Wyoming Cowboys vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers Preview and Prediction

The Cornhuskers can expect a tougher test from Wyoming than they received on opening weekend against Fresno State

Wyoming and Nebraska both got their seasons started off on high notes during opening weekend — albeit in extremely differing fashion. 

 

The Cowboys came out on top of an overtime thriller against Northern Illinois, sealing the deal with an incredible quarterback scramble that got plenty of highlight-run nationally.

 

The Huskers plodded through what was largely a yawner against Fresno State. An obviously conservative Nebraska offensive game plan kept the contest close in the first half, but you never felt like Mike Riley's bunch was in any real danger. 

 

Both teams still have plenty to work on, and each will serve as a measuring stick of sorts for the other in terms of where they are and where they need to be.

 

Wyoming at Nebraska

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 10 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: Nebraska -24.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Wyoming running back Brian Hill vs. the Nebraska Front Seven

Fresno State didn't have the horsepower to attack Nebraska up the gut with the run game. As a result, the Blackshirt defensive line and linebacker units went largely untested. Wyoming's running game — powered by Hill, a future NFL draft pick — is a completely different animal. Cowboy head coach Craig Bohl likes his teams to be physical on the ground — dating back to when he was winning FCS national titles at North Dakota State. Hill is the textbook definition of a workhorse, and he'll be the perfect tune-up for what Nebraska is going to face throughout the rest of the season. We'll learn a lot about the Nebraska defense as a result of this matchup.

 

2. Will Nebraska take shots early?

All offseason, Husker Nation clamored for more running and less passing. Last weekend, they got exactly that, and the end result was Fresno State hanging around perhaps a little longer than they should have. As much as the good folks from the Cornhusker state admire a solid rushing attack, the strength of this team is its wide receivers and tight ends. They caught a grand total of five passes last weekend. Look for Riley to have Tommy Armstrong firing more shots down the field early in an effort to do what they should have done last weekend — put the game away by halftime. Nebraska doesn't want to trade clouds of dust with a Bohl-coached team.

 

3. Can the Huskers clean it up on special teams?

Nebraska had a punt blocked and the Huskers' punt return team made things far more interesting than the unit would have liked against Fresno State. That group will need to provide better protection for their freshman punter moving forward, though it's unlikely he'll get many looks on Saturday. As far as the return game goes, De'Mornay Pierson-El was a notable absentee when it came to returning kicks against Fresno State. One of the finest returners in the nation two seasons ago prior to a season-ending injury in 2015, Pierson-El could be the wild card to any success Nebraska is going to have on special teams this season. If he's not returning punts against Wyoming, it could be a sign of some bigger issues.

 

Final Analysis

 

For the second consecutive week, the Huskers will be the more talented team at every position on the field (with the possible exception of running back). Subsequently, they should be able to move the ball at will on offense and get off the field quickly on defense. That said, Wyoming is well coached, and they'll give Tommy Armstrong some challenging looks when he does drop back. I wouldn't be shocked to see him get picked off early as Nebraska tries to air it out a bit more than the offense did last weekend. Wyoming is likely to punch in a couple of scores — possibly off a turnover or two — and eat some clock with running back Brian Hill. This is a game where Nebraska needs to showcase its receiving corps in order to establish dominance and keep the Wyoming defense on its heels all day. Look for the Huskers to do exactly that after a slow start and cruise to a sound win.

 

Prediction: Nebraska 41, Wyoming 20

 

— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.

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