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Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights: Preview, predictions and prognostications

When: Nov. 14; 3:30p.m. ET
Where: Piscataway, NJ; High Point Solutions Stadium (52,454)
TV: BTN
All-Time Series: Nebraska leads 2-0
Last Meeting: Nebraska Win 42-24 (2014)
Line: Nebraska -8.5

1 Burning Question: Can Nebraska Gain Momentum?

Fluke play, horrible referee call. Whatever you want to call it, the Huskers stole a huge victory from the jaws of defeat against Michigan State. The W was a huge one for Mike Riley and the Huskers as a whole. Can that win galvanize the team and allow the Huskers to get to a bowl game in improbable fashion?

That question will be answered in a big way as the Huskers travel to Piscataway for what could be a really tricky road contest for them. A win here and there’s some serious momentum, but if this team suffers a hangover look for the #FireRiley crew to be loud and boisterous.

2 Key Stats:

—10: That is the number of seconds in the last quarter or overtime in which the Huskers have lost four of its six games this season. Just how crazy has the season been for Riley’s team? In fact, according to Stats Inc., the Huskers are the firs team since 2006 to lose four games or more in the final 10 seconds or overtime of the game. If the Huskers can be up by more than a touchdown when the :10 hits the game clock they won’t have anything to worry about.

— 6: That is the number of non-offensive touchdowns scored by Rutgers this season. If the Scarlet Knights want to win this contest, special teams would be a great way to help them do so. Rutgers has scored those six non-offensive touchdowns like this — three kickoff return, one punt return, one fumble return and one interception return. Finding a way to score outside of the offense could be a big way to help pull what would be a mild upset here.

3 Key Players:

Leonte Carroo, Rutgers WR: Simple fact — Leonte Carroo is the most valuable player to any team in the Big Ten. He also happens to be the best wide receiver in the league. Thankfully for the Scarlet Knights he’s back after missing the last two games with a bad ankle. No one on the Scarlet Knights offense is a real difference maker the way Carroo is, and with Nebraska’s secondary being what it is (read…awful), this is a matchup that favors the Scarlet Knights.

Tommy Armstrong, Jr., Nebraska QB: As simple as it is to say Carroo is the lynchpin of the Rutgers offense, the same is true of Armstrong. Last week was a great one for the embattled quarterback, going for 320 yards and two touchdowns (and two picks) against Michigan State. It was also just his fourth time this season passing for over 50 percent on the season. Should that version of Armstrong show up in Piscataway on Saturday afternoon, look for Nebraska to be a big winner.

Maliek Collins, Nebraska DT: Yes, the matchup between the Huskers secondary and Leonte Carroo is going to be important, but there is another piece to the puzzle in that matchup and it will be the battle in the trenches. That’s where Collins comes in, because he has the talent to take over versus a suspect interior of Rutgers’ offensive line. Collins has just 27 tackles this season, but 4.0 of them are tackles for loss and 1.5 of them are sacks. If he can be a disruptive force up front, the Huskers are going to be real difficult to throw all over.

4 Bold Prognostications:

Chris Laviano passes for more yards than Tommy Armstrong: The sophomore signal caller will outdo the experienced Armstrong thanks in part to Carroo being back, but also because the Huskers secondary is plain bad…as in like second to last bad. Laviano hasn’t been great as of late, but nothing cures some struggles like a really weak secondary. Don’t be surprised if he goes over 300 yards and Armstrong doesn’t.

Jordan Westerkamp leads in receiving yards between both teams: While Laviano will out-gain Armstrong, it will be because there are many more weapons available to him than are available to Armstrong. Carroo will get his, but it will be the other receiver of consequence in this game, Jordan Westerkamp, that will lead both teams in receiving yards. Don’t be surprised to see him go for over 120 yards on the day and it all be for naught.

Rutgers Wins on 4th quarter touchdown…just not a last minute one: It may be tempting to predict another heartbreaking loss for the Huskers, this one won’t be done this way. Spoiler alert, I’m picking Rutgers in the upset and they’ll do it by scoring midway through the fourth quarter and picking off Armstrong’s desperation heave later in the quarter.

Rutgers Won’t Rush for 100 yards as a team: It will be a good thing that Laviano out does Armstrong through the air, because Nebraska’s front seven will dominate the offensive line in the run game. Rutgers has rushed for under 100 yards as a team just twice this season, doing so against Penn State and Wisconsin. This one will be a surprise given the different looks the trio of running backs at Rutgers can give you, however Nebraska’s defensive line vs. Rutgers O-Line in the run game doesn’t bode well.

5 Staff Predictions:

Andy: Rutgers 31-24 (73-19 overall; 41-50 ATS)
Dave: Nebraska 30-28 (75-17 overall; 48-42 ATS)
Greg: Nebraska 33-20 (68-26 overall; 50-40 ATS)
Matt: Nebraska 34-28 (73-19 overall; 53-37 ATS)
Phil: Nebraska 32-20 (27-12 overall; 14-22 ATS) *joined in Week 5

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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