Jacob Bova, Senior Sports Editor: Nebraska 31, Northern Illinois 14
Two years ago Northern Illinois came to Lincoln and pulled off the upset in a close 21-17 game. Don’t expect history to repeat itself this Saturday when the Huskies come to town.
This Husker team is different in so many ways than the team that lost two years ago. Additionally, the manner in which Northern Illinois won two years ago is not sustainable as they had two pick sixes that day. Head coach Scott Frost will have the team focused, and the mental mistakes that plagued the Huskers two years ago will not be a problem.
Northern Illinois is not a team to take lightly. It has a talented defense that could cause problems for the Husker offense, which has been slow out of the gates. The talented linebacker duo of Antonio Jones-Davis and Kyle Pugh will make it hard for the Huskers to run up the middle, which has been something the Huskers have struggled to do so far this season.
This game should go similarly to Northern Illinois’ game last week against No. 11 Utah where the Huskies led in the first half and were only down four at halftime. Utah went on to win 35-17 which is what I would expect the scoreline to look like. While some want a resounding blowout after the loss to Colorado, Husker fans should be happy with a relatively comfortable win against a solid Group of Five team like Northern Illinois.
Drake Keeler, Assistant Sports Editor: Nebraska 49, Northern Illinois 20
The Huskers were supposed to blow out an inferior opponent in week one, but struggled and came out with a 35-21 win over South Alabama. This time around, Nebraska will get the job done and win by a healthy margin.
Through two games, the Huskers have looked nothing like the top-25 team they were touted as to begin the season. They struggled more than they should have against South Alabama, and blew a 17-point lead to Colorado, losing in humiliating fashion.
Northern Illinois has looked good for a Group of Five team so far this season, beating Illinois State 24-10 in week one and hanging with No. 11 Utah in week two before falling 35-17. However, expect the Husker offense to make big plays on Saturday to put up points on the Northern Illinois defense.
Nebraska’s defense should also be strong in this one, despite giving up 24 points in the fourth quarter against Colorado. The Blackshirts have done well to force turnovers this season, along with having a run defense that ranks No. 26 in the country. That run defense will come in handy when it comes to stopping junior running back Tre Harbison. Harbison, a 1,000-yard rusher in 2018, was held to just 32 yards in the Huskies’ loss to Utah. If Nebraska can continue the trend and limit Harbison’s production, that should make things a lot easier.
After failing to make a statement in their first two games, the Huskers will put the past behind them and cruise to a win Saturday night. A comfortable win against Northern Illinois won’t bring back all the hype that was present before the year started, nor should it, but it’d be a step in the right direction for a Nebraska program surrounded with questions.
Luke Mullin, Assistant Sports Editor: Nebraska 40, Northern Illinois 21
If last week had gone as the Huskers planned, Nebraska would be sitting pretty in the AP Top 25, with the momentum of an undefeated season on its side. Instead, the Huskers are facing some tough questions about their season just two games in. Thus far, Nebraska has shown tantalizing flashes, but hasn’t put together a complete four quarters of football. This week could be a perfect opportunity to change that.
Husker fans will want to erase the memory of Tanner Lee’s interception-laden performance two years ago against Northern Illinois, but this year’s team can learn from the mistakes of the past. Northern Illinois isn’t the most talented team, but it will hang close no matter what, and a few mistakes can give the Huskies the push they need to pull of a victory.
Sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez hasn’t played his best football this year, without a consistent rushing attack to support him. The defense has been the Huskers’ most consistent group, although they faltered late against Colorado. And on special teams, Nebraska will start a punter at kicker for the second straight week.
Far from Nebraska’s fairytale season which fans envisioned, the Huskers are at a week three crossroads. It’s time for them to put up or shut up, and the end result may dictate how the rest of the season goes. A resounding, solid win could erase the sting of last week’s defeat and get the Huskers back on track.