Why Northwestern WILL beat Nebraska
Northwestern wins the coaching battle
When you look at this matchup in terms of coaching, Northwestern has an edge over the Huskers. It starts with Pat Fitzgerald, who is entering his 17th year with the team, and has led his team to two Big Ten Championship games in the last four seasons. When you look at the other side, Scott Frost is going into year five, and has yet to post a winning record at Nebraska. If Fitzgerald can put in the right personnel and make good decisions that keeps the ‘Cats in a clean game, they will have success.
The battle also expands beyond the two head coaches — Northwestern has much more stability in their staff. Nebraska, outside of Frost, fired many coaches, and is bringing new pieces, including new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple from Pitt. If Nebraska struggles to adapt to this change and their coaches and players do not execute a plan to perfection on Saturday, there will be trouble. This is where Northwestern thrives.
The running game
Cam Porter and Evan Hull are the main strength on this Northwestern offense. Though there are uncertainties at quarterback, wide receiver and offensive line, the duo known as “thunder and lightning” are the sure 1A and 1B for the ‘Cats. They will combine to be a two-headed monster, both bringing different qualities that will give any defense trouble.
Last year, the Huskers were seventh in the Big Ten and 58th in the country in rushing defense, allowing 146.9 yards per game. If Northwestern can exploit holes in Nebraska’s defensive line and pound the rock behind mostly Porter and Hull, with a few contributions from Andrew Clair and Anthony Tyus III, they stand a chance in Ireland.
The underdog role
To put it straight, Northwestern should not be the team that wins this game. Nebraska has higher expectations, and after years of disappointment, there is a strange sense of optimism that 2022 can be different. What does that mean? All the pressure is on the Huskers.
This allows Northwestern to play underdog. Nebraska is favored by 11.5 points on Saturday, and the national media narrative surrounding the game has focused mainly on this being the beginning of a potentially resurgent year for UNL. Pat Fitzgerald is no stranger to using bulletin board material to motivate his team, and the consensus by the national press that the ‘Cats don’t stand much of a chance in Dublin could put some extra wind under NU’s sails on Saturday.
Why Northwestern WON’T beat Nebraska
The Huskers’ adjustments work
Nebraska is a completely different team from last year. The Huskers brought in 22 transfers, the most notable being quarterback Casey Thompson from Texas and wide receiver Trey Palmer from LSU. Pair that with Mark Whipple, and they have a brand new offense, and this could be scary for Northwestern.
If Nebraska has had a great camp and their adjustments work, they will be an unfamiliar team to Northwestern on Saturday. The ‘Cats might not have a solution and this will be their downfall if Nebraska executes their gameplan.
No improvement from the secondary
Northwestern lost one of their top players in Brandon Joseph, and the secondary does not return a single player that recorded an interception in 2021. Sure, they have returners like Cameron Mitchell, A.J. Hampton and Coco Azema, but they are still widely unproven. There is definitely some uncertainty in the NU secondary.
Thompson led a heavy pass attack at Texas last year, even with Bijan Robinson on his team. He has the talent to pick apart the Northwestern secondary if Mitchell, Hampton and Azema, along with others, are similar to last year.
The talent gap
This pretty much sums it up: Nebraska is a more talented team than Northwestern. The Huskers could have been over .500 last year if not for a few incredibly unlucky plays that summed up their season — this cannot be said about the ‘Cats. Nebraska actually stood a chance in games last year.
With their additions, Nebraska has a talent gap over Northwestern. They have large advantages at quarterback, wide receiver and offensive line, and their defense was also statistically much better last year. Scott Frost recruited well this offseason, and Nebraska is a better team. This might be too much for Northwestern to overcome.