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Nebraska football opens its season at home against the South Alabama Jaguars this Saturday. Before the season officially kicks off, it’s time to take a closer look at this season’s schedule. 

South Alabama

Season-opening foe South Alabama finished 3-9 in 2018, including a 2-6 mark in Sun Belt Conference play. 

South Alabama fielded the No. 101 scoring offense last season, averaging 24.2 points per game. It also ranked No. 107 in total offense, averaging 355.3 yards a game. 

The Jaguars must replace last year’s starting quarterback Evan Orth. Sophomore Cephus Johnson, the only returning quarterback with game experience, only threw 19 passes last year.

On defense, South Alabama struggled last season. It finished No. 123 in points allowed (38.8 points per game) and No. 106 in yards allowed per game (448.7 yards). 

Colorado

On Sept. 7, the Huskers travel to Boulder, Colorado, for a showdown with the Buffaloes and new head coach Mel Tucker. 

Colorado began last season 5-0 but lost each of its final seven games. Offensively, the Buffaloes ranked No. 80 in scoring offense (27.1 points per game) and No. 75 in total offense (392.6 yards per game). 

Both quarterback Steven Montez and wideout Laviska Shenault Jr. are back for the Buffaloes. Last year, Montez threw for 2,849 yards with 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions, while Shenault Jr. caught 86 passes for 1,011 yards and six touchdowns and added another five touchdowns rushing. 

Defensively, Colorado ranked 70th in scoring defense, allowing 27.3 points per game. They also ranked 52nd in total defense (380.3 yards allowed per game). 

Northern Illinois

Nebraska closes non-conference play with a home game against the Northern Illinois Huskies on Sept. 14. NIU finished 8-6 last season but went 6-2 in conference play and beat Buffalo 30-29 in the MAC title game. 

The Huskies finished near the bottom of the country in scoring offense last year, ranking No. 121 while averaging 20.1 points a game. NIU also averaged 322.3 yards per game (No. 124).

Northern Illinois returns quarterback Marcus Childers, who threw for 2,175 yards with 15 touchdowns and 10 interceptions as a sophomore in 2018. 1,000-yard rusher Tre Harbison is also back for the Huskies.  

Defensively, NIU held opponents to 22.6 points a game, the 35th-best mark in the country. Additionally, the Huskies ranked No. 40 in yards allowed per game (357 yards). 

Illinois

The Huskers open Big Ten Conference play with a road trip to face the Illinois Fighting Illini. Illinois finished 4-8 last season and went 2-7 in conference play.

Illinois ranked 93rd in scoring offense last season, averaging 26 points per game. Defensively, the Fighting Illini allowed 39.4 points per game, the seventh-worst mark in the country. 

Illinois has holes at the quarterback and wide receiver position but returns M.J. Rivers II, who threw for 547 yards with three touchdowns and three picks in seven games as a freshman last season. Running back Reggie Corbin is also back after rushing for 1,085 yards and nine touchdowns while averaging 8.5 yards per carry last fall.

Ohio State 

NU welcomes Ohio State to Memorial Stadium on Sept. 28. The Buckeyes went 131-1 last fall, only losing at Purdue. 

Ohio State finished No. 8 in scoring offense (42.4 points per game) and No. 2 in total offense (535.7 yards per game). The Buckeye offense loses quarterback Dwayne Haskins and three of its top-four receivers but returns 1,000-yard rusher J.K. Dobbins and adds touted transfer Justin Fields. 

The Buckeyes ranked 52nd in scoring defense last season (allowed 25.5 points per game) and 72nd in total defense (allowed 404 yards per game). 

Northwestern

The Huskers face Northwestern to begin October. The Wildcats finished 9-5 but won the Big Ten West with an 8-1 conference record. 

Northwestern ranked 100tht in the country in scoring offense (24.2 points per game) and 108th in total offense (354.4 yards per game). The Wildcats lose four-year starter Clayton Thorson at quarterback but add Clemson transfer Hunter Johnson, who is competing with fifth-year senior TJ Green for the starting job. The Wildcats also lose top receiver Flynn Nagel but return leading rusher Isaiah Bowser.

Defensively, the Wildcats held opponents to 23.2 points per game (No. 41) and 390.9 yards per game (No. 64). 

Minnesota

On Oct. 12, the Huskers travel to Minneapolis for a matchup against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Minnesota, which lost to Nebraska 53-28 last fall, finished the year 7-6 after beating Georgia Tech in the Quick Lane Bowl. 

The Golden Gophers ranked No. 65 in scoring offense (28.9 points per game) and No. 86 in total offense (380 yards per game). Quarterbacks Zack Annexstad and Tanner Morgan both return after splitting time under center in 2018, as do 1,000-yard rusher Mohamed Ibrahim and 1,000-yard receiver Tyler Johnson. 

Indiana

After a bye week, the Huskers return to action on Oct. 26 at home against the Hoosiers. Indiana finished 5-7 in 2018, including a 2-7 mark in Big Ten Conference play. 

The Hoosiers ranked 88th in scoring offense and 52nd in total offense last fall, averaging 26.4 points a game and 415.2 yards per game, respectively. 

Indiana returns nearly every key offensive contributor, including quarterback Peyton Ramsey and running back Stevie Scott III. Ramsey threw for 2,875 and 19 touchdowns with 13 interceptions last season, while Scott ran for 1,137 yards and 10 scores. 

Purdue

The Huskers begin November with a trip to West Lafayette, Indiana, for a clash with the Purdue Boilermakers. Purdue finished 6-7 last season, posting a 5-4 conference record. 

The Boilermakers fielded the country’s 52nd-best scoring offense last season, averaging 30.5 points a game. They racked up 443.9 yards per game, ranking No. 29 in total offense. 

Quarterback David Blough is gone after throwing for 3,705 yards with 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions as a senior, though backup Elijah Sindelair returns for his senior season. Sophomore Rondale Moore returns after an electric true-freshman season last fall. Moore led the team in receptions (114), receiving yards (1,258) and receiving touchdowns (12). 

Wisconsin

After another open week, Wisconsin visits Lincoln for a mid-November matchup. The Badgers finished 8-5 last season, including a 5-4 mark in conference play. 

Wisconsin ranked No. 62 in scoring offense (29.7 points per game) and No. 36 in total offense (431.1 yards a game). Alex Hornibrook is gone at quarterback after transferring to Florida State, but nearly every other key contributor returns, including star running back Jonathan Taylor. Taylor led the NCAA in both carries (307) and rushing yards (2,194) with 16 rushing touchdowns as a sophomore last fall. 

Defensively, the Badgers held opponents to 22.6 points a game and 344.2 yards a game, ranking inside the top 40 in both categories. However, Wisconsin must replace a lot of production, as it returns only one of its top-five tacklers. 

Maryland

On Nov. 23, NU travels to Maryland for a road contest against the Terrapins in the penultimate game of the regular season. Maryland went 5-7 in 2018, including a 3-6 conference record. 

Offensively, the Terrapins averaged 28.5 points per game and 371.5 yards per game last season. At quarterback, the Terrapins lose Kasim Hill but return Tyrell Pigrome and add Virginia Tech transfer Josh Jackson. Leading rusher Anthony McFarland Jr. also returns after cracking the 1,000-yard mark last season. 

Iowa

The Huskers conclude the regular season at home against Iowa on Black Friday. The Hawkeyes finished 9-4 last year and 5-4 in the Big Ten. 

The 2018 Iowa offense ranked No. 44 in scoring offense (31.2 points per game) and No. 92 in total offense (375 yards per game). 

Quarterback Nathan Stanley returns after throwing for 2,852 yards with 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions as a junior, as do each of the team’s top three rushers. However, Iowa must replace each of its top-three receivers, including first-round NFL Draft picks T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant at tight end. 

sports@dailynebraskan.com