Oregon at Nebraska
Saturday, 12:30 am PT - ABC
CRIS Opener: Nebraska -3 O/U 70.5
CRIS Current: Nebraska -3 O/U 74.5
If you look at the final scores of Nebraska’s first two games, this pointspread might make sense. After all, the Huskers are coming off back-to-back dominating wins and covers against Fresno and Wyoming over the last two weeks, covering as a home favorite for the first times since a Week 2 win over South Alabama last year.
There’s only one problem with that assumption. Nebraska didn’t dominate either game. Both blowouts were completely fraudulent. And Oregon’s team speed will be highly problematic for a Cornhuskers defense that hasn’t seen playmakers like these in year – they haven’t faced Ohio State or Michigan in Big Ten play in either of the past two seasons.
In Week 1, Nebraska entered the fourth quarter against Freson clinging to a 21-10 lead, but a pair of Bulldogs interceptions set up the Huskers down the stretch as they punched in three unanswered touchdowns in the final stanza to win by 28. Last week, the only reason Nebraska was up by a TD heading into the fourth quarter was because of a pick six against Wyoming. But the Cowboys four fourth quarter drives went like this: fumble, interception, interception, interception and Nebraska scored four unanswered fourth quarter TD’s as a result.
That’s a 50-0 Huskers fourth quarter run-out against inferior competition in their first two games, not a dominant effort from start to finish. And Oregon, unlike Wyoming and Fresno, isn’t primed to give the game away late.
The numbers don’t lie. Oregon was an underdog four times in Mark Helfrich’s first season on the job. They went 4-0 ATS in those games, winning three of them in outright upset fashion. The only loss came by a field goal against a 12 win Michigan State squad.
And while the Ducks did graduate a fair bit of talent this past offseason, make no mistake about it – Oregon still is loaded with offensive playmakers and speedy skill position talent. QB Dakota Prukop might be an FCS transfer, but he’s an FCS transfer loaded with talent, speed and experience, a multi-year starter at Montana State. Prukop was a first team FCS All American last year and his 6-0 TD-INT ratio gives me confidence supporting him in a hostile environment in Lincoln on Saturday.
The betting markets seem fixated by the fact that Nebraska head coach Mike Riley faced Oregon every year when Riley coached in the PAC-12. It’s surely worth noting that Riley lost the last seven matchups in that series, with five of those losses coming in blowout fashion, by 17 points or more. Riley’s defense didn’t hold Oregon below 36 points in any of those games.