Game Day: Nebraska vs. Penn State

Times are changing

When Penn State hosts Nebraska Saturday at Beaver Stadium, it’ll be a tilt between two of the winningest programs in major college football history. The Huskers (893 wins) sit at No. 5. Penn State (875) sits at No. 8. These are the football tycoons with pigskin estates. The programs, similar in their insularity and love of tradition, couldn’t be further apart at this moment.

READ MORE »

2-Minute Drill by Sam McKewon

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.

Special teams

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.

Intangibles

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.

Our take

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

Live updates

Videos

Extras

Game notes

Check out a PDF of the game notes for the Nebraska-Penn State 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

Attrition in Husker football program hits hardest at linebacker, receiver, running back

In total, 33 of the 87 scholarship players Nebraska signed in those four classes — 38 percent — are not playing at NU. It’s the kind of roster attrition that Frost and his staff, in a massive overhaul, will need…

Shatel: Scott Frost's plan, confidence helped make Burke's Nick Henrich want to wear red

This week, Omaha Burke's Nick Henrich will be part of Scott Frost’s 2019 recruiting class, one that will be charged with bringing back the tradition — and putting a Husker shirt in every house.

Carriker Chronicles: Gut reaction to Nebraska volleyball losing to Stanford in the title game

On Saturday's episode, Adam Carriker gives his quick reaction to the Huskers losing to Stanford in the NCAA volleyball championship game.

Scott Frost tells Husker volleyball to 'bring back a national championship' in pregame pep talk

The Nebraska volleyball team got a little extra pregame motivation before its national championship match against Stanford.

After Husker walk-on offer, Elkhorn Mount Michael's Garrett Hustedt will take time with decision

Elkhorn Mount Michael's Garrett Hustedt has dreamed of one day playing football in college, and that's inching closer to becoming reality. Nebraska offered Hustedt a preferred walk-on spot Wednesday in the Huskers' 2019 recruiting class.

Nebraska backup QB Andrew Bunch exploring transfer

Recruiting: Nebraska sends all 11 coaches to see DE Ty Robinson as decision looms

How bad does Nebraska want Ty Robinson? Enough that the entire Nebraska coaching staff visited the same recruit on the same day for the first time in their three-plus years together.

Jacksonville Jaguars waive former Husker Niles Paul

Former Husker Niles Paul was waived Friday by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Paul was placed on injured reserve on Oct. 16 after he suffered a sprained MCL.

Huskers enter final weekend before signing day with spots to fill. Here's who's still on the board

Nebraska football has plenty of irons in a roaring recruiting fire just before the upcoming December signing day, especially on defense.

Carriker Chronicles: Gut reaction to Nebraska volleyball advancing to the national championship

On Thursday's episode, Adam Carriker talks to Nebraska volleyball coach John Cook about the team's upcoming Final Four match, his friendship with Scott Frost, and much more.

Voice from the Grandstand: Huskers' Mount Rushmore; Turner Gill's return?; NU's next offensive weapons

The "Voice from the Grandstand" is a weekly feature with Tom Shatel that allows fans to ask questions or share their thoughts on the latest local sports news.

Carriker Chronicles: Nebraska's John Cook on the Final Four, Scott Frost and more

On Thursday's episode, Adam Carriker talks to Nebraska volleyball coach John Cook about the team's upcoming Final Four match, his friendship with Scott Frost, and much more.

Pick Six Podcast: One week remains before football signing day

World-Herald staff writers Sam McKewon, Chris Heady and Evan Bland tackle the hottest Husker headlines in the Dec. 12 episode of the Pick Six Podcast.

Carriker Chronicles: Burke's Nick Henrich on committing to the Huskers, meeting Scott Frost and more

On Wednesday's episode, Adam Carriker talks to Omaha Burke linebacker Nick Henrich about committing to the Huskers, meeting Scott Frost and much more.

From Bluegrass to Big Red: With stressful stretch over, Wandale Robinson set to be a Husker

Wandale Robinson was a few years away from falling asleep to the NFL Network. He hadn't yet figured out Reggie Bush and Percy Harvin were his favorite players.

Teddy Prochazka's full week includes offer from Northwestern, visit from Scott Frost

Teddy Prochazka, a sophomore at Elkhorn South, received his second scholarship offer while on a visit to Northwestern. He's also already one of the Huskers' top in-state recruits.

Freshman receiver/tight end Justin McGriff will transfer from Nebraska

Nebraska freshman wide receiver Justin McGriff announced Monday he'll transfer from Nebraska.

Carriker Chronicles: How Nebraska volleyball clinched its fourth straight final four berth

On Monday's episode, Adam Carriker shares his thoughts on how the Husker volleyball team clinched its fourth straight final four berth, plus his predictions for the remaining tournament games.

McKewon: Future is promising, but Huskers must develop depth to compete with Big Ten's best

In gathering names for the Rewind’s annual “Future Report" — which highlights young players on the cusp of contributing — we ran into a bit of a problem. Most of the young names we'd usually collect were already playing major…

Lincoln Southwest outside linebacker/defensive end Nick Leader joins Nebraska's walk-on class

Lincoln Southwest senior Nick Leader became the 10th known walk-on in Nebraska's 2019 recruiting class on Sunday night.

Recruiting: Huskers offer scholarship to New Jersey wideout, former Missouri commit Charles Njoku

Wayne Hills (New Jersey) wideout Charles Njoku — whose older brother, David, is a tight end for the Cleveland Browns, tweeted Sunday that he’d received a scholarship offer from Nebraska.

Scott Frost, Adrian Martinez are big hits as Huskers host football recruits at basketball game

Nebraska’s football coaches — and many of its players — made an appearance inside Pinnacle Bank Arena during the Huskers’ men’s basketball game against Creighton.

Darien Chase's teammate says the receiver from Washington will bring 'it' factor to Nebraska

Nebraska offered Chase Daniel a scholarship in October, and the 6-foot-1, 185-pound standout with speed to burn was sold during an official visit soon after. “All-around offense” is how coaches describe his future role to him. He plans to sign…

Recruiting: Husker defensive tackle commit Tony Fair reopens recruiting process

Tucson (Ariz.) Pima Community College defensive tackle Tony Fair is reopening his recruitment, he said Friday, after conversations with Nebraska about his grades.

Carriker Chronicles: New commit Wandale Robinson is a perfect fit for Scott Frost's offense

On Friday's episode, Adam Carriker discusses how new NU commit Wandale Robinson fits Scott Frost's offense like a glove.

Carriker Chronicles: We need to make the bowl games matter again. Here's the solution.

On Thursday's episode, Adam Carriker gives his suggestion on how to make bowl games matter again.

In world of big men, seemingly small things led to Nebraska's offensive line improvement

Nebraska's improvement on the offense line became a key reason why the Huskers won four of their final six games. It’s a major reason for optimism for 2019 and beyond.

Recruiting: Nebraska on radar of 2019 four-star DT Matthew Pola-Mao after offer

Matthew Pola-Mao thought he had a handle on his recruiting process. Until last week.

Nebraska football raises season ticket prices; Date set for 2019 spring game

For the first time since 2015, Nebraska is raising prices for football tickets.

Recruiting: Huskers coaches head back to California junior college to visit Datona Jackson

Should College of the Desert defensive end Datona Jackson sign with Nebraska, he'll have one of the better stories of any recent Husker recruit.