Game Day: Nebraska vs. Rutgers

Signs of life

A clean bill of health for Nebraska's defense will be vital for a win against Rutgers on Saturday. home against Iowa. “We’re still not totally there, but we’re close,” coach Mike Riley said this week. “Now we’re still on the edge with a couple guys after this last game of being healthy, but we certainly are in better shape and, yes, I think it does make a difference.”

READ MORE »

2-Minute Drill by Sam McKewon

Nebraska rush offense vs. Rutgers rush defense

Nebraska's run offense has been inconsistent for the entire season, producing surprisingly good numbers against Wisconsin (196 yards) and Michigan State (179), while bottoming out against Northwestern (82) and the worst rush defense in the Big Ten, Purdue (77 yards). NU's lack of consistency can be traced back to average line play, an inability for one back — be it Terrell Newby or Imani Cross — to really own the starting job and a diminished focus on quarterback Tommy Armstrong's wheels. Rutgers defense allows 4.51 yards per rush, sandwiched in between Northwestern and Purdue. Because the Scarlet Knights like to stunt and junk it up a lot, NU will have to communicate well.

Nebraska pass offense vs. Rutgers pass defense

Rutgers is an overmatched team when it comes to pass defense. How overmatched? It has a lower pass efficiency rating than Nebraska's pass defense. So there you go. The Scarlet Knights have only notched 11 sacks this year, may start three freshman in the secondary and have given up nine yards per pass attempt this season. In the Big Ten, this number balloons to 10.1 yards. No Power Five team has been north of ten yards allowed per pass since 2012. Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong and his wideouts are a little beat up, but also hitting their stride.

Rutgers rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense

Rutgers makes a concerted effort to run the ball, averaging 38 carries per game and a serviceable 4.38 yards per carry. Nebraska makes a more concerted effort, however, to stop the run, which serves the Huskers well. Nebraska's front seven is perhaps healthier than it has been at any time since the season opener.

Rutgers pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense

When healthy or not suspended, Leonte Carroo is probably the best wideout in the Big Ten. He has 24 catches in five games — with nine touchdowns. He's a big play guy. He's also missed the last two-and-a-half games because of a high ankle sprain. He's scheduled to return to play against Nebraska, but it's hard to tell how close he'll be to 100 percent. Nebraska's pass defense hasn't stopped anybody in the Big Ten. Not when it counted, and not when the opponent actually tried to pass. Rutgers may have a mediocre quarterback in Chris Laviano, but he'll have some success against Nebraska. Every other quarterback does.

Special teams

If Drew Brown (on kickoffs) and Sam Foltz (on punts) can keep the ball away from the nation's best kick returner, Janarion Grant, then Nebraska should be fine. But Grant has four return touchdowns for a reason. Count on him breaking at least one against the Huskers. NU's own return game is getting better thanks to kick returner Stanley Morgan, but Grant is the real X factor.

Intangibles

Rutgers has to win out to make a bowl — Nebraska, in theory, only has to win five to have a good shot — and Nebraska is the key game in the final stretch. Beat the Huskers, and beating Army and Maryland look pretty easy. Rutgers clearly didn't want to risk Carroo for road games at Wisconsin and Michigan, so the Scarlet Knights have circled this game. Nebraska circled Michigan State and won it. Now the Huskers will be right back where they were against Illinois and Purdue. NU flunked both those tests. There's no particular reason to think they'll learn their motivation lesson at Rutgers.

Key matchup: Nebraska's offensive line vs. Rutgers defensive line

The Huskers pushed Rutgers all over the field last year, racking up 7.12 yards per carry. The Scarlet Knights are ground down to bits by three punishing games in a row. NU needs to come out, establish the ground game and make Rutgers want to quit. It's questionable, however, whether this bunch is capable of that.

Our take

Just like Northwestern and Purdue were traps for Nebraska, so, too, is Rutgers. The Huskers have to manage their emotions and expectations the right way. If they do, they'll be fine, because they'll wear down Rutgers with superior talent and depth. If they get complacent or lazy, they'll lose, blunting all of the good energy they gained from the Michigan State game. We're in a charitable mood.

Our prediction: Nebraska 35, Rutgers 31

Live updates

Photos

World-Herald fan photos »

#Huskers on Instagram

Videos

Extras

Live: TBL pregame, postgame

"The Bottom Line" pregame show with Mike’l Severe will start broadcasting live at 1 p.m. Saturday, then tune in after the game for a complete breakdown and call-in show with Mike'l and Joe Ganz. Click here »

Game notes

Check out a PDF of the game notes for the Nebraska-Rutgers matchup provided by the NU 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 Ten coverage

Look for additional updates on our Big Ten page to get the best coverage of the conference from both The World-Herald and some of the best writers from across the country. Click here »

Big Red Today coverage

McKewon: Nebraska's Devine Ozigbo increasingly praised heading into NFL draft — as he should be

It’s a heck of a thing, how a guy who didn’t even start Nebraska’s first three games of the 2018 season might be the highest pick of any Husker in the 2019 NFL draft.

Four-star safety Noa Pola-Gates will keep Husker fans up late Saturday — will they go to bed happy?

Sometime late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, Noa Pola-Gates will finally deliver his college decision.

Nebraska A.D. Bill Moos: Husker apparel sales way up thanks to Scott Frost hiring

Nebraska coach Scott Frost has been good for the sale of Husker gear.

Former Husker John Parrella joins Cleveland Browns coaching staff

Former Husker John Parrella was among seven assistants added to the staff of Browns coach Freddie Kitchens on Friday.

Mick Stoltenberg on Nebraska's future: 'These next few years are going to be something special'

Mick Stoltenberg took a lot of pride in being a Husker and a Blackshirt. And now he's finding out that being an alumnus is also something to be excited about.

Riley Moses leaves mark on Fillmore Central, lands dream walk-on opportunity with NU

Concentration, physicality and determination led Riley Moses to success at Fillmore Central, but a brief lapse ended with the Husker walk-on standing over his high school coach.

Huskers set to host two official visitors, including a running back who's 'focused on Nebraska'

On paper, it’d seem Nebraska’s roster is in decent shape for scholarship running backs. But the Huskers this weekend will host one more back on an official visit, and apparently his eyes are all on NU.

Former Husker Jeremiah Sirles signs one-year extension with Buffalo Bills

Former Nebraska offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles signed a one-year contract extension with the Buffalo Bills, the team announced Wednesday.

Nebraska gets plenty of 'way-too-early' hype. Here's what they're saying nationally

Nebraska winning four of its final six games in 2018 is driving national hype.

Pick Six Podcast: Breaking down the Huskers' final recruiting push

World-Herald staff writers Sam McKewon, Chris Heady and Evan Bland tackle the hottest Husker headlines in the Jan. 15 episode of the Pick Six Podcast.

Junior college running back Dedrick Mills officially signs with Huskers

Maurice Washington officially has more company in the Nebraska football backfield.

Husker signee Ty Robinson lands top-100 ranking; Wandale Robinson rises 37 spots on Rivals

Another 2019 Husker signee became a top-100 recruit when Glibert (Ariz.) Higley defensive end Ty Robinson was rated No. 91 in the country by Rivals, which on Tuesday published its final rankings before the February signing day.

Husker walk-on Luke Reimer turned down South Dakota State to challenge himself at Nebraska

When Luke Reimer left Ashland, Kansas, for Lincoln before his junior year of high school, he didn’t imagine himself as a Husker football recruit. But two years at Lincoln North Star and a desire to push himself changed that.

Walk-on Luke Reimer wants pushed, and Huskers will be happy to oblige

When Luke Reimer left Ashland, Kansas, for Lincoln before his junior year of high school, he didn’t imagine himself as a Husker football recruit. But two years at Lincoln North Star and a desire to push himself changed that.

Signee Spotlight: Powerful Dedrick Mills will complement Nebraska's speedy skill players

The "Signee Spotlight" provides all the information you need on the newest batch of Huskers, including rankings, evaluations and a look at how they landed at Nebraska.

Iowa tight end TJ Hockenson joins 3 other Hawkeyes leaving early for NFL draft

TJ Hockenson, the John Mackey award winner as the nation's best tight end, became the fourth Hawkeye underclassmen to declare early for the NFL draft.

Carriker Chronicles: How long will it take for the Huskers to close the gap on Clemson?

On Monday's episode, Adam Carriker discusses what needs to happen for the Huskers to close the gap on Clemson, how long it will take and what realistic expectations are for the next two seasons.

Nebraska targets Miami grad transfer Lawrence Cager, who calls Husker fans 'unmatched'

Nebraska’s search for receivers has taken it to the graduate transfer market and former Miami Hurricane Lawrence Cager. The 6-foot-5, 218-pound Cager could be a big-bodied, red-zone threat the Huskers lack.

Nebraska's 25-year Super Bowl streak is in danger, but two former Huskers have a chance

Here’s a look at the two former Huskers who appear on rosters of playoff teams still in the hunt for a Super Bowl, which includes those on the active roster, practice squad or injured reserve.

Rex Burkhead, one of 2 former Huskers still in NFL playoffs, scores first postseason TD

Former Husker running back Rex Burkhead, playing Sunday in his fifth career NFL playoff game, earned his first postseason touchdown.

Sam McKewon's way-too-early Top 25 for 2019 — and yes, the Huskers are in it

The rich stay rich. A few old traditional powers begin to rise again. And a much-maligned league makes a move in 2019.

Adrian Martinez says Huskers motivated for offseason workouts, using losses as 'fuel' for 2019

Upon returning to campus Monday, Nebraska’s football players had an optional week of weight lifting with strength and conditioning coach Zach Duval. But NU players, quarterback Adrian Martinez said Friday, were ready to get to work right away.

Led by Sean Beckton, Huskers emphasize recruiting in the south, aim to 'go after 'em all'

Husker tight ends coach Sean Beckton — a key connection in Atlanta and throughout the SEC footprint for new head coach Scott Frost — understands the area as well as any NU coach ever has. His philosophy, laid out several…

Zac Taylor could be first former Husker player named NFL head coach since the NFL-AFL merger

Former Husker quarterback Zac Taylor is poised to join an exclusive group.

Rimington winner Garrett Bradbury gets praise from trophy's namesake; ex-Husker also bullish on NU's future

Dave Rimington doesn’t pick the winner of the award named in his honor. But count him among those impressed by North Carolina State’s Garrett Bradbury.

Recruiting: Scott Frost is first Husker coach to visit Columbus Lakeview since 'Solich in 2002'

Nebraska football coach Scott Frost stopped in over the lunch hour. Students at Columbus Lakeview High School went on pause for a minute to process that fact.

Kearney QB Brayden Miller has 'dream' opportunity at Nebraska, but that's not his only option

Brayden Miller called it his dream to play for Nebraska — he received a Husker walk-on offer late last month — but it's not the only option he's considering.

Carriker Chronicles: Frank Solich on being honored by Tom Osborne, memories from NU and more

On Friday's episode, Adam Carriker talks to Husker legend Frank Solich about returning to Nebraska to receive the Tom Osborne Legacy Award, memories from his time at NU and much more.

Lincoln Southwest's Nick Leader followed his heart, dad to walk on at Nebraska

For Lincoln Southwest’s Nick Leader, walking on at Nebraska is a family affair. Leader, a Class A honorable mention selection, is following the path his father took. David Leader walked on at Nebraska, then lettered in 1991 and 1992.

Reports: Cincinnati Bengals targeting former Husker QB Zac Taylor for head coach

Former Nebraska quarterback Zac Taylor appears likely to join the NFL head coaching ranks.