Nebraska at Northwestern
Saturday, 4:30 pm PT - BTN
CRIS Opener: Nebraska -6 O/U 48.5
CRIS Current: Nebraska -7.5 O/U 48
Big Ten gets underway on Saturday as the Northwestern Wildcats host the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Last week, our free play selection cashed as Northwestern picked up its first victory of the season with a 24-13 win over Duke. Tied 7-7 at halftime, the Wildcats finally were able to get their offense going with 17 second half points. They finished with 320 passing yards (8.2 per play) and for the first time all year topped the 400 total yardage barrier. Now they will face a Nebraska squad coming off of a massive 35-32 home win over Oregon. The Huskers used a balance attack of passing and rushing to work over a suspect Ducks’ defense. They also picked up some big plays on special teams, notably De'Mourney Pearson-El's punt return at the end of the first half that led to a TD to help rally back from an initial 20-7 deficit. Oregon didn't help its cause with 13 penalties for 126 yards.
Last year’s meeting saw Northwestern pick up a close 30-28 win in Lincoln. It was quintessential Wildcat football; a clean effort (no turnovers, +1 TO margin) and enough defensive resistance to hold on. That victory was one of five for Northwestern by a single score. On the flip side, the loss for Nebraska was one of five by less than a touchdown. The tide has turned somewhat this season as Northwestern lost its first two games of the season by 1 and 2 points, respectively. Nebraska meanwhile was finally able to break through with the aforementioned 3-point win over Oregon. Dating back to the start of last season, Northwestern has been outgained in 10 of 16 games from a yards per play standpoint but again, was fortunate to win a number of “coin flip” games. In 2015, Nebraska outgained its opponents both yards per play and total yardage but held a -12 turnover margin as well as being the most frequently penalized team in the Big Ten. Through three games, the Cornhuskers are +6 in turnover margin.
I've downgraded Duke significantly since last season and the Wildcats and Blue Devils played nearly dead even from a box score perspective. Nebraska appears much more cohesive in Mike Riley's second season and heads into this matchup with significant edges on both sides of the ball. I respect Northwestern's ability to play up to level of a stronger foe, but there are a lot of question marks with this team. The pointspread is saying an 8 or 9 win team against one who will likely struggle to reach the postseason. I'd seek out one of the remaining -7's and lay it with the road team.