Nebraska was once one of the most unique programs in NCAA football. Under Tom Osbourne, the team played outstanding defense and perfected a mean multiple offense which included I-formation power and triple-option chicanery. The Cornhuskers remain a prominent program in the modern Big Ten, but style-wise, they’re as conformist as you can be.
In fact, the ‘Huskers might be a better fit in the Big 12, where good defense has been considered a violation of conference by-laws since around 2010. Nebraska opened the 2017 season by giving up 36 points to Arizona State and 42 points to a rebuilding Oregon team, emerging 1-1.
Meanwhile, the Husk-IES of Northern Illinois are their usual plucky selves, a mid-major who can wallop any P5 school on a given day. Last weekend’s romp over EIU helped to make up for a heart-breaking loss to Boston College in the season opener.
Who: Northern Illinois Huskies at Nebraska Cornhuskers
When: Saturday, September 16th, 11 AM EST
Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln NE
Lines: NIU (+14) vs Nebraska (-14) / O/U Total: (56)
The first thing to know about Northern Illinois is that they do not have an explosive offense. We’re saying that in spite of the squad’s 38-point showing last weekend against Eastern Illinois. A Big Ten opponent is another matter, and while the Huskies may indeed eek out enough points to cover (+14), there are few stars on offense capable of getting hot against a P5 team in ’17.
Sophomore QB Daniel Santacaterina was a bright spot in the 2nd game, replacing injured Ryan Graham and passing for 252 yards and 3 touchdowns. As a local beat writer put it, “do that again (at Nebraska) and the quarterback issues (at NIU) can be put to rest.”
Nebraska DC Bob Diaco is giving the national media lofty quotes about motivating a defense, but his techniques sure aren’t showing on the field – the school has played in 2 track meets since the season started. However, an offense that can average 39.5 points against 2 Pac-12 teams is capable of putting up big numbers against even a tough MAC unit.
Tanner Lee is an above-average QB who can execute the read-option and throw accurate passes all day. The Cornhuskers, however, may be missing a swift RB as sophomore Dre Bryant is questionable for Saturday.
We’re taking the Huskies and (+14) points ATS in this one. Lee thrives in play-action, but the pass-happy Huskers could potentially neglect their running game in the 1st half, hoping to demonstrate superior speed on the outside. Poor down-and-distance situations could give NIU the opening it needs to make stops.
The visiting offense won’t go anywhere fast, but the MAC boys will keep it close for a while as the porous Nebraska defense allows clock-chewing 1st downs. Expect a final score close to 36-27 and a payoff on the ‘dog.