Nebraska Cornhuskers vs Northwestern Wildcats Game Preview


Everybody needs someone in their life who views them the way Northwestern Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald looks at his offensive coordinator Mick McCall. The fact that Fitzgerald has kept McCall on his staff, in spite of all the years of poor results, epitomizes loyalty.

It’s the truest and bluest that true blue can be. We’re 1/3 of the way through the season and Northwestern ranks 128th out of 130 nationally in scoring (15.5 points per game) and 129th in yards per play at 3.93.  The Wildcats starting QB, Hunter Johnson, has one touchdown pass and 367 yards passing, in total, thus far this season.

pat fitzgerald

The sputtering offense isn’t anything new to this season either, as it’s been in steady decline since 2012. Courtesy of, h/t Chicago Tribune, the annual rankings in scoring looks like this: 83rd, 101st, 114th, 87th, 56th and 100th. The yardage rankings read as follows: 84th, 122nd, 122nd, 100th, 98th, 124th.


Although it’s really impressive of the defense and special teams that they were somehow able to win a power conference division last season with an offense that ranked so close to the bottom in yards and points!

NU Bowl FYIs Saturday, October 5th

3:00pm CT – Northwestern at Nebraska (Memorial Stadium; Lincoln, Neb.)

FOX: Tim Brando, Spencer Tillman, Coley Harvey

WGN Radio: Dave Eanet, Ted Albrecht, Jeff Budzien

SPREAD/TOTAL: Nebraska Cornhuskers -8,  50.5

Big Ten Basketball Media Day Power Rankings: go to this link

Radio Segment on 1620 The Zone, Severe and Benning:

Nebraska Cornhuskers  (3-2, 1-1) Preview:

The NU bowl has become a very unexpected rivalry; fantastic finishes and even steven matchups have made it so. The Cats and Huskers series is knotted up at 4-4 over the last eight, with an aggregate point spread equal to just three touchdowns and three extra points.

The last two went to OT. In 2013, Nebraska won on a hail mary pass thrown by a walk-on third string QB. In 2011, a 3-5 Northwestern team upset #9 Nebraska in Lincoln.

Pat Fitzgerald on the rivalry:

“I’ll go back to when I was a kid… the Nebraska game was always on when I was a kid… it felt like they were playing Oklahoma every week… Did I ever think Northwestern and Nebraska would become a rivalry? As a kid, I think I would say no.”


Nebraska comes into this one reeling from a boat racing at the hands of Ohio State. They entered this season ranked, as NU was considered a trendy pick to win the division this year.

It’s been more hype than substance thus far, as the Cornhuskers have been plagued by turnovers. At times, they have really been their own worst enemy.

“Our guys need to be very aware of taking care of the ball,” said Nebraska coach Scott Frost.

“The turnovers last week, a lot of credit goes to them,” said  I think that’s a really good team. They created a couple and we had one that was a bad break. We didn’t put any on the ground and I want our guys to be really conscientious just about taking care of the football.”


Northwestern Wildcats (1-3, 0-2) Preview:

You really have to hand it to the NU defense, which ranks 11th nationally in the SP+ ranking. That unit has really brought it this season thus far.

“I think they’re getting really pissed off,” said Fitz of that side of the ball.

“They’re getting annoyed with our offense and the lack of production… the excuse of being young is over… there needs to be a higher of consistency and play.”

It also doesn’t help that the offense has been so poor at taking care of the ball, as NU opponents have scored three defensive touchdowns already, putting the D in an even tougher spot.

hunter johnson

At times, the Wildcats have actually been pretty decent at running the ball, and the rushing attack did okay versus Michigan State, a team that doesn’t ever allow anyone to run it against them. However, that passing game though- it’s hard to put it into words at this point.

Mick McCall and his staff basically have a Ferrari, but they’re driving it with the parking brake on and leaving it parked outside in a polar vortex blizzard every night. On the season, Johnson, the class of 2017’s #1 rated quarterback recruit, has a 4.1 yards per attempt. The Clemson transfer also has a QBR of 22.3, to accompany the dismal statistical numbers previously cited.

Dabo Swinney wasn’t wrong on this guy. Neither were the recruiting services. Although it’s been rare, we’ve seen some glimpses this season; at least when it comes to technique and fundamentals.

 “I think he’s trying to find a way to win and he’s trying to do too much,” Fitz said of Johnson Monday….”man, he cares. He’s working really hard and it’s going to get better.”

It won’t get better until the staff opens up the playbook and lets Johnson take more shots downfield. full stop.

Sure, it’s going to be a much bigger challenge to do that, now that we know Bennett Skowronek, the team’s best receiver, is out injured for the next month, at least. However, the Cats didn’t really start taking more shots down the field until late last week, when they had their backup QB in and the game was already out of hand.

It’s mind-boggling, when you consider that Wisconsin had to play a third string and a second string safety for the first half, due to suspension.


Prediction: Nebraska Cornhuskers 24, Northwestern Wildcats 14 

The 25 points scored in the first two conference games is the lowest for Northwestern since 2007. The first 1-4 start for Pat Fitzgerald looms.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC and Chicago on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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