When: Sat. Sept. 17, 2016; 3:30pm ET
Where: Lincoln, Neb.; Memorial Stadium (86,047)
All-Time Series: Nebraska leads 5-1
Last Meeting: Nebraska won, 48-14 (Sept. 26, 1986)
Line: Nebraska -3
Another year and another week and this may be one of the biggest games on the docket in college football. Instead, this one is overshadowed by Oklahoma-Ohio State and Michigan State-Notre Dame matchups to name a few.
Don’t let that fool you though, there may not be a game on the college football slate that is more telling than the Ducks vs. Huskers in Lincoln, Neb. on Saturday afternoon. Both teams are coming off disappointing 2015 seasons and looking to regain some national footing, and both have whooped up on opponents in the first two weeks of the season.
It’s been a resurgence of vintage Oregon and Nebraska offenses that has gotten them here, so in this style clash someone is about to stake their claim as being “back” and someone may be discounted ahead of conference play for either team. No big deal or anything…
1 BURNING QUESTION: Who is For Real?
This game is straight up a litmus test for two teams that have taken on some pretty bad competition to open up the season. It isn’t shocking to see both come in 2-0 after wins against mighty programs like Fresno State, UC-Davis, Virginia and Wyoming over the last two weeks.
Nebraska’s offense has looked good running the ball one week and passing it the next but haven’t faced a team that can throw what Oregon can at them on defense. Oregon has gotten back to its flying ways on offense, but have played two really bad defenses and Nebraska has shown its defense is much improved from a season ago.
This is also a game in which Mike Riley is 100 percent familiar with what to expect, having coached at rival Oregon State before his gig at Nebraska. Will that matter? Will the horrific track record of Pac-12 teams coming to Big Ten country matter?
What will be important coming out of this game is learning which one of these teams may be better in 2016 than any pundit thought. A win for the Huskers and they may be turning some heads outside of Big Ten circles.
2 KEY STATS:
— 48.1. That is the offensive S&P+ rating for the Oregon Ducks, 2nd in the nation. Many people were wondering if the era of the Ducks high-flying offense was over, but early on in the season this team has put up the old-school track meet numbers it has been known to do before last season. That is shown not just in the raw stats (1,154 yards of total offense, 48.5 points per game), but in the fact that this team is being extremely efficient with its possessions against some really bad competition. Can that continue against a real team with a real defense?
— +7. That is Nebraska’s turnover margin for the 2016 season. One way to counter Oregon’s efficient offense? Create turnovers. It just so happens that the Huskers are really proficient at that early on this season and its +7 turnover margin is tied for the lead nationally after the first two weeks. It’s a huge turnaround for a team that -12 in the turnover margin department by the end of last season. If it wants to win this game, causing a turnover or two certainly would help.
3 Key Players:
Tommy Armstrong, QB Nebraska: No two ways about it, the Huskers chances in this game go as he does. Either he is on fire in the run game and causing havoc on Oregon’s defense or he has to be efficient with the football through the air. He can’t be stuffed in the run game and have to win this game with his arm alone according to conventional wisdom. If Armstrong can build off a great passing performance last week, the Huskers offense may be just as dangerous as Oregon’s.
Troy Dye, LB Oregon: Attempting to stop the power run game that Nebraska features could pose a big threat to the Ducks defense, but one person who seems up to the task is SAM linebacker Troy Dye, who leads the team with 17 total tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss. He has to be a tone-setter against Armstrong, Ozigbo and Co. Otherwise this may be a long Saturday afternoon for the Ducks.
Dedrick Young, LB Nebraska: One way to slow down the Oregon offense is to never let the ground game get going. That’s a tough ask against a back like Royce Freeman, but one Huskers player seems wholly up to the task — WILL linebacker Dedrick Young. He is second on the team with 10 total tackles and has two quarterback hurries, but may need to be more active in getting behind the line of scrimmage on run plays. Either way, Young holds the keys to how this game may or may not go for the Huskers defense in his hands. No pressure….none at all.
4 Bold Prognostications:
— Oregon Will Win Time of Possession Battle…and not for the usual reasons. Oregon’s offense is known to be faced paced and not so much worried about grinding games out, but I have a feeling a few funky things are going to happen in this one and that will include the Ducks actually winning the time of possession battle. How? Well, I think the Huskers will pull off a few more big plays and turn the Ducks over enough to score some easy points on quick possessions. It all adds up to a Ducks team getting more possessions and more time with the ball.
— Nebraska’s Passing Game Wins It. A lot has been made of the Huskers return to a more old-school ground and pound attack, and it has bene a revelation for most to see. Just don’t sleep on the Huskers passing attack either, as Armstrong has a plethora of options that are just as dangerous as anything it has in the run game. Jordan Westerkamp has been ridiculous early on this season and Alonzo Moore has turned just six receptions in to a ridiculous 201 yards and two touchdowns to start the year. Big plays can come from the Huskers too folks.
— There Will be a Special Teams Touchdown. Both teams possess some serious weapons in the kick and punt return games, while the coverage units have shown a crack or two early on. It adds up to someone breaking loose for a special teams touchdown at some point in what could be a very wild game in Lincoln.
— De’Mornay Pierson-El Breaks Out: This one coincides with the fact that I see some big plays coming out of the Huskers passing game. Two weeks in and there hasn’t been a lot of need for Pierson-El to get going in his comeback attempt. However, the kid gloves come off and he becomes the weapon needed to stifle the Ducks defensive game plan. His speed is dangerous and I fully expect more than just one reception from him in this contest.
*just don’t hold me to any of these (unless I’m right)
5 STAFF PREDICTIONS:
Andy: Nebraska 38-28
Dave: Nebraska 38-34
Phil H.: Oregon 48-42
Philip R.: Oregon 38-35
Zach: Nebraska 45-38
Huskers defense drives win over MSU
All the talk about Nebraska has been how Scott Frost would transform the Huskers offense. On Saturday, the defense made everyone stand up and take notice in a 9-6 win over Michigan State.
Nebraska managed to kick three field goals in the final quarter to win a game that didn’t see either side score a single touchdown.
“Good teams figure out how to win any kind of game, and that’s a different kind of game that I have been apart of as a coach, winning a game with no touchdowns,” said Nebraska head coach Scott Frost after the game.
“I am so happy for the seniors, so happy for the Blackshirts. Some of these games we’ve won, we’ve been winning on offense, and it was great to see the defense step up today.”
With the Huskers usually high-powered offense bottled up by Michigan State’s quality defense and really bad weather the defensive performance was badly needed.
It was also badly needed after last week’s performance in a shootout win over Illinois
Nebraska’s defense was hit for 35 points and needed to put up 54 points on offense to win. The Huskers defense came in to the game this week having never given up fewer than 34 points to any team in the Big Ten so far this season.
The Huskers defense also stood 12th in the conference, giving up an average of 33.8 points per game through 10 games.
Certainly this group was challenged following that performance against Illinois.
“Every week I’ve been coaching them there’s a little more fight. Today’s the most I’ve seen,” said Frost. “That’s a hard game to win. Even harder to lose. Our guys had to keep grinding, and the defense had to keep coming up with stops.”
Nebraska’s defense didn’t disappoint, holding MSU running back Craig Haward under 90 yards and quarterback Rocky Lombardi to just 145 yards on 15 of 41 passing.
No doubt the fact that MSU came in struggling on offense helped, but this was a huge step forward for the Huskers defense after its struggles earlier this season.
After starting the season 0-6, the Huskers have ripped off wins in 4 of the last 5 games.
In a season of transition, the fact that Nebraska’s defense was able to hold anyone without a touchdown is a massive step in the right direction. That fact wasn’t lost on the coaches or players following the crazy win.
For Chinander and Frost, it’s also a sign that this team is still listening and learning as what seems like a lost season to the outside world is far from it internally.
“I told the guys in the locker room if from a coaching standpoint, or pretty much on everything, I guess, the team could’ve started the season where it is right now, that would’ve been a funny act,” Frost said. “Some of the growing things we had to go through were necessary, and I’m crushed for the seniors we couldn’t get that done quicker.
“This team has been through so much and to be where it is right now and have the second half of the season it’s been having, it makes it really special. And I think the seniors will probably look back on this and think it was a pretty special season after all.”
Nebraska will have an interesting challenge ahead of it next week, as they will face the rival Iowa Hawkeyes after they just went off for a 63-0 victory over the Illinois team that just put up 54 points on Nebraska.
A win in the Heroes Game would be a great way to cap off what many believed was a lost season early on. Doing so with the Huskers defense getting some of its luster back would just be icing on the cake.
Keyshawn Johnson Jr. unsurprisingly transferring from Huskers
Following a summer pot citation and his dad pulling him from school, Keyshawn Johnson Jr. announces his transfer.
Did you know that Keyshawn Johnson Jr. was a member of the Nebraska Cornhuskers program? Chances are, if you blinked you missed his time on campus.
That’s what happens when you get busted for pot possession and your dad brings you home to teach you a lesson or two.
The elder Johnson made sure to make a statement when pulling his kid out of school just days in to his time there. He made it clear that there were higher (no pun intended) expectations of his son.
“One thing you will not do as my son is you will not embarrass Nebraska, you will not embarrass Mike Riley and you will not embarrass this family,” Johnson Sr. told the Omaha World-Herald. “If you mature and you’re ready to resume your football career and academic goals, then Nebraska will be ready to embrace you.”
So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the former 4-star recruit with the famous name isn’t going to continue his career at Nebraska.
On Friday, the younger Johnson announced his decision to not return to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Trust the process… pic.twitter.com/xus0UQOmb4— Keyshawn Jr. (@keyshawnnnn) December 15, 2017
The combination of his citation for marijuana possession and the coaching change likely sealed the deal for this move.
Johnson Jr. enrolled early, coming to Lincoln in January, but suffered an illness that he couldn’t shake for parts of spring practice. He appeared in the spring game, but caught just one pass for 7 yards.
Nebraska could use the depth at wide receiver, but with a new regime in place and his father having no relationship with the new staff this move is not surprising.
Frost turning to Florida to bring speed to Huskers program
Frost is leaning on his Florida ties in hoping to shape his roster in his image quicker than expected.
Scott Frost has technically only been on the job for the Nebraska Cornhuskers for less than a week, but he clearly has had a gameplan in place for a while now.
That much is evident not only by how quickly he’s gotten a staff together, but by the details on the recruiting trail.
Normally it takes time to evaluate what is on a roster in front of you and figure out what is needed. That process didn’t take long (or likely took place last week as he waited to take the job formally), because Frost has attacked the recruiting trail hard in his first week on the job.
So, what is his evaluation of the Huskers program? It is in need of speed, speed and more speed.
Frost has decided that in order to get his team up to speed he needs to do so buy finding that speed right in his old back yard.
It’s a move that makes sense, as Frost has built good relationships in Florida and that is where some of the best high school talent in the country exists today.
Nebraska’s 247Sports site, Huskers Illustrated, had a really good talk on the inner workings of what Frost has done already on the recruiting trail on this week’s Notorious B1G Podcast (because who doesn’t love an all-Big Ten recruiting podcast?)
Mike Riley and Co. spent less time on Florida and more time on the West Coast, which should’ve been expected given Riley’s ties in that direction. But, the crop of pure athletes out West is nothing compared to the depth of speed and athleticism that exists in Florida.
Ironically, Frost’s first offer came from out West as the No. 8-ranked dual-threat quarterback, Adrian Martinez, was offered within hours of Frost getting the job.
That move and all the ones made since his hire show Frost has come in with a clear knowledge of his system, who fits it on the recruiting trail and who fits it currently on the roster. Having that kind of confidence and work-rate are a welcome sight in Lincoln.
But, Frost isn’t just hitting the ground running on the recruiting trail either.
He’s also been taking time to speak to the national media and spread the gospel of what he wants to build at Nebraska. Frost spoke on the Jim Rome Show on Thursday and didn’t buy the notion that recruiting to Lincoln, Neb. is a difficult task.
“There’s absolutely no reason we can’t get kids to Lincoln, Nebraska,” Frost said, via Land of 10. “Kids leave places right now and go everywhere around the country. There’s no reason kids won’t go to Lincoln if they’re going to Columbus, Ann Arbor, and Eugene, Oregon.
“And I think we’re going to create an environment, a football environment in Lincoln that people are going to want to be a part of.”
Success in turning a program around often hinges on the first recruiting class to come in. That’s not to say this class should be put at the feet of Frost and his staff entirely, but if they can put a stamp on an already nice class it could be the one that breaks a mediocre mold for the Huskers program.
No matter what, Frost and his staff aren’t afraid to be aggressive and go after the type of player they need. That alone has to be a refreshing sign of change for the Husker faithful.
Huskers hope Scott Frost hire brings back glory days
Native son returns home to lead program he once was the star quarterback of. Can the glory days return with the Huskers dipping in to their past?
What had become the worst-kept secret in college football’s coaching carousel became official on Saturday afternoon. Just hours after leading his UCF Knights to a crazy 62-55 double overtime win over Memphis in the American Athletic Conference championship game, Frost bolted for a gig back home.
UCF’s 247sports site announced the news, noting that Forst will not coach the team in the upcoming bowl game. However, after the AAC championship game, UCF’s AD noted that Frost and the entire coaching staff would coach through the Peach Bowl.
Nebraska athletics director Bill Moos named Frost the new Huskers head coach, ending a search many thought would start and end with Frost first.
“It is a great honor and privilege to have the opportunity to return to Nebraska and to lead the Husker football program,” Frost said in a statement released by the school. “I have been fortunate to be at a wonderful school the last two years, but Nebraska is a special place with a storied tradition and a fan base which is second to none. I am truly humbled to be hereee. The state of Nebraska and the Husker program mean a great deal to me. This is home.
“I am appreciative of the confidence Bill Moos and our University leadership have in me to lead this program. I would not have the opportunity to be in this position without a lot of great people who have helped me throughout my career. Specifically, I would like to thank Coach Osborne who has played such an integral role in my life over the past two decades, both on and off the field. Go Big Red!”
In bringing a native son and former Huskers quarterback in to the fold to lead the program, Nebraska is clearly hoping the magic of the mid 1990’s can rub off on the program once again.
Frost was integral in the Huskers success in the 90’s, where he was a star quarterback for two years after transferring home from Stanford. He led the program to a 24-2 record as the starter and became just the 10th player in major college football history to pass for 1,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards.
He had a cup of coffee in the NFL, but was moved from quarterback to safety and just couldn’t find his way in the league.
While thoughts of Frost leading the Huskers offense are likely to bring smiles back to the Husker faithful, the reality of today’s program won’t.
It’s been a rough go since the calendar turned over to the year 2000, as the Huskers haven’t won a single conference championship since 1999.
Frost faces a big challenge, as the Huskers vaunted defense has fallen on hard times and the program just got done with a 4-8 season under Mike Riley. Luckily for the Husker faithful, Frost isn’t going to be caught off-guard by the challenges of a turnaround.
He took over a UCF program that went winless the year before he came to campus and had them 6-7 and going bowling in his first season. This year his team went undefeated in the regular season, joining the Wisconsin Badgers as the only two undefeated teams in the country after the regular season finished up.
Frost also led the Knights to the AAC championship despite a ton of off-field distraction surrounding his job status and rumors about Florida, Nebraska and Oregon interest in his services.
Now the pressure will be on to get the Huskers back to championship football, and soon.