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Hawkeye Football Opponent Preview: Nebraska Cornhuskers

No matter when or where the Nebraska Cornhuskers play next season, a youthful roster will find its way onto the field

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Hey there. As you’re aware if you’re reading this article, we’ve been counting down the days and weeks until the beginning of the Iowa football season and previewing each of Iowa’s opponents in 2020. Welp, earlier this week the Big Ten announced that fall sports will not happen, and there’s “hope” that a season will be played in the spring.

Will the spring season actually happen? If I were a betting blogger, I’d invest my entire life savings on ‘No!’ and that other conferences won’t be playing this fall either, despite their best wishes.

But we’re already here, blogging away about Iowa’s opponents for the upcoming season, and we’re gonna need a lot of content to fill these months, so we’ll keep on keeping on. Just note, we are assuming at this point that these games will get played, and that the rosters in the spring will be the same as the fall. Will that come true? Probably not! But who cares?

This week we’re previewing the Nebraska Cornhuskers, who are entering the third season of the Scott Frost era with even more unrealistic expectations than they usually have: still trying to play in the fall despite the postponement of the season by their own conference.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

2019 Record: 5-7 (4-5), 6th in Big Ten West

Oh, Nebraska Football. Where to even begin?

Entering the third year of the Scott Frost era, the program has yet to accomplish a winning season. They’re so desperate to have a winning season under Prodigal Son Frost that they’re even at odds with the Big Ten Conference over whether they’ll play football this fall or not, hinting at a return to the Big 12, or maybe a spot in the SEC?

Let’s see how that’s working out for them...

Raise your hand if you’re surprised. Scott Frost, put your hand down you don’t count. Nobody else? I thought not. How’s the reception to this cry for attention around the country? About as you’d expect. Check out this great post from AuburnWire for some fantastic context on Nebraska’s attempt to gain relevance in 2020.

Anyways, from a football standpoint, it’s not looking like things will come together for the Huskers this year. No matter when they play, Frost will be playing a very young and inexperienced roster that also features minimal depth. According to Athlon Sports, 70% of the roster is made up of true freshman, redshirt freshmen and sophomores.

Holy inexperience, Batman!

Key Departures

The biggest departure for the Huskers comes from wide receiver JD Spielman, who transferred to TCU in June after logging 898 yards and 5 touchdowns on an average of 18.3 yards per catch. And to top things off, backup quarterback Noah Vedral left the program as a graduate transfer for Rutgers, leaning a lot of inexperience behind Adrian Martinez at quarterback. Otherwise, the offense returns a lot of talent, and the vast majority of departures come on defense.

The defensive departures start with linebacker Mohamed Barry, who tallied 41 solo tackles and a sack while leading the team in total solo and assisted tackles last season as a senior. The defensive line saw the most losses, starting with Khalil Davis, who was drafted by the Buccaneers in the 6th round of the NFL Draft, along with tackles Darrion Daniels, who will suit up for the San Francisco 49ers and Carlos Davis, who will play for the Pittsburg Steelers after being drafted in the 7th round, whenever the NFL officially gets going. In all, the defensive line will be replacing four of five starters.

The kicking game was a struggle for the Huskers last season, and as a result, kickers Barret Pickering and Matt Waldoch left the program, both with eligibility left.

Key Returners

Offensively, we’ll see the return of quarterback Adrian Martinez, who had offseason shoulder surgery on his non-throwing arm after a season in which he tallied 1,956 yards on 59% completion rate, 10 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Martinez also ran the ball for 626 yards and 7 touchdowns. Martinez was part of an effective rushing game that this season will most likely be headlined by Doak Walker Award candidate Dedrick Mills, who logged 745 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, along with Wan’Dale Robinson, who lined up at running back and wideout last year.

Despite missing Spielman, the receiving yards will primarily go to Robinson and Kade Miller for wideouts, and tight end Jack Stoll. The offensive line will be headlined by tackle Matt Farniock, who started every game in 2018 and 2019. The offense will feature 11 total players who have at least five starts under their belts.

Defensively, DE Ben Stille leads the unit in experience with 11 starts over his three seasons. Last season he tallied 13 tackles and 3 sacks. Linebackers Caleb Tannor, Collin Miller and JoJo Domann return as well. The secondary has talent, with talent that can rotate to numerous positions if needed. Marquel Dismuke headlines the group at safety, along with Cam Taylor-Britt, who played six games at safety, three at cornerback, and one at outside linebacker last year, along with Dicaprio Bootle, who started games playing both corner and safety last year.

2020 Preview

Who knows what will happen in 2020, but the Cornhuskers’ 10 game Big Ten Schedule wasn’t going to do them any favors. Road games at Iowa, Ohio State and Purdue are anything but gimmes, and neither are home games against Wisconsin, Penn State or Minnesota. Rounding out that slate are games against Purdue, Michigan State, Northwestern, Rutgers and Illinois, where I see about one guaranteed win over Rutgers — and that could honestly be a toss-up too.

Let’s just say I don’t think this is the year Frost takes the program to the promised land, but there’s certainly a lot of young talent. We’ll see if he can develop it. I guess...if they ever get to play.

And who knows, even if this schedule does happen in the spring, who knows if Nebraska will still be in the Big Ten...

I crack myself up.

Iowa/Nebraska Prediction

Let’s make it 6 in a row. Iowa has more talent than this team, period.

Iowa 34, Nebraska 21