Get ready for some Friday night Big Ten football when Rutgers hosts Nebraska in a classic Big Ten rivalry. OK, so maybe that is a slight exaggeration of the level of excitement one should have for a Nebraska vs. Rutgers matchup, but this does have a chance to be a fun Friday night game to keep you entertained into the fourth quarter.
Nebraska (2-3, 1-1 Big Ten) got back in the win column after a bye last week, with interim head coach Mickey Joseph getting his first win since taking over for Scott Frost. This will be his first road test. It will be just about as favorable a road trip as possible even on a short week, but Rutgers (3-2, 0-2) has a knack for being tougher to put away at home than when the Scarlet Knights hit the road. Nebraska could be in for a real battle in New Jersey this Friday night.
Nebraska at Rutgers
When Nebraska Has the Ball
Nebraska does have some advantages when it comes to the running game. Anthony Grant is among the Big Ten leaders this season with 600 rushing yards and five touchdowns this season. He is averaging 120.0 rushing yards per game, and Ohio State shredded the Scarlet Knights were shredded on the ground last week to the tune of 252 rushing yards and five touchdowns. Rutgers had been shutting down or controlling opposing rushing offenses prior to their trip to Columbus last week.
Nebraska's passing game could also be streaky with Casey Thompson's 7:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio leaving something to be desired. Rutgers has six interceptions this season, so don't be surprised if they come up with another one or two against the Huskers.
When Rutgers Has the Ball
Rutgers has struggled on offense this season and comes into this week's matchup with the Big Ten's 13th-ranked total offense. Only the punchless Iowa Hawkeyes are averaging fewer than the Scarlet Knights' 331.2 yards per game. The big culprit has been an anemic passing attack that is averaging 161.2 yards per game to go along with six touchdowns and five interceptions. Evan Simon and Gavin Wimsatt have been sharing the snaps, but Noah Vedral, last season's starter who missed the first four games due to injury, could get the call on Friday. Vedral has the most experience of the signal-callers, although his numbers (7 TDs, 7 INTs) don't exactly jump off of the page.
The good news for Rutgers is if there was ever a chance for this offense to get something going, this may be the week. Nebraska comes into the game with the Big Ten's most generous defense, giving up more than 32 points and 469 yards per game. Something will have to give.
This game has all of the ingredients for a bizarre back-and-forth affair that comes back to bite Nebraska in typical fashion. This will actually be a good test to see if things are already changing under new leadership because Rutgers will play tough against anyone that steps foot in SHI Stadium. And the longest road trip in the Big Ten on a short week is far from ideal for the Cornhuskers. But the advantage in the running game will help Nebraska hold off the Scarlet Knights just enough to return home with a win.
Prediction: Nebraska 23, Rutgers 20
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