Northwestern’s Lack of Offense:
In Northwesten’s last two games they have been outscored 78-10. I realize these two games were against great defenses (Michigan and Iowa), but scoring 10 points in two games is pretty pathetic. Northwestern is scoring just 19.6 points per game, which ranks 117th in the country. The Wildcats are having "some" success running the ball this season ranking 44th in the country in rush yards per game. That hides the issue with the running game. Northwestern has ran the ball 336 times this season which ranks inside the top-10 nationally, but is averaging just 3.97 yards per carry which ranks 89th in the country.
The Nebraska pass defense has been well documented this season, and as bad as the Husker secondary has been, the Northwestern passing attack has been equally as bad. Lets compare the two. (National Ranking in parentheses)
Yards Per Game
|Yards Per Attempt||TDs||INTs|
Nebraska Passing Defense
|128th||341.7||7.7 (96th)||11 (75th)||5 (72nd)|
|Northwestern Passing Offense||120th||141.1||5.2 (124th)||5 (116th)||5 (46th)|
Something has to give here. Which unit is going to step it up on Saturday? If I had to take a guess, I would say the Husker secondary is going to be in for a big day. The Wildcat quarterback, True Freshman Clayton Thorson, has struggled all season long. His one good game was against Ball State, where he threw for 250 yards and three touchdowns. Outside of that game, his best performance was against Eastern Illinois where he threw for 152 yards and a touchdown. Look for Nebraska to dominate on defense this weekend, and the Northwestern offense to continue to struggle to reach double digits.
Nebraska is Scoring on Good Defenses:
Nebraska played two solid defenses in the last two Big Ten games, including Wisconsin, who ranks in the top-ten in scoring defense. Nebraska put up 21 points on Wisconsin, a team that is allowing 10.9 points per game. The Huskers rushed for nearly 200 yards on Wisconsin, the second most they have given up all season. (Alabama is the only team who has scored more and put up more yards against Wisconsin this season)
Nebraska had the most success of anyone this season against Minnesota. The Huskers put up more points and yards than anyone else this season against the Gopher defense.
Tommy Armstrong Jr.:
Tommy Armstrong had a bounce back performance against Minnesota last week. He threw for 260 yards and three touchdowns. Armstrong also completed nearly 70% of his passes while throwing no interceptions.
For Nebraska to beat Northwestern they’ll need Armstrong to have a big game. Nebraska has yet to win a game this season when Armstrong completes fewer than 60% of his passes.
Nebraska’s best offense this season has been when Armstrong is improvising. Usually it is due to pressure put on him because of the offensive line, but when Tommy gets out of the pocket, few people are as good as him.
Nebraska is Finally Getting Healthy:
Nebraska has been injury plagued all season, and it is finally starting to regain its health.
It looks like Michael Rose-Ivey could return for the Huskers, which would help the linebacking corps. Add in Freedom Akinmoladun and the return of Daniel Davie, and the Husker defense is beginning to take shape once more. The Husker offense has been improving lately as well, including star wide receiver De’Mornay Pierson-El getting more and more snaps on offense. The Husker defense is going to improve with the return of key players, and this Nebraska offense is going to get that much better with DPE returning to form.
Teams can Run Against Northwestern:
As good as Northwesten’s defense has been, they have struggled to stop the run at times. Northwestern is allowing 154 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 55th in the country. Teams are averaging 4.24 yards per carry against the Wildcats.
Nebraska’s running game has been hit and miss all season, but it has been better than a lot of people think. The Huskers average 5.35 yards per carry which ranks 19th in the country. Nebraska is running for 195 yards per game which ranks 38th in the country, and would rank a lot higher if they ran the ball more. (Obviously) The Huskers have ran the ball 255 times this season, ranking 60th in the country.
If Nebraska has a balanced offense on Saturday, look for the Huskers to have their way with the Wildcat defense. I expect Nebraska to come out and establish themselves early and cruise to a double digit victory.