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Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights Preview and Prediction

Tommy Armstrong

Tommy Armstrong

The head coaches of both Nebraska and Rutgers have said that they’re not thinking about the potential for bowl eligibility as a result of this game and that’s a good thing. If we’ve learned one thing about Nebraska this season it’s that no game is a guaranteed win and Rutgers... well, Rutgers stinks.

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Both have to pull off some upsets to even become bowl eligible and for the Scarlet Knights, it begins with the Cornhuskers.

Nebraska at Rutgers

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
Network: Big Ten Network
Spread: Nebraska -9.5

Three Things to Watch For

1.Tommy Armstrong vs. the Rutgers Defense

Armstrong looked as good as he ever has in Nebraska’s second half effort versus Michigan State including the 91-yard game-winning drive. Say what you will about the Huskers’ rank passing defense, Rutgers’ isn’t much better. In fact, the Scarlet Knights best the Big Red’s mark by only two places at No. 123 out of 128.

Nebraska head coach Mike Riley obviously isn’t going to want to pass 35-40 times as that means the Big Red is in the same trouble it faced at Illinois and Purdue. The Rutgers rushing defense isn’t exactly stellar giving up 155 yards per game.

If offensive coordinator Danny Landsdorf can dial up an attack that was as varied as what the Spartans from East Lansing saw, the Scarlet Knights will have more than their fair share of problems with No. 4 taking snaps.

2. Rutgers Wide Receiver Leonte Carroo

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Carroo is the difference between a likely loss and a chance for a Rutgers win. There’s a reason Vegas points out his probability to play. In 15 quarters, he’s put up nine touchdowns. He’s not a safety valve, he’s an NFL prospect and quite possibly the best receiver Nebraska will go up against this season.

As goes Carroo, so goes Rutgers.

3.Defensive Discipline

Last week I pointed out that Nebraska needed to win the turnover margin and play near flawless ball to have a chance at winning. The Big Red had no second half penalties which helped negate a minus-one (-1) margin. Fortunately, the Huskers also forced a turnover for the first time in three games by way of a Connor Cook interception.

The Blackshirts came out of the gate looking like a unit ready to swallow up the Michigan State offense whole. Cook did bounce back from first quarter hiccups, but no one on Rutgers’ squad can duplicate the efforts of Cook.

Final Analysis

Logic dictates that Nebraska goes in, gives up a few scores to Carroo and ultimately limps into its bye week with a 5-6 record. As I mentioned last week, the moment you lend logic to college football, you have failed in truly appreciating the sport.

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That said, I’m going to look at how Rutgers’ schedule has been going lately. They received beat downs from Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan respectively coming into this game. If there’s a team that can relate to the mental anguish Nebraska’s had this year, it’s these Scarlet Knights.

Quite frankly, I think either team could win. If the Huskers come out and make a defensive stand similar to the one they did against Michigan State, I can’t see how Rutgers doesn’t extend their losing streak to four regardless of what Carroo can do. That said, if Rutgers can find momentum early and get to Armstrong, Lincoln locals may get the pitchforks back out of their closets.

I’m wincing as I type this, but give me Nebraska to win and have transportation ready to go the second the final gun sounds.

Prediction: Nebraska 33, Rutgers 23

— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to follow Brandon on Twitter @eightlaces and like his Facebook page.