So right there are your scores for every Husker-Northwestern matchup since we joined the Big 14. Take away Husker wins in 2016 and 2014 and that leaves seven games decided by 3 points or less, overtime or both. Northwestern is a 3.5 point favorite. Take the Wildcats and the points at your own risk sez history.
As always, we want to get the enemy perspective and this week that perspective comes from Lia Assimakopoulos (@Lassimak on Twitter) of Inside NU, our SBNation sister site for Northwestern. Many thanks to Lia for taking us inside the Wildcats’ squad, playing along with my Hunger Games question and throwing out a pretty awesome piece of trivia. Away we go....
1) Not that we’re paranoid, but how’s everyone feeling?
This week has been crazy, both in and out of Big Ten football, and of course it happens right before Northwestern and Nebraska face off this weekend. While most Americans have bigger things on their minds than college football right now, the matchup between these two teams is more important than ever, especially given the nature of the season. If Northwestern hopes to have a shot at the Big Ten title and Wisconsin does resume its season before our matchup in two weeks, the Wildcats knows they must come away this weekend and next weekend with a win. However, Northwestern has shown impressive resilience in its first two games, and that resilience is needed more against Nebraska than ever. The combination of off-the-field preoccupations with a depleted defensive line as well as Nebraska’s extra week of rest certainly causes anxiety for Wildcat fans, but this weekend will certainly set the tone for the remainder of the divisional title race.
2) Other than Drake Anderson vs. Maryland (and he appeared to be a non-factor at Iowa), no one’s stats really pop on offense although Peyton Ramsey’s been an effective dual threat since he was a freshman. Who is your lethal weapon?
I think the beauty of Northwestern’s offense this year is that there is no single lethal weapon. In the first two weeks, Northwestern has proven it will take a win-by-committee approach this season with many key contributors. The wide receiver room has performed better than we expected with Kyric McGowan, Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman and Riley Lees stepping up big. The running backs are probably the deepest room on the team with Isaiah Bowser leading the way as well as Drake Anderson, Evan Hull and Jesse Brown producing significantly. Graduate transfer tight end John Raine is also a secret weapon for the ‘Cats. Despite having a quiet day against Iowa, he was NU’s leading receiver against Maryland and seems to have built a strong relationship with Ramsey. While there are many weapons, I would say to keep an eye out for Isaiah Bowser and Riley Lees (if he is healthy) because they are both due for a big day.
3) I’ve been thinking of sponsoring a B1G head coach Hunger Games. Is there any way the last two standing aren’t Fitz and Frosty?
This is a great question. I have a lot of faith that Fitz would do well in the Hunger Games. His demeanor and work ethic would certainly bode well, but for a coach who is so team-oriented, I could also see him trusting in others too much and losing as a result. I could see Ryan Day doing well, too.
4) An odd thing about Nebraska - we’ve never really had a true rival. (Oklahoma had Texas, Colorado was just so desperate about wanting it, B1G tried to force Penn St on us - gross, and the Iowa thing is a work in progress). What about you guys - any game on the schedule that gets circled every year?
For Northwestern, it seems every divisional game on the schedule has some sort of rivalry behind it, but the one game on our schedule that always catches our eye is the matchup against cross-state rival Illinois. Northwestern competes for the Land of Lincoln Trophy, or HAT as we call it at Inside NU, every year against the Illini, and it is always a must-win for Northwestern. While historically the rivalry has been split, Northwestern has dominated in recent years having won five years in a row now.
5) What is a piece of Northwestern football trivia that Husker fans probably don’t know?
In 1994, Pat Fitzgerald and Scott Frost faced off as players in a matchup between Northwestern and Stanford (before Frost transferred). That matchup ended in a 41-41 tie, one of the final ties in college football before overtime was introduced two years later in 1996.
6) Prediction time - who gonna take it? Do not be influenced by the fact six of our nine meetings since the Huskers joined the B1G have ended with a spread of 3 points or less with another being a 7 point OT victory.
This game is always a toss up, but I am going to take the ‘Cats on this one to advice to 3-0. I think Northwestern has the momentum it needs, and Peyton Ramsey will pick apart Nebraska’s struggling (and depleted) secondary even though Adrian Martinez and the offense will give Northwestern’s defense a run for its money. I’ll say Northwestern 30, Nebraska 27.