It will certainly be an interesting environment for Rutgers to play their first road game of the season in, as the atmosphere in Lincoln, Nebraska has been tense, to say the least. With the Cornhuskers athletic director, Shawn Eichorst, getting fired on Thursday and head coach Mike Riley coaching for his job in every game moving forward, Rutgers will be facing a Nebraska team mired in adversity and uncertainty, not to mention having several key players fighting through injuries.
How both teams respond in Saturday’s game will be fascinating to watch. As of Friday, Nebraska is a 12 point favorite in this game. However, Rutgers has nothing to lose in this game and optimism is plenty among our contributors ahead of the opening kickoff. Here are our staff predictions for Rutgers at Nebraska.
Bob Cancro: I caused all the trouble this week, so I guess I need to start this off. Forget statistical analysis, forget data. This is a blood and guts game. For Nebraska, this is a gut check. Reeling as this season opens (and if you believe their fans, reeling since the 90’s), they are an unfamiliar and uncomfortable 1-2. They got problems, which became more "interesting" with the firing of AD Shawn Eichorst. Rutgers needs to show who they are: are they the improved and competitive team that played Washington or the dazed and confused team that faced Eastern Michigan? The Morgan State game, despite the naysayers who say “Big deal, you crushed a bad FCS team”, winning against Morgan State and winning that big (and with class) was important. Coming out strong will be the key for Rutgers (Nebraska, too). Bring the “A game” and RU can win. Make dumb mistakes and shoot yourself in the foot and the Huskers are back at .500. This doesn't happen often, but.... Rutgers 21 Nebraska 17
Jim Hoffman: I’ll be honest, I agree with Aaron when he said on Wednesday that Rutgers has nothing to lose, and everything to gain. No one expects much from Rutgers, so they have the opportunity to play spoiler in almost every game they play. Best of all, they are better than they have been given credit for being, so they can actually be successful in the spoiler role.
Nebraska is teetering on the brink of disaster, and it is difficult to know whether the Huskers will show up wanting to prove themselves, or ready to fall into the abyss. My take is simple: if Rutgers can make early noise by holding Nebraska defensively and demonstrate an ability to move the ball, this is a game they will win. I think they can do it, notwithstanding the inevitable comeback Nebraska will attempt to mount in the 4th quarter. The Scarlet Knights have a great opportunity to take one from a legendary program on Saturday. Rutgers 24 Nebraska 20
Dave White: I think there's a good chance that Nebraska isn't a good team. If this game were at High Point Solutions Stadium, I might go so far as to pick a close win for the Scarlet Knights. But, alas, this game is in the Corn Huskers home. And a place like that--even with empty seats--is the kind of place that will rock and can intimidate a young team. Rutgers will need a lot of grit from Kyle Bolin and Gus Edwards--senior leadership--to stay in this one. And Jonathan Lewis will have to be electric against a quality opponent. I'm not sure Rutgers is there yet. I say this game is close at halftime, but gets away from the Knights once the band is off the field. Nebraska 38 Rutgers 14
Mike Voza: I believe all Rutgers supporters can approach this game with plenty of hope and optimism. Normally a trip into Memorial Stadium in Lincoln is a daunting task but perhaps not this week. This is not your Father's Nebraska football eleven. The Knights and the Huskers enter with identical records. Nebraska struggled to beat Arkansas State, allowed 42 points to a post Chip Kelly Oregon squad and was beaten at home by Northern Illinois. Perhaps its no coincidence that Nebraska has fallen off the National Football Scene when they stopped recruiting the Great State of New Jersey (Rich Glover, Irving Fryer, Mike Rozier to name a few).
The Scarlet Knights should be primed for an upset and Vegas is telling the public that it is double digits. I do not agree with the city in the desert and I think that Rutgers can leave Lincoln with a W. The quarterbacks are going to pose a planning and preparation problem for defenses from here on out. The receiving corps will be able to stretch a defense far and wide. If the Knight defense can prevent the big play and can get off the field on third downs, there will be a very happy plane ride back to Liberty Airport. RUTGERS 23 Nebraska 20
Aaron Breitman: I am hopeful that Rutgers can play their best game of the season and leave Nebraska by putting a scarlet fork in their season, but I’m not confident that will actually happen. I think this will be a tight game and our defense has a chance to make a big impact. However, to win on the road, you have to win the turnover margin and Rutgers hasn’t proven to be capable of doing that yet against a quality opponent. If they do break through with a victory, it will be because the defense wrecked havoc and forced multiple takeaways, while the offense was efficient and mistake free. However, Rutgers also needs a few big plays on offense and I'm in wait and see mode with this unit as they face a Big Ten defense for the first time this season. I think this team will play hard and they will have a chance to win, but sadly I see another stomach punch loss to add to the list through the years, as this game slips away late in the 4th quarter. Maybe I’m damaged goods, but that’s my take. Nebraska 23 Rutgers 17
Patrick Mella: Before the season started I predicted this team would win four games, and I’m sticking to it. I know the Eastern Michigan game was a tough pill to swallow but they’ve still pretty looked good in two of the three outings, leaning me towards being more on the optimistic side. There aren’t too many games after this week that you’d give Rutgers a chance to win, so this is a game they need to try and find a way to pull out. Road games are always a challenge but I think sometimes playing away from home can also have a galvanizing effect on a team. They’re going into a game that most people expect them to lose anyways, so why not embrace that underdog role? Rutgers has the luxury of playing loose and by that I don’t mean being careless with the ball or killing yourself with penalties. But also not waiting until the 3rd quarter or until we’re down by two touchdowns to start opening up the playbook. They’re loaded at the running back position (how great did Raheem Blackshear look last week?!) so I expect them to continue to be a run first team. But I’d like to see Bolin take a few shots down field early and possibly grab a lead in the first quarter, if nothing else to keep the Nebraska defense honest. I know, I know, just get to the prediction Pat. The two headed quarterback monster that is Kyle Bolin and Jonathan Lewis reigns supreme! Rutgers 21 Nebraska 17
David Anderson: We had a great comment by one of our readers about how to say Nebraska is in turmoil but Rutgers still won’t win, “that’s how losers think.” That is true about some of the RU fan base, myself included, but as long as the team itself doesn’t feel that way at this point, doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that even if the coaching staff for once opened things up and played to win, Rutgers passing offense is simply not good yet. It should get there eventually since they have Grant AND Jerome Washington who require double coverage. Arkansas State kept pace with the Huskers because they passed 68 times for 415 yards, does anyone on this planet believe any QB on the Rutgers roster could throw for 415 yards in a game right now, no matter how many attempts? Sure Nebraska may rush three, but Rutgers has more surrendered coverage sacks than on blitzes. Lewis has not thrown a standard drop back pass in his career, but I do think that switch will flip at some point this season and he will truly be dangerous. That has not happened yet and until Rutgers shows a sustained passing game, the Huskers have just enough at home to save Mike Riley’s job for another week. Nebraska 21, Rutgers 20.
Rob McKoy: I expect Nebraska to begin the game strong The Cornhuskers have a disappointing season thus far. Rutgers needs to stay composed. The Scarlet Knight need to try and replicate everything about last game. Nebraska will play desperate football. The first conference game for both teams and they have a lot to prove. Rutgers will have to take advantage of the shaky quarterback play. Tanner Lee has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns this year. The Knights biggest weapon has been defense. I expect the defense to keep pressure on Tanner and win the field position battle. Rutgers 24 Nebraska 17
Cara Sanfilippo: I really want Rutgers to win, but after our embarrassing loss to EMU, I’m skeptical. It makes me really sad to feel this way, as I truly love our team. I saw an interesting Instagram post the other day by our parent site, SB Nation:
We keep it classy here at OTB, so I am posting more to reiterate Mike’s post that this is not the powerhouse team it once was, and it is possible we can win the turnover battle. While we didn’t not fare well against QB Tanner Lee when he was at Tulane, the stats speak for themselves and the defense has been the strongest unit so far this season. On the other hand, Cornhusker fans are angry, and Mike Riley will have his team coming to win knowing his career is on the line. To me, it comes down to this, are we going to be the Rutgers team that owned the time of possession, rushing yards, and total plays against Washington, or the team that was laden with mistakes and was intercepted twice against EMU? If we are the first, then I think we can pull out an upset. If not, well this could be an extremely long season. Nebraska 27, Rutgers 24
David Brown: Nebraska is coming off a big loss against Northern Illinois. This is make or break for coach Mike Riley because the Cornhusker nation takes football a little different than Rutgers nation. To Nebraska fans, Cornhuskers Football is religion. It's a way of life for these fans which they pack the Memorial Stadium every Saturday and create the "Sea of Red". This is a passionate football fanbase but at their detriment, it can create unnecessary pressure on the coaching staff and the student athletes.
Rutgers is coming off a 65-0 victory against Morgan State. Though it was against an FCS team, a win is a win for the Scarlet Knights. The freshmen gained more game experience and learned to execute their plays. Johnathan Lewis was named "Freshmen of the Week" by the B1G conference when he scored four touchdowns against Morgan State.
I think the pressure is more on Nebraska than Rutgers. Rutgers doesn't have anything to lose at this point. There's a ton at stake for Mike Riley and their staff. I think Rutgers could pull an upset if they execute the running game and get Janarion Grant more involved. Nebraska is in panic mode and could make some mistakes. It's up to Rutgers to capitalize on their mistakes and win the ball game. It won't be easy and their crowds are consistently large but I think Rutgers may have the upper hand this week due to circumstances. Rutgers 24 Nebraska 21
What do you think will happen in this game? Sound off in the comments and make your own prediction!