The pandemic kept Nebraska from heading to Ireland to open the 2021 season against Illinois. A year later, the Cornhuskers are making the trip for what should be an exciting 2022 college football season opener vs. Northwestern. The Huskers lead the series between the teams, 9-6, and crushed the Wildcats last season, 56-7, covering the spread as 11.5-point favorites. Here we look at Saturday’s odds and offer a pick on this Big Ten contest.
Northwestern has won three of the last five against Nebraska, but it is a massive underdog in Dublin, catching nearly two touchdowns at sportsbooks, according to oddsboards on Wednesday.
Nebraska vs. Northwestern Odds, College Football Week 0
NCAAF · Sat (8/27) @ 12:30pm ET
|Aviva Stadium, Dublin, IL|
Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-9 SU, 7-5 ATS in 2021)
Scoring was not an issue for the Cornhuskers in 2021 and will probably not be a problem in 2022. The team has a new starting quarterback behind center. But head coach Scott Frost found a pretty good one via the transfer portal (Casey Thompson from Texas) and a trio of talented wide receivers (Trey Palmer, Marcus Washington, and Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda).
If new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple can do for Thompson what he did for Kenny Pickett last year at Pitt, the Nebraska passing game could be brutal for defenses to deal with this season.
On the defensive side of the ball, there is a lot of experience coming back. But the defense was pretty bad in 2021, so that is not necessarily a good thing. The unit struggled to generate turnovers, was the worst in the Big Ten in sacks, and had a hard time getting opposing offenses off the field.
But with help from the transfer portal, there is a good chance the defense improves dramatically this season.
Northwestern Wildcats (3-9 SU, 3-9 ATS in 2021)
After making it to the Big Ten title game in 2020 and finishing the year with a 7-2 record, including a win over Auburn in the Citrus Bowl, there was a lot of hope for the Wildcats heading into 2021. But as fans know all too well, that hope quickly turned to despair in a disastrous 3-9 season.
Will the 2022 season be any different?
It’s hard to say. The strength of the team is its offensive line (four returning starters). If they can stay healthy, Northwestern has enough talent at running back to have a solid running game in 2022, in addition to a veteran quarterback in Ryan Hilinski. But he was not too impressive last year, and he does not have much to work with at wide receiver.
As for the defense, it was terrible last season, and it is hard to say it will be much better this season. The team found some help for the front four via the transfer portal, and Bryce Gallagher is a solid linebacker. While three starters are back in the secondary, the unit managed just six interceptions last season.
Nebraska vs. Northwestern Betting Analysis & Pick
Northwestern’s best hope is for their offensive line to control the line of scrimmage, allowing them to run the ball 30+ times (hopefully for good yardage). The less the defense is on the field, the better. But even if that happens, there is no reason to think Northwestern’s secondary can slow down Thompson in the passing game.
Thompson may need a quarter or two to get the offense on track. But once he does, fans can expect fireworks.
Our Pick: Nebraska at -13. It’s a big spread, but there is no reason to think this game will be a close one.