On Saturday, September 2nd, Memorial Stadium will be rocking as the Nebraska Cornhuskers kick off the 2017 season with a home game against the Arkansas State Red Wolves. Game time starts at 8 P.M. ET in Lincoln, Nebraska. Early forecasts call for a slight change of rain.
The Arkansas State Red Wolves finished 2016 strong by winning 8 of their final 9 games including a bowl game victory over Central Florida. They look to ride that wave of momentum in 2017 and upset Nebraska on the road.
Nebraska has some questions to answer, but could make some noise in the Big 10 West with a few big wins to start off the 2017 season. The Cornhuskers look to improve on their 9 win season in 2016 and have their toughest opponents at home this year.
The betting line opened with Nebraska a big favorite at -17 points. It has fluctuated between -16 and -17 since then. Currently, most sportsbooks have the Cornhuskers at -16.5 points.
These two teams have played twice before (2009 and 2012) with Nebraska coming out the victor, easily outscoring Arkansas State 80-22. Despite the Cornhuskers losing the heart and soul of their team in quarterback Tommy Armstrong, the team still has too much talent on both sides of the ball for Arkansas State to handle.
Nebraska will look to establish their dominance by controlling the clock as they did in 2016 with a 5 minute advantage over their opponents per game. For this to happen, they will need a strong rushing performance from their running backs and smart play from their newly appointed quarterback Tanner Lee. The Tulane transfer has looked good during the offseason and appears ready to carry the load on offense.
Defensively, Nebraska still features a ton of talent in their secondary led by Joshua Kalu who is athletic enough to play corner or safety. They also have an impressive corner duo in Jones and Jackson, who play very physical. Last year, the Cornhusker defense switched to a 3-4 system and, although they were solid, they didn’t get enough sacks or turnovers. With a full year under their belt, look for the Cornhuskers to improve on these numbers. And, what better way to improve than against an inferior team.
Arkansas State will have 5 new starters on the offensive line, which bodes well for Nebraska’s pass rush and blitz packages. Additionally, last year’s top receiving threat, Kendall Sanders, is gone. The Cornhuskers will smother the receivers all game long, making it difficult for Arkansas State to get anything going through the air and, combine that with an inexperienced o-line, the Red Wolves offense will have a hard time putting points on the board.
In the last 2 years, September has been a terrible month for Arkansas State. Over that period of time, they are 0-5 ATS in their last 5 September games, with an overall 1-7 record during the month. Nebraska is 3-0-1 ATS in their last 4 September games and 6-0-1 ATS in their last 7 games against the Sun Belt conference.
Look for Nebraska’s talent in the trenches and secondary to wear down the smaller Arkansas State and open up the scoring as the game goes on.