s-scorepredictions

Gavin Struve, senior sports editor: Nebraska 34, North Dakota 17

Nebraska has a similar schedule construction to last year with a week zero game away from home followed by an FCS opponent visiting and then a matchup with a Group of Five team. 

The Huskers' hope is that this short stretch plays out similarly to last year when they blew out Fordham in the home opener. However, if North Dakota is anything like it was last year — and it returns a decent amount of production — this game may well prove tougher than Nebraska hopes. 

I outlined how North Dakota was the FCS equivalent of Nebraska last season in my opponent scouting report. All five of the Fighting Hawks’ losses to FCS opponents came by a touchdown or less, and they had a host of statistics eerily similar to the Huskers’. 

Still, if Nebraska respects its opponent, a 21-point spread seems about right against a squad that kept up with the FCS’ best in 2021. Nebraska’s best recipe for success is likely through the air, utilizing junior quarterback Casey Thompson’s arm and exploiting the Fighting Hawks’ secondary that returns just one starter. Nebraska has the upper hand in size and athleticism, especially on the edges, and should utilize its dynamic and mostly new receiving core. New offensive coordinator Mark Whipple did so last week and had considerable success.   

While the Huskers should also hold the edge in the run game, should they choose to lean more on that area, it will likely be less decisive. North Dakota’s quarterback, junior Tommy Schuster, presents some challenges for the Husker defense and could certainly keep North Dakota close — if Nebraska’s offense has some mistakes, and its defense doesn’t come out apoplectic. 

Nebraska has decisive talent advantages at nearly every position and the home-field advantage. North Dakota could make this hairier than most expect, but Nebraska should win comfortably, so long as it respects its opponent and avoids major mistakes. An improved showing by the defense and early gains through the air should get the job done. The Huskers will hope to shut it down early and allow some younger players to see the field.  

Joseph Maier, assistant sports editor: Nebraska 42, North Dakota 20

If not for last week’s loss as a heavy favorite, this may have been considered a trap game for Nebraska. For most teams, a week one matchup with one of the stronger FCS programs would cause concern. For Nebraska, it’s a must-win in the purest sense.

The Fighting Hawks did their best Nebraska impression in 2021—losing five one-score games and finishing with a positive point differential. When they clash with Nebraska on Saturday, only one team can manage to lose in heartbreaking fashion. 

That being said, the Huskers should win this game comfortably. The talent gap is obviously massive and Nebraska's offense matches up particularly well. North Dakota’s defense was solid in 2021, but lost most of its significant pieces. Senior cornerback C.J. Siegel is the only returning secondary piece, which bodes well for Nebraska’s passing attack. Senior linebacker Devon Krzanowski will anchor the defensive unit, but given the turnover, an inexperienced North Dakota defense will struggle to stop the Huskers.

Junior quarterback Casey Thompson should have a field day. If Nebraska gets the Thompson that showed up in the first half of last week’s loss, the Huskers should put up 40 points. I would be surprised if Thompson plays the whole game — this would be a great opportunity to get the backup quarterbacks, sophomore Logan Smothers and freshman Chubba Purdy, some action.

Expect Nebraska's offensive weapons to have huge outings. After seeing how explosive they looked against Northwestern, tearing through North Dakota should be no problem. 

The biggest storyline of this game will be how Nebraska’s defense responds after a surprisingly poor performance against Northwestern. The Fighting Hawks' offense cannot be overlooked. Junior quarterback Tommy Schuster returns at quarterback after a solid 2021 campaign, along with his top target wide receiver junior Bo Belquist. North Dakota averaged 24 points and 403 yards of total offense per game in 2021, similar numbers to what Nebraska posted at the FBS level. 

If Nebraska’s defense lives up to its preseason billing, this game should get out of hand quickly. But for at least a half, I expect North Dakota’s offense to keep it interesting. The Huskers’ offense is far superior, however, and should put up enough points for a comfortable Nebraska win. 

Thomas Codo, sports reporter: Nebraska 38 North Dakota 17

Well, I’ll admit, Nebraska surprised me last week. How well the offense looked here and there, how the defense was steadily picked apart by Northwestern and how head coach Scott Frost opted for an onside kick after scoring 14 points in less than a minute. 

While the mistakes by the players were expected, the onside kick gambit wasn’t. 

So, despite it being a new season, it was somehow the same old Nebraska. 

At the same time, this week isn’t Northwestern, and this game should result in a victory. North Dakota is not one to be slept on, as it put up quite a fight in its 2021 FCS season despite finishing 5-6.

Yet Nebraska has one big advantage over the Fighting Hawks right now — it’s week two of football for the Huskers and only week one for North Dakota. Plus, judging by how Frost, Thompson and others talked about this week’s game on Tuesday, Nebraska isn’t taking its opponent lightly. 

Though I see North Dakota giving Nebraska occasional fits, it shouldn’t cause much panic. Unless the Fighting Hawks come out with a stellar offense and a speechless defensive performance, things should fall on the side of the Huskers.

The Nebraska defense should look relatively better, and if the offense plays like it did last week — when it was producing scoring drives, it could easily put up more than 28 points

However, improvement needs to happen on both sides of the ball if Nebraska really wants a win this weekend to feel like one.

Even if the front seven keeps North Dakota on its toes, there shouldn't be a moment where a receiver finds himself alone for a catch. A touchdown is bound to happen, but it can’t come in the form of a major miscue, otherwise nothing much was fixed from last week. 

Flipping sides to the offense, as mentioned earlier, if it plays as well as it did last week, minus the turnovers, it should have a solid performance. 

sports@dailynebraskan.com