Following a COVID-19 outbreak against their scheduled opponent Wisconsin, Nebraska took the second week of Big Ten football off. Due to the abbreviated schedule, the Cornhuskers are now in a must-win situation to remain in contention for the Big Ten West. Let’s take a look at Northwestern’s third opponent, the Nebraska Cornhuskers:
They have two capable quarterbacks
Keen watchers of Nebraska’s first game might’ve noticed a new face running zone reads from the shotgun for Nebraska’s offense. That was Luke McCaffrey, Christian McCaffrey’s undoubtedly skinnier brother. After redshirting last year, McCaffrey burst onto the scene to challenge de facto starter Adrian Martinez’s job. Though McCaffrey lost the QB battle, the Cornhuskers use him as a jack-of-all-trades from under center and like to mix him into the game when they want to spice things up.
Martinez is a more than dynamic player himself. The junior has lots of college experience, playing in 21 games before the 2020 season even started. Martinez will look for continued guidance from Nebraska head coach Scott Frost as he attempts to tear up a tough Northwestern defense that has intercepted six passes in its first two games of 2020.
Nebraska is looking to return to former glory
It wasn’t that long ago that Nebraska was a top-tier college football program. With five national titles under their belt — including back-to-back titles in 1970 and 1971 — the Cornhuskers boast one of the most successful programs in college football history. Between 2000 and 2010, Nebraska had an impressive five seasons with 10 or more wins.
The past 10 years have not been the same story. The Cornhuskers’ last bowl win came in 2015 with their last bowl appearance a year later in 2016. Furthermore, Nebraska has a total record of 28-35 under their last two head coaches, Mike Riley and Scott Frost.
The search for a JD Spielman replacement continues
JD Spielman held down Nebraska’s receiving core for three years. Amassing over 2500 receiving yards in his three years as a Cornhusker, Spielman was the electric playmaker that Nebraska quarterbacks relied on in key moments. However, after Spielmen transferred to TCU for undisclosed reasons and left an almost unfillable hole in the Nebraska receiving game, there is no longer a clear No. 1 receiver in Lincoln.
Those replacing Spielman are largely untested. In their most recent game against Ohio State, only one Nebraska receiver had more than two receptions. Furthermore, Scott Frost’s game plan seems to be more geared toward the run, with Adrian Martinez only attempting 15 passes against the Buckeyes compared to an overpowering 36 rushing attempts. Whoever steps up to replace their former star receiver better do it fast, as Nebraska’s offense appears to be in trouble against a Northwestern secondary that has thrived in the first two weeks.