The Nebraska Cornhuskers had a monstrous schedule set out before them, but they’ve performed relatively well considering the circumstances. Aside from a Week One blowout against the Ohio State Buckeyes and a defeat in Evanston against the Northwestern Wildcats, the Huskers have defeated the Penn State Nittany Lions in Lincoln and had their Week Two home game against the Wisconsin Badgers cancelled.
Scott Frost has struggled to get his Huskers program heading in the right direction, and 2020 will be a challenging year for him to finally get above .500 in his third season. Key to that effort will be keeping their momentum going with a win over the Illini this week.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Luke McCaffrey started over Adrian Martinez last week after Martinez’s performance had been lacking in the previous two games. Last week McCaffrey went 13-for-21 for 152 yards with one passing touchdown against one interception. He also rushed for 67 yards and a touchdown. Expect him to start against the Illini as well.
His favorite targets included RB Wan’Dale Robinson and WR Austin Allen, while WR Zavier Betts flashed some speed to put Nebraska up two scores last week:
⚡️⚡️ @zavierbetts1 hit the jets on this BIG TIME touchdown run for @HuskerFBNation pic.twitter.com/xT6zL7PXnw— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 14, 2020
Robinson and RB Dedrick Mills are the main threats out of the backfield, while McCaffrey leads the team in rushing with 228 yards. Mills runs very hard, and the Illini defensive line will need to be disciplined in their gap assignments to keep him contained.
Think @MillsDedrick wanted that @HuskerFBNation TD? pic.twitter.com/vKdckfuHXN— Nebraska On BTN (@NebraskaOnBTN) November 7, 2020
The Illini linebackers will certainly have their hands full with McCaffrey, Mills, and Robinson, but playing against a run-first team may relieve the beleaguered Illini secondary and play to Illinois’ strengths.
Senior S Dismuke Marquel leads the team with 25 tackles on the young season, while senior OLB JoJo Domann leads the Huskers with 3.0 TFLs. ILBs Will Honas and Luke Reimer each have two sacks, and will likely make life difficult for Mike Epstein and Isaiah Williams. S Deontai Williams also scored a defensive touchdown last week with this scoop and score:
SCOOP AND SCORE @HuskerFBNation comes up with ANOTHER big defensive play to extend their first half lead pic.twitter.com/bDuhhQclf3— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 14, 2020
The Cornhusker defensive line appears to be anchored by Ty Robinson and Ben Stille, who lead the DL with 11 and 10 tackles respectively. Stille sealed the Huskers’ win last week against Penn State with this sack, his only one on the year:
THE SACK SEALS THE VICTORY!— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) November 14, 2020
The @HuskerFBNation defense holds off Penn State's comeback. pic.twitter.com/AXBgBj8335
The strength of the Huskers’ defense appears to be in its linebacking corps and secondary.
Punter William Przystup averages around 41 yards per punt, with a long of 56 yards. For reference, Blake Hayes averages about 43 yards per punt and has a long of 59 yards. Kicker Connor Culp is 6-of-7 on the year with a long of 38 yards, which he hit against Northwestern.
On the board.— Nebraska Football (@HuskerFBNation) November 7, 2020
Culp connects from 38 out. 7-3 NW. pic.twitter.com/X3tBgg6xRw