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Behind Enemy Lines: Nebraska Cornhuskers

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Rows of Corn Nation writers line up to drop some kernels of knowledge.

Eric Francis

We're finally getting to the conference schedule, the meat and potatoes of the college football year. First up, a trip to the deepest parts of the Midwest -- Nebraska. The guys over at Corn Nation were willing to add quite a lot to the conversation this week. Sit back, grab some popcorn (the State Snack of Illinois) and enjoy.

Also, Cobby is a dried out corncob with eyes their mascot. His volume knob seems to be stuck.

*****

1. At 4-0, Nebraska enters Week 5 as one of two B1G teams with an undefeated record. What are your expectations for the rest of the year?

David: My expectations are that the defense will continue to establish itself as a dominant unit. That will allow the offense to do its thing, especially as they get into the meat of the conference schedule. I think NU has the most talented roster in the West by a wide margin and I expect that to manifest itself as the season progresses. If it does that, I think this team has a chance to shatter expectations, and finally break that four loss ceiling Pelini seems to have set for himself.

Mister Mike: Careful. That word can be considered dirty around here. Speaking honestly, I still believe Nebraska drops a few games during the regular season. Even though we're off to our best start since the 2011 season (before we got shellacked at Camp Randall) I really haven't seen enough consistency yet to make me believe anything other that we're going to be maddeningly inconsistent at the worst times. I really don't know what to expect going into every game. Yes, there's been some things that would seem to indicate that things are trending up, but I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop, because that's the way it's been here for nearly a decade. I am in full on "show me" mode right now.

Jon Johnston: I told myself this year that I wouldn't have any expectations, that I would live my life one day at a time. This way I can deny the fact that Nebraska under Bo Pelini loses games they shouldn't and haven't been able to put together a full season resembling anything more than above-averageness. Who do we play this week?

Brian Towle: Well, I will say that the 10-3/11-2 expectations could come to be a better bet than the 7-5 ones, at least right now it does cause 2-5 in the B1G and holy hell what happened. That being said, Nebraska is due to give off a couple losses (probably on the road this year, have you seen the conference home schedule?) and one hot stinker. Folks seem to think that Nebraska is at best going to San Diego or Frisco. So, I dunno, we'll see what happens if and when Nebraska gets to their bye week.

Cobby: WELL, LETS BE HONEST, ALCOHOL IS NOT EXPENSIVE. LETS BE HONEST, DO YOU REALLY NEED TO SPEND $30 ON A BOTTLE OF JACK DANIELS WHEN YOU CAN BUY THE PLASTIC CANADIAN CLUB VERSION FOR $13 AS LONG AS IT WAS SIPHONED THROUGH A CLEAN SOCK? THIS YEAR HAS BEEN THRIFTY FOR US, AND LORD I HOPE IT LASTS THROUGH NOVEMBER CAUSE THAT LIVER TRANSPLANT ISN'T COMING TILL AFTER TIM MILES KICKS YOUR DOGS IN CHICAGO AND SUCH.

2. Through 4 games, Ameer Abdullah has 7 TDs and nearly 750 yards of offense-and yet he's still being overlooked by the national media. Do you think he's a legitimate contender for the Heisman Trophy?

David: Yes...if they beat Michigan St. That's the litmus test for both Nebraska and Abdullah. NU's had success vs. the Spartans since joining the Big Ten, even last year, despite the fumbles, they were able to move the ball. If they can do that again, in prime time, in East Lansing, Abdullah will be in the mix.

Mister Mike: He's a legitimate contender, if and only if, Nebraska manages to finish the season undefeated or winning the B1G with only one loss. Our weak SoS, combined with the weakness of the conference as a whole will keep him out of legit contention for the Heisman unless Nebraska does one of those two things. Unfortunate, truly. But that's reality right now.

Jon: No. That award is for freshman quarterbacks who then proceed to spend the next year doing the most stupid things imaginable. Who would want it? Far better you ask - Is Abdullah a Doak Walker winner? Yes, I would say, YES HE IS.

Brian: Yes, but hey MELVIN GORDON HAD FIVE TOUCHDOWNS VS BOWLING GREEN AND KENNY HILL HAS HAD ONE GOOD GAME AGAINST A SOUTH CAROLINA D THAT MAKES TODD GRANTHAM JEALOUS. It's ridiculous that a guy who has a legit shot to break the Nebraska Rushing record (held by Mike Rozier) may not get to be on the podium in NYC because he's not a QB from the SEC.

Cobby: PAUL FINEBAUM CAN KISS MY DETASSLED ASS IF HE CAN SERIOUSLY LOOK AT ME WITH A STRAIGHT FACE AND TELL ME THAT TODD GURLEY IS BETTER THAN AMEER. I MEAN, LETS SEE, A MAN WHO GETS A PAYCHECK FROM MICKEY MOUSE TROLLING ME ABOUT COLLEGE FOOTBALL. IT'S LIKE COWHERD TRYING TO SELL ME THAT LEBRON IS NOT WEARING HAIR PLUGS.

3. We already know that Abdullah will run for 1,000 yards on Saturday, but who are Nebraska's other playmakers on offense?

David: Not an offensive player, per se, though he is a WR, but De'Mornay Pierson-El has emerged as a threat as a punt returner. If your punt return coverage breaks down, that could spell a long day for the Illinois squad.

Mister Mike: You can't overlook Jordan Westerkamp or Kenny Bell. Both should be targets in the passing game on Saturday as both have made some big plays on offense for us this year.

Jon: Quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr is coming around. He runs the option plays well. His ball-throwing accuracy could use some work, but if the offensive line plays well he won't be doing no ball throwing.

Brian: If Nebraska needs it on the ground, look for them to go behind the left side with Alex Lewis and Jake Cotton on the OL. The right side with Mike Moudy and Givens Price has gotten a little better. Last year, Nebraska happened to be a really good rush blocking team that couldn't pass block to save their lives. This year is completely different, as pass blocking has seemed to surpass the run blocking as the strength.

Cobby: THOSE CATS THAT WALK AROUND THE STADIUM SELLING RUNZAS. I MEAN, CAN YOU REALLY BLAME A GUY FOR NOT STEPPING UP WHEN HE HAS TO WALK AROUND A STADIUM FULL OF HOT SWEATING PEOPLE WITH STOMACH ISSUES FROM CABBAGE PASSING THROUGH THEIR COLON? THESE GUYS ARE TROOPERS MANG.

4. Do the Huskers have any players on the defensive side that Illini fans should worry about?

David: The one everyone will be talking about is Randy Gregory. He'll likely be a early pick in the NFL draft in the spring. He's a physical freak and has the ability to take a game over. The rest of the defensive line, though, is starting to come into it's own. Vincent Valentine and Gregory McMullen have really started to establish themselves in the trenches and have made it difficult for teams to run against them.

Mister Mike: Nathan Gerry would be another one to keep an eye on. He plays safety, but he's more of a S/LB hybrid.

Brian: The 2 big ass run stuffers in the middle of the DL seem to help set the tone of rush D. Vincent Valentine and Maliek Collins have done well to bolster a middle of DL that was a travesty and joke as close as 2 years ago.

Cobby: YEP, WE GOT TWO THAT WILL LET YOU HAVE IT. JEAN PECK AND CHARLEY ACKERMAN. THESE TWO PEOPLE BOTH HATE LOUD #HIPHOPHOGWASH AND WILL BUST A CAP IN YOUR KNEE FASTER THAN JAMES ARNESS IN THE OPENING OF GUNSMOKE. DON'T BE PLAYING ANYTHING HARDER THAN BIEBER IN THE PARKING LOT AS YOU TAILGATE EITHER BY GOD OR ELSE THEY'LL TURN IT DOWN, TELL YOU TO SIT DOWN, AND THROW YOU UNDER THE BUS WITH A LETTER TO THE EDITOR.

5. What's your opinion of Illinois heading into the game? Which players on our side do you view as the biggest threat?

David: Heard a lot about that young QB of yours, but other than that, it'd be disingenuous to say that the Illini are looked at as much of a threat, sorry. I think the biggest concern is that every year Pelini and the Huskers have one gave where for reasons beyond understanding, NU finds a way to lose to a team they shouldn't. See: Minnesota, 2013 and Northwestern, 2011. I think fans are more afraid of that happening on Saturday than anything.

Mister Mike: Well, the Illini are 3-1 headed into this game, but they've had to come from behind to win every game against some dreadful teams. Wes Lunt certainly has the skills to make things miserable for us, if we're not sound in our coaching and responsibilities, as does Allison and Ferguson. Our LBs have been proven vulnerable to pre-snap motion, as well as covering TEs and RBs coming out of the backfield into the flats. If we can't shore up that part of our defense, life could be difficult for the Blackshirts.

Brian: The only worry that I would have is that Nebraska is looking forward to Michigan State in East Lansing while the Illini finally get off to a first half that seems justifiable to be called decent. But, at the same time, I still think that the McNeese State trainwreck got their attention enough that it's going to be still fresh in their memory.

Cobby: YOU PEOPLE THAT BRING CHICAGO DEEP DISH PIZZA TO LINCOLN. LISTEN, WE'RE A PROUD FOLK THAT LOVES OUR BUSCH LIGHT AND VALENTINOS. WE DONT' NEED A APPLE PIE WITH TOMATOES AND SUCH WITH THAT GOD AWFUL OLD STYLE. I MEAN, SERIOUSLY, OLD STYLE? WAS MIL LIGHT OUT AT THE GAS STATION BEFORE YOU HIT THE BORDER?

6. What's your prediction for Saturday's matchup?

David: The Huskers will be sporting their spiffy (depending on who you ask) alternate uniforms on Saturday. I think that will help get over the emotional hangover from last week as I anticipate the players will feed off some of that excitement. I don't expect anything resembling the atmosphere we saw over the weekend though, despite the pleadings of Pelini this week that the fans remain as involved as they were last week. I think Abdullah will do his thing, but NU won't run it as much on the whole. Ultimately, I think we see something similar to what we saw last year, 42-14, Huskers.

Mister Mike: On paper, this should be a game that's over by halftime. I mean, Nebraska SHOULD run away with this game. Illinois has been dreadful against the run and that's what we like to do.

However, I've heard that shit before and we end up making the opposing team look like the Seahawks. I don't think we cover the spread, but end up winning anyway. I'm expecting a final score similar to the Miami game last week. Huskers 42, Illinois 34.

Brian: I think Ameer gets another 200 yard day, but Wes Lunt gets some good yards and TD's in his system. But Nebraska gets out of their Homecoming with a win and a primetime showdown with Sparty next week. 44-21 Nebraska wins.

Cobby: I SAW YOUR VARSITY TEAM LAST YEAR. WATCHED THAT GAME UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF A SCENTSY CANDLE AND ABSINITHE. AFTER THE GAME, SOME CAT NAMES BECKMAN WANTED TO SELL ME A USED RANGE ROVER OUTSIDE SOUTH STADIUM, BUT I COULD CLEARLY SEE IT WAS A FORD BRONCO. MAYBE THAT GUY HAS LEARNED AND REALIZED THAT I ONLY WILL BUY A SMART CAR THAT HAS A 8 TRACK HOOKUP. IF THAT HAPPENS, THEN THE ILLINI WILL BE ALRIGHT AS THEY HEAD BACK TO CHAMPAGNE NO MATTER WHAT.