Nebraska football is coming off of an involuntary bye week with the Wisconsin game being canceled, but the Huskers will be back in action on Saturday as they take on Northwestern.
Northwestern has started strong, blowing out Maryland by 40 points to open the year and coming back to beat Iowa 21-20 last Saturday. It’s still early in the season, but here are some players to watch for the undefeated Wildcats.
Peyton Ramsey, QB:
There’s only so much you can take away from two regular-season games, and that is especially the case with Northwestern senior quarterback Peyton Ramsey.
In the Wildcats’ season-opening win against Maryland, Ramsey had 212 passing yards and a touchdown along with 47 yards and a score on the ground. Last week against Iowa, he had just 156 total yards for no touchdowns and an interception.
Part of that dropoff between games likely has to do with the quality of the opposing defense, as Iowa posed a much more difficult threat than Maryland. Regardless, it’s hard to get a complete picture of how well the graduate transfer is performing in the Northwestern offense.
All that being said, his performance against Nebraska in a different uniform last year truly makes him an important player to watch. Ramsey played for Indiana last season, and picked apart the Blackshirt defense for 393 total yards and three touchdowns in the Hoosiers’ 38-31 victory.
Ramsey threw the ball 40 times in last year’s matchup, and it’s unlikely he does that this time around, given that Northwestern’s offense is geared more towards the run. Still, the secondary will have to do its best to limit his impact on the game.
Isaiah Bowser, RB:
As previously mentioned, the Northwestern offense prides itself on running the football. Through two weeks, the Wildcats lead the conference in rushing attempts per game with 56.5 and rushing yards with 234.
Although sophomore Drake Anderson had over 100 yards on the ground in the season opener, it will likely be junior running back Isaiah Bowser leading the charge on Saturday. Bowser has led the team in carries over the first two weeks, with 23 against Maryland and 25 against Iowa. He hasn’t been phenomenal when he’s carried the ball, averaging just 3.2 yards per carry, but he got in the endzone twice against the Terrapins.
On Saturday, Bowser may see 20-plus carries once again. The Huskers stopped the run well at times against Ohio State, and will need to keep that up to beat Northwestern.
Paddy Fisher, LB:
The strength of Northwestern over the last few years has been its defense and a strong linebacking core in particular.
The star of the unit is senior Paddy Fisher, who was a second-team All-Big Ten selection by the media in 2019. Fisher tied for the team lead in tackles with 88, while also racking up six tackles for loss, one sack, three pass deflections, an interception and a forced fumble.
Fisher led the Wildcats with 10 tackles against Nebraska in 2019 and had a pass deflection. The Husker offense will be a key factor in Saturday’s game, and they’ll have to do their best to reduce Fisher’s impact if they want to score more than the 13 points they did last season.
Charlie Kuhbander, K:
Usually, a kicker might not make it into these articles. However, given that the last three games between the Huskers and Wildcats have been decided by a single score, special teams could decide the game.
Last year, that’s exactly what happened. Senior kicker Charlie Kuhbander, a junior in 2019, missed one of his two field goal attempts against the Huskers in the fourth quarter. Nebraska ended up winning the game 13-10 on a last-second field goal, meaning Kuhbander’s miss was costly.
Kuhbander has had a perfect start to 2020, hitting all three of his field goal attempts and all seven extra point attempts. Against Iowa, those extra points were crucial, as the Wildcats won by one point.
If Nebraska and Northwestern go down to the wire again this year, Kuhbander will have a chance to redeem himself.