Husker — and NFL player — worked out at Nebraska’s pro day — cornerback Mohammed Seisay.
While many of his former teammates went through drills for NFL scouts at pro day on Wednesday, Nebraska's 2017 tackles leader sat in a balcony seat inside the Hawks Center and watched.
On Wednesday at the Hawks Championship Center, Tanner Lee threw on the run, he threw deep, he threw check downs, and in the end, completed 43 of his 49 passes.
More Canadian Football League scouts than usual attended Nebraska’s pro day Wednesday, focused on Ontario native and former Husker offensive tackle David Knevel.
Former NU standout Ndamukong Suh was officially released by the Miami Dolphins on Wednesday.
Nebraska gave members of the student body a shot at earning a spot on the football team Tuesday. On Wednesday, Scott Frost said he isn't yet sure whether any of those dreams would be realized.
Former Nebraska standout Rex Burkhead is re-signing with the New England Patriots, according to multiple reports.
Nebraska coach Scott Frost addressed the media to discuss the opening of spring football practice. Check out a transcript below, as provided courtesy of the Nebraska athletic department.
The press conference ahead of Scott Frost's first spring as Nebraska head coach featured many of the same qualities as the practices he will soon run. There were quick hits. There was efficiency. And most of all, there was enthusiasm.
Several Huskers will miss all or part of spring camp, Scott Frost announced Wednesday at his spring press conference. Among them were Nebraska's two starting centers from last season and Tre Bryant, who had back-to-back 100-yard rushing performances before going…