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Previewing the Nebraska Cornhuskers

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How good will Mike Riley’s team be?

NCAA Football: Iowa at Nebraska Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest matchup in Oregon’s non-conference schedule comes in week three when the Ducks travel to Lincoln to take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers. The bulletin board material has already been posted in the Ducks locker room thanks to Nebraska starting guard Tanner Farmer saying they “will be the crap out of them”. Big words from a guy who hasn’t played a down of college football. Of course, this matchup didn’t need much more ammo as former Oregon State coach Mike Riley knows the Ducks well.

Quick facts:

League- Big Ten

2015 Record- 6-7 overall, 3-5 in league

2015 Points Per Game: 32.5

2015 Points Per Game Allowed: 27.8

Head Coach: Mike Riley (sound familiar?), 2nd year

Offensive Coordinator: Danny Langsdorf, 2nd year

Defensive Coordinator: Mark Banker, 2nd year

Trends:

Mike Riley looks to continue the turnover for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. A big help in his second season in Lincoln is that he will return his starting quarterback, running back and leading wide receiver. Although, the Cornhuskers got hurt on both sides of the line as members of both lines are now scattered across NFL training camp rosters.

Last year was a roller coaster for the Cornhuskers as they entered the bowl season with a 6-6 record. In the bowl season, Reilly’s team knocked off familiar Pac-12 foe UCLA in the Foster Farms bowl 37-29. However, the most memorable win on the season came in early November when Nebraska knocked off the then sixth ranked Michigan State Spartans by just one point.

Offensively the Cornhuskers use many similar things that we saw in Corvallis, with motion, two tight end sets and shot gun formations. The goal is to get the playmakers in Armstrong, Westerkamp and Newby out in space. Defensively they line up in a base 4-3, which will be interesting to keep an eye on seeing that they lost many talented players off the defensive line last season.

Riley did have a strong recruiting class in his first full year, as with many players graduating or leaving early he was able to fill up the board. Two players who could play right away on the offensive line are four stars John Raridon and Matt Farniok. Defensively, the six ranked safety Marquel Dismuke could play early as well as four star defensive end Quayshon Alexander. The prize of the class though is the third ranked athlete in the class, Lamar Jackson out of California.

Key players:

Tommy Armstrong Jr., #4, senior quarterback, 6’ 1”, 220 lbs.

Named to the O’Brien and Maxwell award watch lists to start the season, the senior looks to improve off of the play he had to end the year last season. He is a dual threat who put up over 3,400 total yards last season and 29 touchdowns (seven rushing) last season. His best game last year came against Michigan State with his four total touchdowns.

Terrell Newby, #34, senior running back, 5’ 10”, 200 lbs.

Starting eight games last season, Newby is the Cornhuskers best returning rusher with his 765 yards and 6 touchdowns last season. Also a threat to catch out of the backfield, Newby had 24 catches for 159 yards last season. Health could be something to watch, as he had an ankle injury that severely slowed him down to end last season.

Jordan Westerkamp #1, senior wide receiver, 6' 0", 200 lbs.

The senior captain wide receiver will be one guy the Ducks can’t lose sight of. One of the best wide receivers in the conference, Westerkamp had a stellar season last year falling just short of 1,000 yards while reaching the end zone seven times.

Nathan Gerry, #25, sophomore safety, 6' 2", 220 lbs.

Leading the Cornhuskers in both tackles and interceptions last year, Gerry is undoubtedly the returning leader of the defense. Last year however, Gerry had the help of a solid defensive line to put pressure on quarterbacks, not sure we’ll see the same thing at least in the early going of this year while the freshmen get their feet under them.

What to watch:

The hype. The hype train on this one is already rolling thanks to the comments by Tanner Farmer. Of course it helps build the anticipation with the Mike Riley situation. With home games against Fresno State and Wyoming there’s every reason that the Cornhuskers will be undefeated going into this one. It’ll be important for the Ducks to not buy too much into the hype and just prepare for the tough environment without the outside distractions.