Here are five thoughts on the matchup of Northern Illinois for the Nebraska football team.
It’s a new week for Nebraska football. The Huskers will be home for the first time this season on Saturday and they are in desperate need of a win.
The entire Nebraska football fanbase. Heck, the entire state needs a win after the heartbreaking loss in Week 1 and the lopsided defeat to Colorado in Week 2.
Both losses were marred by self-inflicted wounds. The Huskers have the worst turnover margin in college football. They also have the most sacks.
Nebraska is an 11-point favorite right now against Northern Illinois and here are five thoughts for the Huskers ahead of their home opener.
Jeff Sims will start if healthy
During his Monday press conference, Matt Rhule made it clear that Jeff Sims will be the starter for Nebraska football going forward, as long as he is healthy.
Sims did miss practice on Sunday due to his high-ankle sprain. Those are tricky injuries and Henrich Haarberg could be starting on Saturday.
We’ve talked about Sims at length. It’s fair to say he hasn’t played well. Even Rhule said, “Jeff has to take care of the ball.”
The running ability is a real asset. It’s up to the coaching staff to get his head right and to allow his talent to come forth. It hasn’t happened during the first two weeks but it will need to if this team is going to start winning this season.
Nebraska is crazy thin at quarterback
This whole Jeff Sims situation shows how thin the Huskers are at quarterback. Whether it was due to injury or ineffectiveness, Rhule should have had a backup plan in place.
Maybe Chubba Purdy is it and just needs to get healthy. He certainly had some good moments during the spring and the fall. Haarberg did too and led a scoring drive on Saturday.
We know Haarberg can run and the offense will need to change if he’s the starter. But my question is that if Sims can’t play and Chubba is too hurt to start, then who is the backup against Northern Illinois?
Haarberg is a running quarterback and those guys tend to get beat up. The hope is probably that Purdy or Sims could play in an emergency, but this is all a reminder of why you need to recruit a QB in every single class.
A familiar face starting QB for NIU
Rocky Lombardi is expected to start for Northern Illinois on Saturday and strangely enough, it will be his second start for a second team in Lincoln.
Lombardi started the 2018 game against Nebraska for Michigan State. The Huskers ended up winning that one and the former MSU starter returns with Northern Illinois.
Rocky is completing just 54 percent of his passes and has one touchdown compared to three interceptions. Last week, NIU scored just 11 points in a loss to FCS opponent Southern Illinois.
Lombardi is averaging over 230 yards per game through the air, but efficiency has been an issue and hopefully, the Huskers can take advantage.
Northern Illinois has beaten Nebraska before
The Huskers are 3-1 against Northern Illinois all time, but Mike Riley lost 21-17 to NIU back during the 2017 season, so it’s possible. Nebraska isn’t a huge favorite and if the Huskers are minus three when it comes to turnover ratio again, another loss is very possible.
NIU is ranked 98th in scoring offense, but 19th in scoring defense. So there are some similarities between the two teams. Just remember, the Huskies have beaten Nebraska football before — meaning this isn’t a game that fans should just assume goes Nebraska’s way.
Matt Rhule needs a win
Nebraska football fans had a meltdown after the 0-2 start. It wasn’t that it wasn’t predictable, the start I mean, but I don’t think people saw it happening the way it did.
Last Saturday was really disheartening. Rhule knows that. He also said that this is what he does. He’s a builder. It’s true that success doesn’t happen overnight. Mike Norvell at Florida State is a good example of that.
However, Rhule can’t afford to start 0-3. The Huskers need to win and they need to look good doing it in an effort to relieve some pressure and build some confidence.
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