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3 keys for Nebraska football vs. Northwestern



Nebraska football
Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

With both teams fresh off a bye week, here are three keys for Nebraska football to beat Northwestern on Saturday.

The Nebraska footbal team has a big opportunity in front of it on Saturday as the Northwestern Wildcats come to town. Not only can the Huskers keep themselves in the Big Ten race with a win, but they would actually have a winning record in the second half of the season for who knows how long.

It’s time for the Huskers to start building on their success and leaving their failures in the past. Northwestern is viewed by some as the worst team in the Big Ten, but the Wildcats are 3-3 overall and 1-2 in the league.

Quarterback Ben Bryant’s status is up in the air for the Wildcats. That’s something to watch before Saturday but regardless of his status, here are three keys to a Nebraska football win.

Run the damn ball

One thing I love about Matt Rhule and Marcus Satterfield is that when they find something on offense that works, they stick with it.

The Huskers haven’t hesitated to run Heinrich Haarberg and they need to pound the rock with him against the Wildcats. Haarberg and Anthony Grant are Nebraska’s best offensive weapons, along with Thomas Fidone.

Getting the ball to Fidone will be important. But not as important as pounding the rock. Nebraska averages 200 rushing yards per game which is second in the Big Ten behind Penn State.

Northwestern allows 172 rushing yards per game, which ranks worst in the Big Ten. It’s a matchup made in Heaven for Nebraska football and the Huskers need to be able to take advantage.

Don’t turn the ball over

Northwestern has one key statistical edge going into this matchup with Nebraska football and that’s turnover differential. The Wildcats are at zero. They don’t turn the ball over much. They also don’t take it away.

Nebraska is averaging 2.2 giveaways per game. The Huskers are averaging one takeaway per game on defense, which is also a number that needs to be improved.

The red-zone turnovers have been killer for Nebraska this season. Turnovers derailed the Huskers in Boulder before the train even got out of the station and losing the turnover battle is one way that Nebraska can put itself in jeopardy on Saturday.

Hit the quarterback

Northwestern also has the worst rushing offense in the Big Ten. The Wildcats do prefer to throw the football so that’s part of it and they had plenty of success doing that against the Huskers in 2022.

I don’t see Northwestern having much success on the ground. Cam Porter has averaged four yards per attempt, but the Wildcats rush for just 100 yards per game as a team.

Northwestern ranks 10th in the Big Ten in passing yards per game (203). Having Bryant back will be a huge boost. However, it shouldn’t matter for Nebraska, as long as the pass rush does its job.

Northwestern is 13th in the Big Ten in sacks allowed. Nebraska is tied for 6th in sacks with 16 total, while the Wildcats have allowed 22.

The pass rush has toned down in recent weeks after a blazing start and I’d like to see it get cranked up with four or five sacks on Saturday.

If Nebraska wins the line of scrimmage, it’s going to win the game and that’s probably the biggest key overall is just winning the battle up front on both sides of the ball.

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Chris has worked in sports journalism since 2005 writing for multiple newspapers and websites such as the Bleacher Report and Fansided before starting Husker Big Red, A fan site for hardcore followers of the #Huskers offering articles, podcasts, videos and more exclusive content on all things Nebraska