We are less than 48 hours away from the start of week 0. The slate of games is nothing to get overly excited about but we do have a few games worth watching. The premier game of the weekend is Nebraska vs Northwestern which is being played in Ireland. This game provides early season storylines which will be impactful for both programs. Nebraska has struggled under Scott Frost and is looking to start the season on a high note. A loss to Northwestern would kickstart the movement to replace Frost. Northwestern is also coming off a 3-9 season but has made two appearances in the Big Ten championship since 2018. The Wildcats are looking to become bowl eligible again after missing one last year. Week 0’s Nebraska vs Northwestern is number two in 99 Things.
Most fans are curious how Nebraska will look on offense this season. Adrian Martinez transferred to Kansas State after starting the past four seasons. Frost used the transfer portal to find his next quarterback. Casey Thompson will start for the Cornhuskers after being the primary starter for Texas last season. Frost also hired Mark Whipple from Pitt who helped produce Kenny Pickett and Jordan Addison. If Whipple has a sliver of success he had at Pitt, Nebraska should have a vastly improved offense. Look for Marcus Washington and Trey Palmer to be impact players at receiver after transferring into the program.
Nebraska had a strong defense in 2021 which helped them stay in every game. The Cornhuskers may have finished 3-9 but every loss came by nine points or less. Nebraska finished 37th in scoring defense allowing on 22.7 points per game. Frost also added edge rusher Ochaun Mathis from the transfer portal. Mathis was named second team All-Big 12 in 2021 after registering 45 tackles, 7.0 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks. The Cornhuskers needed to add playmakers on defense after only one player finished with more than 2 sacks last fall. Mathis will help the Cornhuskers apply pressure to the quarterback and create disruptive plays.
Northwestern’s offense was downright terrible last year. Pat Fitzgerald’s team averaged just 16.6 points per game last fall which ranked 125th in the country. Northwestern is unlikely to name a starting quarterback before Friday. The competition is between incumbent Ryan Hillinski, sophomore Brendan Sullivan and junior Carl Richardson. Indications have pointed to Hillinski getting the nod once again. Whoever is named the starter will need to rely on Malik Washington to repeat his success from last season. Washington was one of the best offensive playmakers for the Wildcats after finishing the season with 578 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
The Northwestern defense has become known for being one of the best in the Big Ten. The defense took a major step back dropping to 89th in scoring defense after having one of the best in 2020. The Wildcats also ranked last in rush defense allowing 6.2 yards per rush last season. One of Northwestern’s best players, Brandon Joseph, opted to transfer to Notre Dame following the season. The defense will be led by edge rusher Adetomiwa Adebawore. Adebawore was an all-around playmaker for the Northwestern defense last year. He finished the season with 8.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, one interceptions and two forced fumbles.
This game is more important to Nebraska than it is to Northwestern. Frost needs this victory or the media and his fan base will likely turn on him. Frost also made significant changes to the offense which should result in more points being scored. Northwestern’s offense is unproven and inconsistent which is one of the main reasons why I am taking the Cornhuskers in this game. Look for Thompson to have a strong debut throwing for at least 250 yards in his first game. Northwestern will keep the game close until halftime but Nebraska’s new and improved offense will be too much in the long run.
Nebraska defeats Northwestern 38-17