Nebraska vs. Northwestern

Jacob Bova, Senior Sports Editor: Nebraska 30, Northwestern 26

The more I think about this game the more I feel like Nebraska will lose. This has trap game written all over it. Northwestern has gotten off to a slow start at 1-3 and frankly has to win this game. If the Wildcats don’t, then they will need to win five of their last seven games to become bowl eligible, and they still have Ohio State and Iowa on their schedule.

Never underestimate a team when they have to win a game, especially when that team is led by Pat Fitzgerald. His teams are tough as they play every game close — this one will be no different.

With all of this being said, Northwestern’s offense is anemic and hasn’t proven an ability to move the ball at any point this season. There are questions at quarterback as starter Hunter Johnson is questionable for Saturday’s contest. If he can’t go then it will be up to Aiden Smith to lead the Wildcats. Neither has been particularly good this year so it will be an upfield battle on that side of the ball.

Defensively, Northwestern is as good as they are bad on offense. Led by All-American linebacker Paddy Fisher, the Northwestern defense will be a tough test for a Husker offense that sputtered last week. While I anticipate the Huskers to struggle at times, they will put up enough points to hold off Northwestern.

Luke Mullin, Assistant Sports Editor: Nebraska 38, Northwestern 28

When it comes to Nebraska-Northwestern games, they are anything but typical. The two teams have met eight times since Nebraska joined the Big Ten and the road team has won six of those matchups. For Nebraska, the games have ranged from the spectacular (2013 Ron Kellogg’s Hail Mary) to the downright depressing (2018 collapse). With an average margin of victory of 6.1 points in those contests, it’s going to be another close one.

Just as in previous years, Nebraska seems the more talented team and is favored to win the game. But if eight years worth of Northwestern-Nebraska have taught me anything, it’s that the Wildcats always play with a chip on their shoulder. They may be a far cry from the team that won the Big Ten West last year, as they have serious concerns at quarterback, but a strong defense and decent rushing attack can keep the Wildcats competitive.

Throughout the week, Nebraska coaches and players have emphasized that Ohio State is out of sight and out of mind. In the words of Bill Belichick, they’re on to Northwestern. And for good reason, because the Huskers can’t allow a loss like that to linger. If they have any doubts on Saturday, those could interfere with Scott Frost’s classic rallying call to play without fear of failure.

Nebraska has an opportunity to keep its season trending in the right direction this week. Sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez won’t have another three-interception day, but it’s up to the entire team to play better, not just Martinez. If that doesn’t happen, it could be yet another frustrating Nebraska-Northwestern matchup.

Drake Keeler, Assistant Sports Editor: Nebraska 24, Northwestern 20

In 2018, Northwestern came back from a 10-point deficit late in the fourth quarter to win in overtime and send Nebraska to 0-6 for the first time in program history. The Wildcats are always a difficult team to deal with regardless of record, as they seem to be able to stay close with anybody.

That being said, Nebraska will take care of business this time around. 

Northwestern’s offense has been atrocious to start the year, ranking last in the Big Ten in total yards and already having 11 turnovers. The Wildcats have lost key contributors from last year, such as quarterback Clayton Thorson and wide receiver Flynn Nagel. Nagel had 220 receiving yards and two touchdowns against Nebraska last year. This year, no Northwestern receiver has more than 150 total receiving yards through four games. 

The Blackshirts, who have forced 10 turnovers this year, should be able to create more turnovers against whoever Northwestern brings out at quarterback on Saturday. Freshman running back Drake Anderson might cause some trouble on the ground, but Nebraska will be in even better shape if it can slow him down at all. 

However, Northwestern’s strength is its defense, which should make life hard for a Husker offense that is also turnover-prone. Martinez had three turnovers against the Wildcats last year, and has struggled to hold onto the balls so far this year. If Northwestern can force Martinez to turn the ball over a couple of times, it may put the Wildcat offense in better positions to put up points. 

Even against a dangerous Husker offense, Northwestern will keep the game close. The Wildcat defense making plays may be their best chance to beat Nebraska for the third straight year, but the Huskers will do just enough to come out with the win. 

sports@dailynebraskan.com