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Rutgers Football Game #9 Preview vs. Nebraska

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The Scarlet Knights will host Nebraska during Championship Week.

Rutgers v Maryland Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images

How To Watch, Stream & Listen

Nebraska at Rutgers

Where: SHI Stadium, Piscataway, NJ

Kick-off: Friday, December 18 at 7:30 PM ET

Weather: 19 degrees, clear with a 7% chance of rain, 2 mph winds

TV: BTN with play-by-play, color, sideline: TBD

Stream: FOX Sports App

Radio: RWJBarnabas Health Rutgers Sports Network (WCTC 1450-AM, WOR 710-AM, WENJ 97.3-FM, XM 196, Sirius 133) with Chris Carlin (play-by-play), Eric LeGrand, Ray Lucas, and Anthony Fucilli (sideline).

Current Spread: Nebraska -6.5

Series History: Nebraska leads 4-0; last meeting in 2017 when Nebraska defeated Rutgers, 27-17

SB Nation Nebraska site: Corn Nation

Statistical Leaders

Rutgers

Passing: Noah Vedral - 136-for-221, 61.5%, 1,253 yards, 9 touchdowns, 8 interceptions

Rushing: Isaih Pacheco - 473 yards on 109 carries, 4.3 ypc, 2 touchdowns

Receiving: Bo Melton - 42 catches for 557 yards, 13.8 ypc, 6 touchdowns

Defense: Olakunle Fatukasi - 98 tackles, Mohamed Toure - 4.5 sacks, Christian Izien - 2 interceptions

Nebraska

Passing: Adrian Martinez - 84-for-123, 68.3%, 800 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interceptions

Rushing: Adrian Martinez - 364 yards on 65 carries, 5.4 ypc, 5 touchdowns

Receiving: Wan’Dale Robinson - 45 catches for 382 yards, 8.5 ypc, 0 touchdowns

Defense: JoJo Domann - 56 tackles, Will Honas - 3 sacks, Myles Farmer - 2 interceptions

What to watch for

Rutgers has successfully gotten through eight Big Ten contests in eight weeks. This is nothing to scoff at. Let’s take a look at the facts.

Only two other Big Ten teams (Iowa, Penn State) have been able to play their entire schedule. The Scarlet Knights have won three games, their compiled total from the past two years. The offense has taken a massive leap this season. It is an accomplishment to get through the daunted Big Ten conference over the course of two months without a break.

Kickoff was originally slated for 4:30 PM ET on Friday afternoon. With it being delayed three hours, both teams will have to endure the low temperatures of New Jersey in December.

“I think the snow will be gone by game time. Maybe not being gone from the ground, but being gone as a condition we have to deal with,” Schiano said Thursday during his news conference. “I think the bigger thing is going to be just really frigid temperatures. It’s supposed to be single-digits by game time. I don’t think I’ve ever coached in single-digits. Maybe I have when I was in Chicago going out to Green Bay. But I was in the press box. All I had to do was get through warmups.”

When Rutgers has the ball

It is still too early to tell if Noah Vedral will be available for this game. Schiano has not ruled it out just yet — and there is a specific reason why.

“Noah is doing everything possible to get ready to play this game,” Schiano said. “He would do that no matter who we were playing, but certainly with it being Nebraska he’s even extra motivated. I can’t tell you right now what it’s going to look like. It may be so darn cold he won’t know his ankle is hurting him. We’ll see. It’s going to be a game day decision.”

Vedral could run on adrenaline to get on the field against his former team but if he is unable to go, Artur Sitkowski will be ready.

Sitkowski came in relief during Rutgers’ 27-24 overtime victory against Maryland. He finished 14-20 for 108 yards and a touchdown. Sitkowski has not turned the ball over yet when he is in there. That is a testament to Sean Gleeson for having a game plan ready to fit each quarterback.

With single-digit temperatures, this is a game that may not come down to the quarterback position. The Scarlet Knights are going to use the run game which means a lot of Isaih Pacheco. Kay’Ron Adams and even Aron Cruickshank should get in on the action as well.

When Nebraska has the ball

The Cornhuskers are a bit like the Scarlet Knights. They have downfield threats in Robinson and Zavier Betts but the quarterbacks have struggled with accuracy and consistency when throwing deep. Head coach Scott Frost has a clear plan for his offense.

Martinez dominates the Husker offense, whether it is through the air or on the ground. Nebraska has had extreme uncertainty in their running back group this season. Dedrick Mills is the team’s leading rusher at the running back position with 209 yards.

“Sevion (Morrison) was hurt, then came back, then got COVID, then had another injury,” Frost said. “Marvin (Scott III) kind of the same thing … when you had that stuff going on, it’s just hard to give the guys the reps they need to develop on time.”

On a night like Friday, the Cornhuskers will have to control the tempo of the game and do so on the ground. Both Martinez and Luke McCaffrey will be utilized on the ground. This is something that the Scarlet Knights might welcome.

Both Olakunle Fatukasi and Tyshon Fogg are having exceptional years for Rutgers at the linebacker position. The Rutgers’ defense is going to play a huge factor in this game. They are near the top of the conference in forced fumbles and in single-digit weather, there could be some more chances with the ball rolling on the ground.

Can Rutgers win this game?

These teams have glaring similarities. Inconsistency at quarterback, downfield threats in the passing game, a group of running backs. Rutgers will be home in this one and right now, they are the team that is playing better football, despite being almost a touchdown underdog. It is never good to use the word “should” with Rutgers. We have been burned with that word this year, just think back to Illinois. But once again, it is beginning to creep it’s way into fans’ vocabulary. For now, we will avid it and just say yes, Rutgers can win this game.

Final thoughts

We have learned many things from this COVID-ridden, pandemic season.

First, all those people who might have said that they did not want Schiano back on the sidelines, you were wrong. If you have not noticed over the course of eight weeks, Schiano is a darn good football coach.

Second, winning is more fun than losing. This is something that Rutgers might have forgotten about over the years. The 2020 season has seen Rutgers win three games with a chance for four. Let’s not forget that this was an all Big Ten schedule. Rutgers had meetings with Syracuse, Monmouth, and Temple cancelled. That was a chance for three more wins which could have this team at 6-5 right now.

Side note, the Friday night kickoff is pretty cool this week. It’s time to sit back, relax, and settle in for a late night of Rutgers football.