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Northwestern Wildcats vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers Preview and Prediction

Tommy Armstrong

Tommy Armstrong

With the $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy safely tucked away following Nebraska’s dismissal of Minnesota, another game with plenty of pomp welcomes the Huskers as they return home. I speak of “The Battle for NU,” of course!

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Not only did the Big Red pick up its first road win under Mike Riley, but it did so in style with a crisp and clean effort. If the Huskers can continue to play like they did in TCF Bank Stadium, there isn’t a team left on the schedule they don’t have a shot at beating.

Before we get too ahead of ourselves, let’s discuss the team classically known as the “Big Ten Upset Special” also known as Northwestern.

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Northwestern at Nebraska

Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)
Spread: Nebraska -7.5

Three Things to Watch For

1. The Teams’ Psyches

This game features two teams heading in opposite directions. Nebraska finally busted through and earned a Big Ten win. In the meantime, Northwestern was shut out against Michigan followed by a 40-10 defeat at the hands of the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Now the Wildcats have to march into Lincoln where the Cornhuskers will be honoring the 1995 national championship team and this year's squad gets to bust out its alternate duds. The home team has shown it has the ability to dazzle on offense and the visitors may curl up quickly if they can’t put points up in a hurry.

2. The Nebraska Offense

Last week, Danny Langsdorf called a game that resulted in the Big Red scoring 48 points which ties the most Nebraska has logged in a game since joining the Big Ten in 2011.

Quarterback Tommy Armstrong looks to still be playing with a few dings, but when he gets comfortable, he knows how to work within the system very well.

Langsdorf seems to have found a nice mix of how to work the backs in his running game. With De’Mornay Pierson-El on the field and learning more of the offense every week, the offensive coordinator’s options are multiplying and growing even more dangerous. 

3. Can Nebraska Hold Running Back Justin Jackson?

While the college football world is yucking it up at the Husker secondary’s expense, Nebraska’s rushing defense is ranked No. 7 in the country. Jackson has managed 691 yards on 180 carries, but he’s run into some issues lately.

Michigan and Iowa held him to a combined 55 yards on 22 attempts. They rank No. 2 and No. 4 in stuffing runners, respectively. No doubt the Blackshirt front four are salivating.

Final Analysis

It’s up to freshman quarterback Clayton Thorson to help get the Northwestern offense humming against a defense that still struggles against the pass, but appears to have found its footing up front. If Freedom Akinmoladun makes his return, Nebraska gains a strong pass rusher.

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Mike Riley knows what this team has, and what it doesn’t have is the ability to look at any team like it’s not Alabama. I can already hear him continuing to preach clean play not only because it likely means a win, but because Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald is one of the most respected in the business.

His teams didn’t become known for crushing others' dreams by accident.

Prediction: Nebraska 38, Northwestern 21

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