The Nebraska Cornhuskers head to Illinois looking to advance to 4-0 on the season. They are the better team, but that hasn't always mattered against the Wildcats.
We talked Thursday about the five reasons Nebraska should win today. Here are five reasons Northwestern could stick it to the Huskers tonight.
The Letdown Game:
Nebraska is coming off of a huge win. A win that put the Huskers back on the map in some people's eyes. After coming off such a big win, the Huskers could be due for a slip-up. It would be easy to overlook this Northwestern team. They have stumbled out of the gate to a 1-2 start, including a loss versus an FCS opponent. Northwestern's offense has been nothing short of bad all season. Their defense has struggled against some poor opponents. Looking at all of their numbers, you can see why Nebraska might overlook a team like Northwestern, which could result in them sticking around late in this one. After last season, all Nebraska fans know what can happen in the fourth quarter.
History Says It Will Be Close:
Let's take a look at the last couple of games between Nebraska and Northwestern.
Nebraska has had more talent in all of its games versus Northwestern. That clearly has not mattered much. The Wildcats know they can play with Nebraska, and even when Nebraska is the heavy favorite, Northwestern has stuck around. Northwestern is not going to be intimidated by Nebraska on Saturday night. Don't be surprised to see Northwestern play above their talent level as they normally do against the Huskers.
Last season Clayton Thorson thrashed the Nebraska defense. If Northwestern is going to hang tough in this game, he is going to have to do the same thing. Thorson had a back-breaking run in the first quarter last year, gashing the defense up the middle for a 68-yard burst. Later in the game, Thorson took off for a 49-yard run. Overall, Thorson ran for 117 yards against the Nebraska defense. Thomson is completing under 50% of his passes this season, but that does not mean Thorson is not dangerous through the air. Just like last week, Nebraska can't afford to give up third and long conversions to Thorson on the ground. When a play breaks down the Huskers have to be ready for Thorson to run the ball, and if he is able to do so successfully it could turn into a big problem for the Blackshirts.
Justin Jackson has accounted for all but 30 rushing yards this season for Northwestern. (260 of the 290 yards) Jackson is a guy who can take over a game if he gets decent blocking, which has been the problem thus far for the Wildcats. If Nebraska is able to shut down Jackson it should stroll to an easy victory, but that won't be easy to do. Jackson is another guy who had a big game against Nebraska last year, and he lacks no confidence. Northwestern has struggled to move the ball all season, but if Jackson can get things going that will open things up in the passing game, and Northwestern will be able to move the ball. Northwestern has the defense to slow Nebraska down, and if their offense is able to put up 21+ points, look for it to be a close game.
As Justin Jackson is the main threat in the running game, Austin Carr is the big threat for the Northwestern passing game. Carr is 24th in the country and first in the Big Ten with 283 receiving yards on the year. Carr also ranks 31st in the country with six receptions per game. If Austin Carr is able to get behind the Nebraska defense a time or two and gain chunk yardage, this Northwestern offense will be in good shape. That is obviously a lot easier said than done, against self-proclaimed "LockdownU", but if it does happen, look for Northwestern to put up some points.
Even with everything up top, I think Nebraska takes care of business.
Prediction: Nebraska: 34 Northwestern:13