Jacob Bova, Senior Sports Editor: Nebraska 0, South Alabama 0
Drake Keeler, Assistant Sports Editor: Nebraska 45, South Alabama 13
The Huskers are no stranger to losing games to Sun Belt teams, falling 24-19 to Troy in their second game of the 2018 season. However, all signs point to Nebraska avoiding a repeat of last year’s upset.
Unlike in the Troy game, the Huskers will have their starting quarterback healthy and ready to go. Sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez missed last year’s matchup with Troy due to a leg injury, and the offense suffered because of it. This time around, Nebraska’s offense is fully healthy and has another year of experience under its belt, which should make for an easy afternoon.
South Alabama’s defense should also make things easy on the Nebraska offense. The Jaguars gave up 38.8 points per game last year, good for eighth-most in the NCAA. They also gave up 449 yards per game, which was the 21st-most in the NCAA. Nebraska’s offense, which seems to only be getting better, should be able to put points up with ease against a weaker Jaguar defense.
Although the Husker defense was a weak spot for the team last year, this game will give them a great opportunity to show they have improved. South Alabama will be rolling out a new starting quarterback in sophomore Cephus Johnson, who completed seven of his 19 pass attempts last year for 120 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. The Husker defense, which has expressed an eagerness to force turnovers, should be able to prey on Johnson’s inexperience and collect a few interceptions or fumbles. The key for Nebraska will be containing senior running back Tra Minter, who rushed for 801 yards last year and added another 201 receiving.
After an 0-6 start last year, the Huskers should be able to start off on the right foot in a season-opening victory.
Luke Mullin, Assistant Sports Editor: Nebraska 51, South Alabama 21
With last year’s opening game rainout fresh in the memory of Husker fans, many Nebraskans have turned into meteorology experts this week. So long as the rainstorms stay away, Nebraska should cruise to a fairly easy victory in its season-opener.
The Jaguars haven’t had a winning season since 2011 and had a paltry 3-9 record last year. They alternated between starting quarterbacks all year, with neither making an impact nor returning to the team in the offseason.
Instead, sophomore Cephus Johnson, who has just 19 career attempts, will walk into Memorial Stadium as the team’s starting quarterback. South Alabama will figure to ease in the new starter and rely on the running game, led by senior running back Tra Minter, an 800-yard rusher in 2018. However, when the Jaguars went up against their only Power 5 opponent last year, Darrion Daniels’ Oklahoma State unit held Minter to one yard on eight carries.
Nebraska is well-positioned to build on last year’s late-season success and start the 2019 season off right. Martinez’s national profile continues to grow by the day, and for good reason, as the sophomore’s big-play ability is apparent. There are questions at running back, wide receiver and in the linebacking corps, but a mix of veterans and new talent shouldn’t be tested too much.
This game should come down to one simple factor: Nebraska has an explosive offense led by a dominant quarterback, while South Alabama’s untested sophomore will make his first career start. If all goes right for the Huskers, Martinez should be well-rested for week two.