At the start of each week, Land of 10 will break down the postseason implications, and projections, to come out of the Nebraska Cornhuskers’ latest contest …
What happened: The Cornhuskers (3-2, 2-0 Big Ten) put together their most complete and comprehensive performance of the young season, limiting host Illinois to 199 total yards in a 28-6 victory last Friday in Champaign. Quarterback Tanner Lee (246 passing yards, 3 passing TDs) was in rhythm most of the night. Tailbacks Devine Ozigbo and Mikale Wilbon combined for 166 rushing yards on 31 carries.
What it means: More positive momentum and at the perfect time. The Blackshirts now have been responsible for 7.7 points allowed per game over Nebraska’s last three contests — and even if that’s a consequence of three decidedly unimpressive offenses in Northern Illinois, Rutgers and Illinois, it’s also something to build on. The same goes for the power run game, even if using the rush to set up the pass goes against every fiber of coach Mike Riley’s being. For the first time in 2017, the Huskers on Friday had looked for almost an entire game what we’d more or less expected them to look like from the get-go. Now: With Wisconsin on deck, and Ohio State rolling into town after that, can a rebounding roster take another step up? Or two?
Projected record: Massey Ratings — 6-6; TeamRankings.com — 5-7
Projected postseason destination: Heart of Dallas Bowl, Dec. 26, Dallas, versus a Big 12 opponent
Cheapest seat at TheHeartOfDallasBowl.com as of Sunday: $25
Up next: vs. Wisconsin on Saturday. The Badgers (4-0, 1-0) were all over the map in their Big Ten home opener against Northwestern, turning the ball over early, then going on a 24-0 run early in the second half to basically put the game away, then hanging on for dear life late. The truth is probably in the middle there, somewhere, and this is a side that isn’t expected to be rattled much by Memorial Stadium under the lights. But the Wildcats also showed the Huskers (and others) that the key to unraveling Paul Chryst’s offense is to get in quarterback Alex Hornibrook’s face early and often and to force him into decisions that involve throwing the ball too early or having to run — not his strong point — to create time or space. The Badgers have a bell cow of a freshman tailback in Jonathan Taylor, but he’s a freshman tailback on the road. Star tight end Troy Fumagalli, Hornibrook’s favorite target, sat out last weekend because of a left leg injury. On paper, the numbers say the Huskers have a heck of a hill to climb, but this game and this series have a way of veering in directions the experts — and fans — never saw coming.
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