Nebraska at Rutgers (10/7 @ 7:00 PM EST)
Line: Nebraska -3
Let’s start with Nebraska. The Huskers opened the season with four humiliating losses. They quickly fired coach Scott Frost after losing to Georgia Southern and replaced him in the interim with Micky Joseph. In their second week with Joseph at the helm, they managed their first FBS victory of the year against Indiana. By itself, it’s not an impressive feat, but the coaching staff believes it’s a sign of what’s to come. The one issue is that Quarterback Casey Thompson has admitted to dealing with a litany of injuries, including a calf contusion, hip pointer, wrist sprain, shoulder joint pain, and a possible jaw injury. Call us old-fashioned but telling the defense where you are hurting is never a good idea. Luckily the Huskers also have a workhorse in running back Anthony Grant. He has already rushed for over 600 yards this year and is showing no signs of slowing down.
The Huskers biggest questions remain on defense, where they rank toward the bottom of the league. They’re giving up over 500 yards per game and have been run over by teams like Georgia Southern and Northwestern. In the second half of the Indiana game, they seemed to come alive for the first time this season by shutting out the Hoosiers. Maybe they’ve turned the corner, but it’s too early to know.
As embarrassing as Nebraska’s defense has been, Rutgers’ offense is even worse. With injuries to all three of their top quarterbacks and a revamped offensive line, the Scarlet Knights have struggled to move the ball. The team is averaging a meager 330 yards of offense per game and is only converting 32% of third-down conversions. They’ve beaten some bad teams, with their best win coming over a mediocre Boston College team. The defense has been their only saving grace, keeping opponents not-named Ohio State under 30 points. The key will be finding a way to capitalize on the struggling Husker’s defense.
Evan Simon has been starting at quarterback, but Noah Verdal may have a chance to play a more prominent role in the offense. Verdal returned to play just four snaps last week (zero pass attempts), so his role Saturday remains a mystery. Aron Cruickshank is their top receiving threat, but the offensive stagnation has limited him to a mere 172 yards through five games. Freshmen running back Samuel Brown V has seemed to take over the lead back role, but he’s struggled to find the running room with defenses largely ignoring the pass.
While we lean toward Nebraska in this matchup, we can’t trust that the defense has turned the corner quite yet. They’ll need to prep for all three of the Knights’ quarterbacks this week, which will be challenging. The Scarlet Knights best chance would be if Nebraska transfer Verdal can get healthy. He’s got the most upside at quarterback and will be hungry for some payback against his old team.
Give us the over on this one. These two teams have put up some big point totals in their previous matchups, and I think that continues Friday night. The game should be a shootout if the Rutgers offense can get going. If they don’t, Nebraska is more than capable of putting up 40+ points themselves to make this an easy cover.