History suggests Nebraska, Northwestern in for thriller
Who: Northwestern vs. Nebraska
When: Saturday, 11 a.m.
Where: Memorial Stadium, Nebraska
Spread: Nebraska -7.5
Matchup to watch: Anthony Walker vs. Tommy Armstrong
It turns out Armstrong looks a lot more settled when he has second-string linebackers to operate against. He carved up a depleted Minnesota defense on Saturday and was as accurate as he’s been all season. With Walker chasing him around, that could be a different story. The Northwestern linebacker hasn’t been as sure-handed the last two weeks as he was in the previous five. Still, the sophomore is capable of making Armstrong’s day a difficult one. Alarming for the Wildcats is the fact that they’ve struggled to generate a pass rush in the last two weeks. To slow down Armstrong and the Huskers, they need to get that back.
Thing I’m excited to see: Northwestern’s defensive response
Two weeks ago, we were debating if the Wildcats had the nation’s best defense. They were being voted into the top five and even received a vote in the College Football Playoff poll by USA Today. Oh, what a difference two weeks can make. Back-to-back weeks, the Wildcats were punched in the mouth. It hasn’t been the same rough-and-tough defense that won the line of scrimmage and got off the field on third down. They can’t continue that against the Huskers. Between De’Mornay Pierson-El, Jordan Westerkamp and Terrell Newby, they have too many skill-players that can take over a game if they get rolling early. If the bleeding is going to stop, it’s going to start with the Northwestern defense getting back to what got it to 5-0.
Number to remember: 1.75
That’s how many yards per carry the Wildcats rushed for in the last two games. You can make the argument that game flow prevented Justin Jackson from being able to run the ball much in either of those two games. That’s true, but it still speaks to how much of a struggle it’s been at the line of scrimmage. Nebraska, meanwhile, is seventh in the country against the run. Maliek Collins might get some help back if Kevin Williams can return to action up the middle. But this is a game in which Northwestern should go to the air. Nobody in the country is worse against the pass than the Huskers. Clayton Thorson has to be able to move the chains for the Wildcats to have a chance in Lincoln.
Prediction: Nebraska 31, Northwestern 28
Three of the four times these teams met, thrillers ensued. I’m calling for another. While the score might indicate a lack of defense, I believe both of these defenses step up. I’ll say both squads get either a special teams or a defensive score. Pierson-El and Solomon Vault could make their presence felt in the return game before this one is decided. I’ll say a late Drew Brown wins it for the Huskers and gets them to .500 in B1G play.