s-scorepredictions

Gavin Struve, senior sports editor: Indiana 30, Nebraska 28

This game is arguably more unpredictable than any Nebraska has played so far this season. Indiana presents a number of unique challenges stylistically — a pass-heavy offense and weak pass defense despite the veteran playmakers in the secondary — that may actually work in Nebraska’s favor. The most likely outcome appears to be a relatively ugly game between two flawed Big Ten teams. This probably sets up a closer contest than Nebraska would like as the more talented team in its homecoming game. 

Indiana has individual playmakers on its defense, but neither the pass or run prevention is very strong. The Huskers may prefer to run the ball more but it would probably be wise to develop the pass game quickly with junior quarterback Casey Thompson to take advantage of the Hoosier secondary. Conversely, IU’s offensive tendencies suit Nebraska, whose defense is stronger against the pass. Hoosier quarterback Connor Bazelak may be set up to have a similar aerial performance to what Georgia Southern’s Kyle Vantrease had against the Huskers, an impressive yardage total with a couple turnovers. Depending on what you think of Hoosier running back Shaun Shivers, Indiana may or may not boast the rush attack that Georgia Southern did. 

I expect Indiana to move the ball relatively easily against the Huskers but not match the scoring output that Oklahoma or Georgia Southern did in Lincoln. The deciding factor will be how the Husker offense bounces back from its poor first showing. There’s a chance everything will coalesce and the Huskers will enjoy a blowout win in the fashion of last year’s homecoming game against Northwestern, but this season’s prior results don’t seem to indicate that will happen. 

Can Nebraska win the turnover battle and establish the ground game? Those will be the determining factors, assuming no special teams blunders arise. Indiana has already won close games this season, including one against a Big Ten West team, and may have the edge if the game devolves into a one-score contest like I expect it to. I need to see Nebraska win a close game, something it hasn’t done in nearly two years, before I predict it to do so. 

Joseph Maier, assistant sports editor: Nebraska 31, Indiana 24

If the Huskers can’t beat Indiana, they may not win another game this season. 

The list of excuses has run out for Nebraska. Coming off a crucial bye week, the Huskers are set for their most winnable remaining contest — a homecoming game under the lights. 

Homecoming was kind to Nebraska football last season, resulting in their first and only Big Ten victory, a 56-7 thumping of Northwestern. While it won’t be that dominant of a result, I foresee a Nebraska victory. Indiana is 3-1, but has not looked impressive in any of those victories. 

The Huskers are the more talented team, but that has been proven to be negligible this season. However, interim head coach Mickey Joseph has had two weeks to prepare for one of the Big Ten’s lower-tier teams, and his team, especially the offense, should be ready to perform up to its potential. Indiana’s defense makes a case for worst in the Big Ten, saved only by Nebraska’s abysmal unit. They allow, on average, 29 points per game, which should bode well for a Husker offense that had been clicking prior to its embarrassing showing against Oklahoma.

I anticipate a bounce-back performance from junior quarterback Casey Thompson. Nebraska’s abundance of weapons should shine against a secondary that has allowed seven 70+ yard receiving performances this year. Indiana does rank near the top of the Big Ten in sacks, so the Husker offensive line will need to provide some semblance of protection. 

The Husker defense may be a lost cause, but this will be their first contest in the post-Erik Chinander era. Indiana’s rush attack is nothing to write home about, much to the relief of a Nebraska run defense that allows the NCAA’s fifth-most yards per game. The Hoosiers rely heavily on the passing game, attempting a nation-leading 202 passes per game. Expect junior wide receiver Cam Camper to have a big night, but another Marques Buford Jr. interception may be in order, as we saw against Georgia Southern, another team who loves to pass the ball. 

I anticipate a close game with the Husker defense doing just enough to slow down one of the Big Ten’s lower-tier offenses. I think Nebraska will win its first conference game, largely thanks to the two weeks of preparation for Joseph and his staff. 

Thomas Codo, sports reporter: Nebraska 38, Indiana 27

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks for Nebraska football with major changes in the coaching staff. Now, the team comes off a bye and jumps straight into Big Ten Conference play as they look to salvage the season. 

Though Indiana isn’t the toughest Big Ten Conference opponent the Huskers could welcome to Lincoln, it will certainly act as an indicator as to where the team currently stands. 

Nebraska’s defense will face a fast-paced Hoosier offense — one that is coming off a game where it ran 104 plays. The most plays the Huskers have faced in a single game so far this season is 86, which came in their high-scoring shootout loss to Georgia Southern. That, alongside Nebraska's defense giving up an average of 35.5 points per game, makes this a difficult matchup for the Huskers. 

Indiana’s defense hasn’t looked great either, though. The Hoosier defense has given up an average of 29.25 points per game this season, a number that took a dent after Indiana surrendered 75 combined points in the last two outings. With both defenses looking withered, the game will come down to which offense can take advantage.

Nebraska can’t give Indiana breathing room if they jump out to a lead. So far this season, the Hoosiers have made a habit of playing close games but coming alive in the second half. They trailed 20-16 to Illinois before winning, were shutout 10-0 to Idaho in the first half before winning comfortably and came back from an 11-point deficit to beat Western Kentucky in overtime. 

Even in their loss to Cincinnati, Indiana looked much better in the second half than in the first. But because the Hoosiers had to climb out of a 28-point hole, they weren’t able to complete a comeback. 

If Nebraska is looking to walk away with a win, it needs to score enough first-half points to make sure Indiana can’t rally back. 

sports@dailynebraskan.com