Football season is finally back, and the Nebraska Cornhuskers open up as 28.5 point favorites against Fresno State.
There’s reasons for optimism here! This is a game Nebraska should win easily.
Here is why Nebraska will have no problem with the Bulldogs.
The Offense is Stacked:
We have talked about it all offseason. Is there any wide receiving corps in the Big Ten you would rather have than the Huskers? It’s not just the talent that the starters have, it’s the depth. You can talk all you want about Jordan Westerkamp or Brandon Reilly, but look behind those guys, there is little to no drop-off in talent.
Nebraska returns De’Mornay Pierson-El, Stanley Morgan has a year under his belt, and Alonzo Moore is poised to have a big year, the list goes on. Then you throw in Cethan Carter, and you’re talking about one of the most talented groups in the country. Fresno State will have problems stopping this Nebraska offense, which could lead to a blowout.
Fresno State is VERY Injured:
Fresno State has had its fair share of bad luck… Not only is a redshirt freshman the starting quarterback, but Sophomore Kilton Anderson had offseason shoulder surgery, and Ford Childress left the program. The running back position is in no better shape. Redshirt freshman Bryson Oglesby missed the spring, true freshman Justin Rice broke a bone in his foot, and JUCO transfer Dontel James has missed time this fall.
Pretty much what I’m saying is if you can run, you might want to go tryout for the Bulldogs… James O’Neal will be the starting running back this weekend against the Huskers, with a true freshman behind him. Nebraska was always going to have the advantage over Fresno State, but you throw in these injuries to the Bulldogs offense and they may have trouble breaking double-digits against Nebraska.
Fresno State’s Defense is… Bad
To say the Bulldogs struggled last season on defense would be putting it lightly. Fresno State ranked 119th in scoring defense, giving up over 38 points per game. The Bulldog defense ranked a respectable 49th in the country in pass yards given up per game, but the ground game was a different story. Fresno State was 117th in the country , giving up 234 yards per game. I would expect a couple of Huskers to reach the century mark on Saturday. And look for Terrell Newby to get a good start to his 1,000 yard campaign. (It is happening, people.)
Fresno State loses their top two pass rushers, who accounted for 6.5 of 8 sacks by the defensive line last year. Along with those losses is their leading tackler in linebacker Ejiro Ederaine, and their two starting safeties from last year. Nebraska will have no problem running against this defense, and they could have a huge game through the air if Langsdorf and co. decides to go that route. Look for Nebraska to pull away early in this one.
Improved Nebraska Defense:
Regardless of how bad this Fresno State offense is going to be, look for the defense to show improvements. Nebraska’s secondary will be improved with the amount of returning talent it has. The linebackers are going to be the strength of the defense, and there is a lot of hype around Mick Stoltenberg in the middle of the defensive line.
The biggest area of concern is not the secondary. Yes, I know where it ranked last season, but a large part of that was because of the lack of a consistent pass rush. No corner in the country can guard a wide receiver, with average talent, for more than four or five seconds. The secondary will be better, the linebackers will be as good, and the pass rush can’t be a whole lot worse than it was last year. If Nebraska can find someone opposite Freedom Akinmoladun to get to the quarterback, this defense could take a huge step forward.
It’s a Night Game in Lincoln, Nebraska… Sorry Fresno State.
Nebraska has always been a tough place to play, but night games are a different animal. According to a tweet by Sean Callahan, of Husker Online, Nebraska has not lost a home game since Missouri in 2008. That amounts to 17 straight night home game victories and an overall record of 43-5 at night. The environment is going to be crazy, the fans will be loud, and the Bulldogs will take note. Good luck on Saturday, Fresno State… you’ll need it.
Fresno State 17