The locals are restless in the heart of Husker Nation as the Big Red starts the season 1-2 for the first time since 1981. A tonic in the form of a win over the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles would be more than welcomed.
Unfortunately, Nebraska finds itself without linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey again, this time due to groin injury while Josh Banderas is gutting things out with one of his own. Big Vincent Valentine is week-to-week with a high ankle sprain as well.
What this spells out is another game with the potential for a lack of a pass rush and a shattered secondary as a result. The Golden Avian Attack is no group of Miami Hurricanes in disguise, but don’t confuse them for the South Alabama Jaguars of two weeks ago in terms of talent.
College Football Podcast: Week 4 Preview with Jill Savage
Southern Miss at Nebraska
Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)
Spread: Nebraska -21.5
Three Things to Watch For
1. The Reemergence of the Nebraska Running Game
After the Huskers were down 17-0 to the Hurricanes in fast order, the Big Red couldn’t afford to try to set up a rushing attack that doesn’t have the “Kickstart My Heart” speed of Ameer Abdullah to rely on anymore.
While Nebraska’s attempt wasn’t completely stymied (Terrell Newby had 11 carries for 82 yards), every Big Red score was initiated by quarterback Tommy Armstrong’s arm.
The good news for Big Red coaches is that Southern Miss surrenders 194 yards on the ground to the opposition per game (No. 96 in the country). Don’t be surprised to see Newby, Mikale Wilbon and Imani Cross return to the Memorial Stadium FieldTurf.
2. A Successful Pass Rush
While Freedom Akinmoladun will still be filling in for Jack Gangwish for a game or two, he’s done rather impressively for a converted tight end.
Defensive coordinator Mark Banker has got to find someone to be used as a legitimate threat opposite Maliek Collins with Valentine on the sideline or dial up some funky sets to confuse junior Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens.
The Golden Eagles have only given up four sacks on the year, but three were to their most impressive opponent, Mississippi State.
3. A Solidified Secondary
At this point, most Big Red backers would probably trade some yardage on the ground for the barrage that has their team claiming the title of the nation’s No. 127 pass defense (out of 128).
Perhaps the most interesting storyline going into this game is whether or not cornerback Daniel Davie will be starting, have a short leash if he does or if he plays at all.
Joshua Kalu and Jonathan Rose seem to be a far stingier combo at cornerback while Nathan Gerry and Byerson Cockrell can hold their own at safety.
If the defensive backfield can come together due to the subtraction of Davie and coverage sacks are a result, don’t expect to see No. 23 except in garbage time and maybe the current walking wounded situation won’t be such a problem.
Even Mississippi State took some shots from Mullens as he threw for 311 yards and one touchdown, but the Bulldogs did snag two interceptions. It’s vital that Nebraska comes out and rattles his cage early or stonewall any rushing attempts from backs Jalen Richard or Ito Smith.
There’s no reason to expect Tommy Armstrong to regress. In fact, if a running game can be established, Nebraska may look as good as they did versus South Alabama. That wouldn’t be a bad thing heading into conference play.
As a side note, safety Deshadrick Truly is expected to sit the first half out following his ejection for targeting last week against Texas State.
All that said, I expect Southern Miss to put some points on the board and since he’s due, a Gerry interception (maybe a pick-six?).