Breaking it down: Nebraska secondary to be tested again
Who: Southern Mississippi vs. Nebraska
When: Saturday, 11 a.m. ET
Where: Memorial Stadium, Nebraska
TV: ESPN News
Spread: Nebraska -21.5
Matchup to watch: Nick Mullens vs. Nebraska secondary
The last time Mullens was in Lincoln, he was a freshman backup. He came into a 56-13 game in the fourth quarter and was promptly picked off on his second career pass. Since then, he’s learned how to throw it to the guys on his team. The junior is coming off two games with a combined 608 yards and seven touchdown passes. He even threw for 311 yards against Mississippi State. That’s not good for a Nebraska secondary with obvious weaknesses. The Huskers are 126th of 127 FBS teams in passing yards allowed per game. Safety Nate Gerry has been Nebraska’s best defensive player, but it takes a complete effort to contain the pass. Mullens will have a field day if Mark Banker and Co. haven’t made the necessary adjustments.
Thing I’m excited for: Terrell Newby’s workload
The last time Nebraska played a mid-major at home, Newby had a career day. Three touchdowns and 236 all-purpose yards might be too high of a bar to set against a Southern Miss. defense that isn’t bad. Newby’s workload has been game-flow dependent thus far. If Nebraska is within a touchdown or trailing, Tommy Armstrong is relied on to move the chains. If the Huskers jump out to an early lead, we see Newby get the bulk of the work. That might sound like common football knowledge, but for a Nebraska team that used to run the ball in nearly every scenario, it’s a recent development. It’s worth mentioning that even when the Huskers were routing Southern Alabama, Newby was the only I-back that got any work until late into the third quarter. We could easily see that again if he gets rolling early.
Number to remember: 230
Speaking of running backs, Jalen Richard is coming off a 230-yard, four-touchdown game in a 56-50 win against Texas State. I understand Nebraska is more solid up front than Texas State. But the Huskers will be without their best linebacker, Michael Rose-Ivey, and defensive tackle Vincent Valentine is week-to-week. Add the fact that Nebraska is still without starting defensive end Jack Gangwish, and this is a depleted front seven. The 5-8 senior isn’t an easy guy to bring down and could present all sorts of problems if he gets a head of steam going into the Huskers’ second level.
Prediction: Nebraska 35, Southern Miss 21
This one might stay closer than it should, which is exactly what Nebraska fans don’t want to see. Mullens is going to be able to throw the ball against this group, but Nebraska will be able to win the turnover battle. Keep in mind that this is Golden Eagles team that hung with a solid SEC school in the season opener. Mike Riley gets back to .500, but Southern Miss definitely makes Nebraska work for it.