Nebraska rush offense vs. Penn State rush defense
Aside from a game at Ohio State, Penn State’s rush defense has been downright stingy in Big Ten play, holding Iowa, Northwestern and Michigan State to fewer than 100 yards on the ground. Linebackers Jason Cabinda and Koa Farmer comprise the backbone of the defense; all three are aggressive pursuers and sound hitters. Nebraska’s run game, meanwhile, is as bad as it’s been in years, in part because the Huskers abandon it once they get behind. NU should get Jaylin Bradley back in the mix.
Nebraska pass offense vs. Penn State pass defense
Tanner Lee cleared concussion protocol and will start Saturday, coach Mike Riley said Friday night. Nebraska has a better chance with Lee, but Penn State’s pass defense — despite allowing big games to Ohio State and Michigan State — will be tough when you factor in the weather. Wideouts JD Spielman, Stanley Morgan and De’Mornay Pierson-El must be on point with their routes.
Penn State rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense
The Nittany Lions have had offensive line issues since the arrival of coach James Franklin. That remains true in 2017, when PSU has a star back — Saquon Barkley — who's been held to fewer than 100 yards five times in Big Ten play. That’s not on Barkley — a dynamic runner at the second level. It's on the offensive line. But Nebraska’s defense has a way of making opposing run games look quite healthy, so there’s no particular reason to think that’ll change. Barkley is a surefire entrant into next year’s NFL draft so he’s playing his last home game. Expect a show.
Penn State pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense
Penn State’s spread offense has the playmaking quarterback (Trace McSorley), the tight end (Mike Gesicki) and the big receivers (DaeSean Hamilton and Juwan Johnson) that Nebraska would love to have, but doesn’t. Put Barkley in the mix — 40 catches, 524 yards — and Nebraska’s pass defense, which defensive coordinator Bob Diaco vigorously tries to protect, won’t have much of a chance unless the weather intervenes. Like Ohio State, Penn State should handily carve up the Huskers. It’s going to be painful.
Barkley has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns this season, and Nebraska just allowed a kickoff for a touchdown against Minnesota. Punt returner DeAndre Thompkins has also returned a punt for a score, and PSU’s kick and punt coverage teams are both better than Nebraska’s. The Huskers have returned a single punt in the last four games. Penn State’s kicker, Tyler Davis, has missed 7 of his 15 field goal attempts, but he is the Nittany Lions’ lone liability.
Penn State hasn’t lost at home since 2015, and Nebraska is playing the second of two straight conference road games, a scenario that almost always works against the travelling team. Penn State, for example, was upset at Michigan State in its second straight road game, while PSU pummeled Michigan 42-13 when the Wolverines were playing their second-straight road game. Given that it’s Barkley’s senior day, you’ll see quite the fan support just for him.
Key matchup: Nebraska’s pass offense vs. Penn State’s secondary
We expect Nebraska to give up yards and points to Penn State, so the only way we anticipate Nebraska keeping the game competitive is by scoring points and converting third downs through the air. That’s a tough task on the road, with no momentum as a program and Mike Riley’s tenure on the ropes.
Nebraska is less likely to win this game than perhaps any other since joining the Big Ten. Nothing points to the Huskers winning. Not the giant point spread north of three touchdowns, not Nebraska’s disheveled defense, not the back-to-back road games, not Penn State’s penchant for sacking the quarterback. The question for NU won’t be if it loses, but how bad it does, and how many Husker fans turn off the game halfway because it’s too tough to watch. Our guess is it happens somewhere in the second half.
Our prediction: PENN STATE 42, NEBRASKA 17
Big Red Today coverage
World-Herald staff writers Sam McKewon and Chris Heady tackle the hottest Husker headlines in the latest episode of the Pick Six Podcast.
Minnesota’s offense, which started eight freshmen in its bowl win over Georgia Tech, averaged 5.68 yards per play last season, ranking ninth in the Big Ten. That’s UM’s highest average in a decade.
Ask around the offense, and "plus-twos" are as important as any conventional statistic coaches and players track. Moving a defender two yards can demonstrate a strength advantage and extra effort on an individual level.
Former Husker running back Ameer Abdullah re-signed with the Minnesota Vikings on Monday.
On Monday's episode, Adam Carriker discusses which players in Husker football history he'd most like to bring back to play for Nebraska today, and which one's would fit the current system best.
Twenty-one of the 33 upperclassmen scholarship players play defense. And 11 of that 21 are seniors. Big, bold vocal seniors who have played a lot of football. With that experience comes urgency. Wisdom. Responsibility.
The Tony Tuioti effect for Nebraska football recruiting is in full swing.
Deontai Williams said, he’s the “OG” of the safety group. He’s right, too — he and junior Marquel Dismuke are the veterans while redshirt freshmen Cam’ron Jones and CJ Smith learn and sophomore Cam Taylor bounces among safety, nickel and…
His boss got all the attention during last fall’s miserable start, but put yourself in Barrett Ruud’s shoes for a moment. Nebraska’s all-time leading tackler returned to his alma mater and hometown in 2018 to coach his old position —…
On Friday's episode, Adam Carriker explores some of Nebraska football's hardest losses, and narrows down what one play in Husker history he'd choose to change.
JoJo Domann is one of Nebraska’s most versatile defenders. And his coaches need an array of colorful language to describe him. Leaning against a wall on the second floor of the Hawks Center, defensive backs coach Travis Fisher said Domann…
Former Nebraska running back Greg Bell — who left the program four games into the 2018 season — is transferring to his hometown school, San Diego State.
Nebraska defensive line coach Tony Tuioti wants a consistent daily mindset from his players, where linemen “press the reset button” after each practice to gear up for the next one with the same energy and enthusiasm.
If the first two weeks of spring practices are any indication, Nebraska's defense has some playmakers.
On Wednesday's episode, Adam Carriker previews the Blackshirts' defensive line personnel for spring football, reasonable expectations for the group and much more.
Even if Jovan Dewitt can’t make every meeting — even if, during practice, he has to take a knee and “get some hydration” — he’s going to be at every practice he can.
Nebraska has given Logan Jones something to think about. The Council Bluffs Lewis Central defensive lineman tweeted Tuesday he has received a scholarship offer from the Huskers after committing to Iowa last month.
It's a spring of transition on the offensive line, which lost several leaders from last year's team. Now a trio of juniors holds that responsibility, and this spring is an important step in their development.
Videos include an interview with Scott Frost, a recap of the the practice by Sam McKewon and Evan Bland and an update on Maurice Washington.
Circumstances are aligning for Jaylin Bradley to prove himself. Now coaches are anxious to find out if the running back can.
Attack. That’s a buzzword for the Husker tight ends this spring. Collectively, they’re the offense's most experienced group. But there’s a higher level the coaches expect these tight ends to reach.
So far, so good for true freshman quarterback Luke McCaffrey. Nebraska quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco said McCaffrey, an early enrollee, has done well in spring practices to pick up the offense.
Scott Frost doesn't even want to say the Oklahoma word. But the drill Nebraska threw out in front of the media Monday morning did look a whole lot like the infamous Oklahoma drill.
This timeline of events in the Maurice Washington investigation is based on allegations outlined in court documents, investigator reports and officials' statements.
Nebraska was in full pads for its fourth practice of the spring Monday morning. The media were allowed inside practice for the first 30 minutes. Here's what we saw.
On Monday's episode, Adam Carriker skis down a mountain and shares the story of his all-time favorite Husker football game.
Husker running back Maurice Washington returned to California over the weekend to self-surrender to authorities, a spokesperson for the Santa Clara Sheriff’s Office said Monday.
This column might be a shot-clock violation. But I received so much feedback from emails and on Twitter last week on the idea of a shot clock in high school basketball that I thought I would spill over into this…
Adrian Martinez’s head coach, Scott Frost, wants more. Much more, based on his comments last week. Don’t gloss over them. If Frost is bullish on Martinez’s potential — talking him up as potentially one of the best, if not the…