Northwestern pulled off the upset against Nebraska in 2011. That victory turned the season around for the Wildcats. Could history repeat itself in Lincoln this year? Let’s take a look at who has the edge in each situation of the game.
When Nebraska has the ball
Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez has been plagued by injuries all year and this week is no different. The senior QB will sit out the game Saturday and redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong will start. Armstrong has started three games already this year, throwing for 347 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions. There’s a good chance the Cornhuskers will focus on the run game and star running back Ameer Abdullah, who is only 19 yards away from his second consecutive 1000-yard rushing season. Northwestern’s rush defense has been suspect all year, though they did adjust well against Iowa last week, giving up 86 rushing yards in the first quarter but only 52 the entire rest of the game including overtime. If NU can channel that defense, they could force Nebraska to put the ball in the hands of Armstrong. If the Cornhuskers start throwing, I like NU’s chances, but they have to stop the run first.
Edge: Nebraska, slightly
When Northwestern has the ball
Northwestern is still without running back Venric Mark, but redshirt freshman Stephen Buckley has emerged as a potential star in his absence. Buckley rushed for 99 yards against Iowa, the No. 5 rush defense in the Big Ten, and this Nebraska defense ranks ninth in the conference against the run. Running backs Mike Trumpy and Warren Long are out as well, so this will be Buckley’s game to shine.
Lately, opposing defenses haven’t been stopping the Wildcats; the Cats have been stopping themselves, with turnovers, penalties and conservative play-calling. NU already has 25 turnovers this season, compared to nine at this point last year. If the Cats can get out of their own way, they should be able to score a lot in this game.
Neither team has an electric returner, so special teams shouldn’t be a huge factor in this game. Northwestern kicker Jeff Budzien is still perfect from under 40, while Nebraska kicker hasn’t missed this year. He’s only had six attempts, though, and only two over 40 yards.