Breaking it down: Huskers eager to put Week 1 heartbreaker behind them
Who: South Alabama vs. Nebraska
When: 7 p.m. CT
Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln
Spread: Nebraska -27.5
Matchup to watch: Xavier Johnson vs. Nebraska D-line
The Jaguars have a big-play back in Johnson, who is capable of taking it to the house any time he touches the rock. He already has touchdown runs of 92 and 56 yards under his belt. Nebraska has been prone to giving up the big play, which means the Husker front needs to prevent Johnson from getting to the second level. Nebraska actually racked up nine tackles for loss against BYU, but the Cougars still managed nearly five yards per carry. Without Jack Gangwish in the lineup, veterans Maliek Collins and Greg McMullen will need to establish their presences early and often against the USA speedster.
Thing I’m excited to see: Nebraska’s offensive potential
The Huskers might not be primed for a better offensive output all year than against South Alabama. We got to see what the new pro-style offense can do once it gets rolling. Tommy Armstrong looked solid — not perfect — in his first game in Danny Langsdorf’s system. It’s still strange to see Nebraska put such an emphasis on the passing game. There probably aren’t many games in program history in which it’s scored four touchdowns without having a rusher reach 50 yards. Terrell Newby and Imani Cross both figure to see more action on Saturday, assuming Armstrong is able to move the chains with the passing game.
Number to remember: 5
That’s how many starters South Alabama returns from last year. That’s dead last in all of FBS. There will be a lot of kids playing in their first Power Five stadium, as is often the case when Nebraska feasts on cupcakes. The Jaguars’ best defensive player, linebacker Blake Dees, is a Texas Tech transfer so he’ll be well-versed in the big-time atmosphere. But with such little experience elsewhere, it wouldn’t be surprising to see USA have some pre-snap penalties. Nebraska should be able to take advantage of that and win the field position battle. Keep in mind that the Huskers did sleep on McNeese State in Week 2 of last season and needed a miraculous Ameer Abdullah touchdown catch and run to avoid a complete disaster. But after last week, Mike Riley’s team shouldn’t be overlooking anyone.
Prediction: Nebraska 42, South Alabama 13
I’ll make a semi-bold prediction and say this one is tied at the end of the first quarter. The next 45 minutes, however, will be all Huskers. Newby records a career-high in rushing yards, Jordan Westerkamp hauls in a couple scores and Memorial Stadium empties in more pleasant fashion than last week. Riley gets on the board and goes back to being the friendly next-door neighbor. All is right again in Lincoln.