Week 9: Rutgers at Nebraska

    Rutgers (5-2) at Nebraska (6-1) Oct. 25, 12:00, ESPN2 Here’s The Deal: There was a time not all that long ago when Nebraska was the new guy on the Big Ten

    October 24, 2014

    Rutgers (5-2) at Nebraska (6-1) Oct. 25, 12:00, ESPN2 

    Here’s The Deal: There was a time not all that long ago when Nebraska was the new guy on the Big Ten block, but now it’s old school compared to Rutgers, who’s coming up with a nice first part of the season, but might have to fight to get that sixth win to become bowl eligible. 

    The Scarlet Knights lost in heartbreaking fashion against Penn State, and got blown out by Ohio State, but they’ve been able to get to 5-2 with a good passing game and just enough defense to get by. With Wisconsin up next, and road games at Michigan State and Maryland to finish things up, Rutgers has to either beat Indiana in a few weeks, or it’s going to take a massive upset to avoid a disastrous back half. This is a good team, but it needs a great win after beating Washington State, Navy and Michigan on the resume – beating Nebraska in Lincoln would be a national statement moment for the program, and a killer for a Big Ten that needs as many teams with strong records as possible. 

    Still deep in the College Football Playoff hunt, 6-1 Nebraska would almost certainly get in by winning out – especially if it can avenge an earlier loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten championship. This begins a nice run of three home games in the next four, hosting Purdue and Minnesota over the next few weeks, but having to go to Wisconsin and Iowa. If the Huskers really are good enough to be around the big four, they need to take care of this relatively easy slate – yes, Wisconsin is easy – and they need to use their terrific ground game and offense to blow past Rutgers. It’s a bit of a measuring stick moment considering Ohio State’s success last week – Nebraska doesn’t need to destroy the Scarlet Knights, but they need to win handily. 

    This is just the second meeting between the two with Nebraska winning the first time around 28-0 in New York in 1920. 

    Why Rutgers Might Win: Nebraska’s secondary has been challenged a little bit, but now it’s about to get pushed. Miami and Bray Kaaya threw for 359 yards and three touchdowns, and while Michigan State’s Connor Cook was a disaster at times – hitting 11-of-29 throws – he pushed the ball throwing for 234 yards. Nebraska’s secondary is doing a great job in terms of completion percentage – quarterbacks are connecting on 48% of their throws – but it’s getting beaten a bit too much deep by the decent passers. 

    Why Nebraska Might Win: It always comes down to this for everyone who plays Nebraska – can you stop the run? The answer for Rutgers is yes, but last week against Ohio State was a concern giving up 324 yards and four scores. Even when the defensive front was holding its own, it was giving up almost five yards a crack to Tulane and 4.5 per try to Michigan, allowing 15 rushing scores over the last six games. On the other side of the ball, the Rutgers offensive line is way too leaky, allowing 44 tackles for loss. The RU ground attack is okay, but it’s not going to control the game. 

    Who To Watch Out For: The Rutgers passing game spreads it around to several different options, but the main man continues to be Leonte Carroo, a 6-1, 205-pound junior who makes his grabs count. Last year he averaged 17 yards per catch with nine touchdowns on just 28 receptions. This year he’s averaging 19 yards per pop with five touchdowns on 34 grabs, coming up with two 100-yard games in the last three, catching seven passes for 140 yards and three touchdowns against Tulane and five for 100 yards against Ohio State. Nebraska has the eighth-ranked pass efficiency defense. 

    What’s Going To Happen: Nebraska will start running and won’t stop. The Rutgers defense doesn’t do enough against the better offenses, and it’s about to have a bad day as Ameer Abdullah runs for 200 yards in an easy Husker win. 

    Prediction: Nebraska 38 … Rutgers 20 
    Line: Nebraska -17.5 o/u: 58 
    Must Watch Factor: 5: Dumb and Dumber To – 1: Manhattan Love Story … 3 

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