Earlier, I gave you the five reasons the Nebraska Cornhuskers will win vs. the BYU Cougars tomorrow. Now, in fair and balanced reporting, I give you the five reasons they could lose to BYU Saturday afternoon.
BYU won its first four games last season, due in large part to stud quarterback Taysom Hill. Hill suffered a season-ending injury in the fifth game of the Cougar’s season last year, and by no coincidence that was BYU’s first loss. Hill made some incredible plays with his legs last season, rushing for 460 yards and eight touchdowns in a little more than four games. Hill also proved to be a very efficient passer. He completed 67 percent of his passes throwing for 975 yards and seven touchdowns. Hill was named the independent offensive player of the week for the first four weeks of the 2014 season and was establishing himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Nebraska has installed a new defensive scheme, which will change how they go about containing mobile quarterbacks, but Hill has the talent to make the best defenses look bad. If Nebraska can’t contain the do-it-all playmaker look for BYU to have a real shot at stealing one from Nebraska to start the season.
The injury bug has bludgeoned both teams this offseason. Most notably, Nebraska lost its preseason All-American return man De’Mornay Pierson-El for 6-8 weeks due to a Jones fracture in his foot. Nebraska recently announced five players who will be suspended for the opener. Linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey, tight end Cethan Carter, cornerback Jonathan Rose, defensive end Joe Keels, and offensive lineman Robby Painter have all been suspended for game one. Rose-Ivey had established himself as a starting linebacker before being suspended. Freshman Luke Gifford will take his starting spot against the Cougars. Carter an athletic tight end has struggled with drops over his career at Nebraska, but is has the ability to stretch the defense that other tight ends for Nebraska don’t have. Rose was listed as a starting defensive back before being suspended with Daniel Davey. Freshman Trai Mosley and sophomore Chris Jones will see a lot of snaps in Rose’s absence. There will be a lot of youth on the field for Nebraska, which could lead to costly mistakes. If these mistakes pile up, look for BYU to stick around and have a shot to win it late in the fourth quarter.
Question Marks on Offense:
To say Nebraska has big shoes to fill is an understatement. The Huskers lost its second leading rusher of all time in Ameer Abdullah and its leading receiver of all time in Kenny Bell. Not only will Abdullah and Bell be missed on the field, but their leadership off of the field will be difficult to replace. Abdullah will be replaced by a host of running backs, with Terrell Newby being the headliner. Newby, a junior, ran for 297 yards and five touchdowns last season. Imani Cross, Mikale Wilbon, Adam Taylor, and Divine Ozigbo will all get touches along with Newby. BYU’s rushing defense was very good last season, so Nebraska may have to look to the air to take down the Cougars. With the departure of Bell, Westerkamp and Pierson-El were the key cogs in the Husker passing attack. With Pierson-El out for the foreseeable future Nebraska needs a young guy (or really old guy- Jamal Turner) to step up and take his spot. Look for Stanley Morgan, who has a ton of hype after a huge fall camp, to step in and get some snaps on Saturday. Outside of Morgan, look for Jamal Turner, Alonzo Moore, and Taariq Allen to battle for playing time.
Will Nebraska’s Rushing Defense be Improved?
Last season Nebraska ranked 78th in rushing defense, giving up 170 yards per game. While the new staff has overhauled the defense and changed schemes, Nebraska could still struggle to stop the run while getting comfortable with the defense. Mark Banker, the Nebraska defensive coordinator wants the Huskers to play instinctually, see the ball and tackle the ball. No more of this gap-scheme stuff. With the lack of depth at the linebacker position, and a new defensive scheme Nebraska could struggle to contain Taysom Hill and the Cougar rushing attack. Last season BYU averaged 180 yards per game ranking 49th in the country. The Cougars did lose their leading rusher Jamaal Williams, who accounted for over 20 percent of their rushing offense, so this could end up being a moot point.
BYU’s Offensive Pace
It is going to be a burner on Saturday in Lincoln. The current high is 95 degrees with humidity reaching 65 percent. Hydration and conditioning will be extremely important. Add to the weather the fact that BYU had the fastest paced offense in all of college football (one play every 19.56 seconds) last season. If BYU pushes the pace early and often, it could spell disaster for the already depleted Nebraska defense. With suspensions and an overall lack of depth at linebacker the Huskers could be in trouble late in the game. The biggest factor for the Husker defense may be its offense. If Nebraska can control the ball on offense, the Cougar pace of play becomes less of a factor. However, if BYU can stop the Husker offense a few drives in a row, look for the blackshirts to wear down late in the game.