Northwestern Preview 2021

Now we get into a four game stretch of some pretty winnable games.

I made mention that if you look at history where we are 3-15 against our last 7 opponents of this 2021 season since Frost arrived, it tells you we have no shot to win enough games and get to a bowl. We have to have more wins in 7 games than we have combined in 3 years against these teams. But if you look at just this year, I don’t mind saying we are close and it’s more than doable. That may be skewed a bit by our defense, but when you have a unit playing that well, it keeps you in every single game. Thus why the phrase “defense wins championships was created. However, we are 2-3 and still awaiting our first P5 win heading into our 6th game of the season. Never fear Husker fans, because I was taking a look at Northwestern film, and we are going to absolutely blow the doors off these guys. They are badddddd.

I know what you are saying. “SSO, Fat Titzgerald always plays us close and we are 1-2 against him!” I get that, and I feel foolish typing this. But everything they do plays right into what we are good at. And they have worse football players this year than teams like Michigan State and Oklahoma. Covid-19 gave every NCAA football player an extra year of eligibility and teams are extremely old, yet Northwestern lost almost everyone from 2020 where they won the West. I think they only have 3 starters returning on offense and 4 defensively, so it really has been a work in progress. While they looked awful early, they put up a fight second half against Duke and blew the doors off Ohio last week (Ohio is reallyyyyyy bad).

In my season preview I had us winning this game and one of the reasons was the fact that Northwestern lost their DC this offseason to go along with not returning very many guys. Further, they lost their best offensive player Isaiah Bower who transferred to UCF. Cam Porter was slated to take his place at RB, but his season stopped before it began with a season ending injury in fall camp. You then think that QB Hunter Johnson transferring in from Clemson will be your next Peyton Ramsey from 2020 (who transferred in from Indiana and led them to the West division title). But Hunter Johnson has disappointed and was benched during the Duke game in favor of the backup who I don’t even know his name because he ended up getting hurt and will be out for this game as well. So now they have South Carolina transfer and 3rd string QB Ryan Hillinski at the helm. While I try not to get too optimistic with that considering we lost at home to Purdue in 2019 who was without Rondale Moore and started a third string walk-on QB, it’s pretty tough to ignore just how bad Fitzgeralds team is right now. Had enough of how bad our opponent is?

Northwestern is statistically bad in pretty much every category except running the football. They are 68th in the country in scoring offense (ahead of us which is weird), they are in the 100s for passing the ball, and really the only thing they do well is run the football and try to chew up clock. But even that becomes a disaster for them at times, as they are only 59th in the country in time of possession percentage. This truly is a perfect storm for a Nebraska team that is in desperate need of finding the win column.

Watching them against Duke, they were in shotgun quite a bit and played 2 TEs much of the time. They even had 3 TEs on the field at the same time here and there. That’s what i’m talking about though where what they are going to try and do plays right into our strengths. We are better on the DL than Duke and our LBs are studs as well. We are going to bottle things up like this:

And you’ll see Domann come flying backside to make plays like this all game long:

But they started going under center quite a bit against Ohio last week like this:

Nebraska installs their defense against single backs, so if Northwestern comes out with fullbacks keep a close eye on that. I just think under center is a losing battle against our rushing defense and a fullback won’t matter. We are such a veteran defense they’ve seen it before ran by better football players. So they are going to be forced to throw and that will end in disaster for the Wildcats. Duke got all sorts of pressure and i’m expecting at least 3 sacks from the Blackshirts because their OL is pretty close to as bad as ours. I don’t see them scoring many points at all against us. I actually think they will get a little desperate and we will see way more of this wildcat than can be effective in a real game:

When Nebraska is on Offense

Defensively, i’m quite certain that Northwestern is going to sell out to stop the ground game against us. They run an even front (4 DL) and the safety will come insert down to help with numbers and stop Martinez. I am expecting a huge day from our WRs because of one on one matchups like this as the safety comes into the box, and i’m betting Manning, Betts, Toure, and Martin are better than Duke’s WRs. Duke essentially runs our offense, so we can watch how they attacked Northwestern and do it even better:

And even when they are selling out to stop the run, I think this is a good game for our OL to get right. I’m actually predicting we have a good rushing day against the Wildcats and it will have everyone saying “See! This is exactly what we knew could happen!” Here Northwestern has a corner on the bottom that has no clue what to do to stop the run:

I’ll say it again, look for our OL to have a huge day and one of our RBs to have a 100 yard day. Also, i’d almost take the overs on Toure receptions now if you can. This is an RPO we have in our playbook, where the slot WR just runs a slant and we will complete these all day against them:

I realize our offense has been inept, but Northwestern is just a bad football team right now. Nebraska needs to use this game to have someone other than Martinez have a big day on the ground. Against every Power 5 team we’ve played, Adrian Martinez has led our team in rushing attempts. Before I was kicked off the other site, I had made mention that a way that teams try to create numbers in the box offensively and get the running game going when they struggle is with QB runs because you add a +1. Here’s a video of what I mean as it’s a QB draw to get the first:

First, this isn’t good because our OL can’t create a push to get our RBs free on the downs prior. But second, if you keep having our only QB get hit like this it will spell disaster in a game down the road that we should win unless he has to sit out. This game will have our OL feeling better about ourselves. And quite honestly we need to have as healthy of a Martinez as possible against Michigan if we want any shot to upset them. it’s amazing the spot we are in right now with how bad our OL is this year when we were reading this type of stuff in the offseason:

This is our get right game. People will be asking why the new guys haven’t started the whole time, so I caution people to not overreact. But it’s also important to build on the success we will have tomorrow.


This Northwestern team is about as bad as Buffalo was. This is probably one of the worst teams i’ve seen from Pat Fitzgerald in a long time. I understand they always play us close, but it just isn’t happening this year. For all of the fans that hate reading negativity, this is your Saturday. Because it’s going to be a double digit blowout for Nebraska and it will never be close, and next week you can “I told you we were close” all over message boards with positivity.

But the long and short of this, is we don’t make a bowl game this year and probably go 3-9 if we can’t beat Northwestern. I still think we are getting to 5 wins at least with a shot at 6 and a bowl game. But again it all starts this weekend. According to ESPNs FPI rankings before the season (and currently), the Wildcats are our fourth easiest win behind Fordham, Buffalo, and Illinois. You can’t have a repeat of week 1 happen and lose to an awful Northwestern team at home. And we won’t.

Saturday will be a great game for us to get positivity and our attitude right heading into a night game at home against Michigan. Currently, Michigan has the better players, but the Northwestern game will give our players the confidence they need to try and upset the Wolverines who are vulnerable right now. Just come out healthy.

Nebraska 35 Northwestern 13

Go Big Red!

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17 thoughts on “Northwestern Preview 2021

  1. Ok, I’m just going to say what I’ve been thinking…if our O-line and special teams can somehow show improvement against Northwestern and we can put a bunch of points on the board, I think we have a really good chance to knock off Michigan under the lights at home, and if we beat Michigan, I think we have a good chance to run the table.

    We’ve proven we can hang with anyone, we just need some success on the offensive side of the ball to get their confidence to the same level as the defense’s.

    Now our o-line is so bad I’m not sure they’re fixable this season, but if changing their pad levels and benching a couple of guys can make a difference this week, I think our offense could take off and if it does, the team’s confidence is going to be sky high.

    Add a bye week (or two?) to heal up and keep fine-tuning, combine that with the Ohio St and Iowa games being at home, and I think we would win the last four games.

    I will now put down my glass of koolaid.

    1. Oh boy… I appreciate the optimism I suppose. I don’t think Northwestern will tell us much about us, this is basically a Fordham and Buffalo game in my opinion. However, I do think it will give us a ton of confidence and give us a chance to knock off Michigan at home. We don’t have a prayer if we aren’t sitting 3-3 (which I think we will be).

      I’m a little concerned that we haven’t played anyone all that great yet. Teams like Ohio State are a completely different animal. But to your point, our defense might be able to keep us in it with anyone.

      1. If we’re not 3-3, we’re dead…no bowl, another losing season, crappy recruiting class and probably a bunch more transfers.

        But if we win, we’ve got a streak of “coulda won/shoulda won/did win” going into Michigan which should make us dangerous facing Michigan at home and at night. And if we can add a win against a ranked Michigan team, we would have a really nice trajectory going into the back half of the season.

    2. Yeah, I don’t think beating Northwestern handily will tell us much. I wouldn’t be surprised to see our OL and Special Teams APPEARING to look good today, then us getting creamed by Michigan where it all looks the same.

      I’m to the point now where I hope we do well in these type of games, but I’m not going to really read much into any positives, just like Buffalo, Fordham, or Illinois. Oklahoma showed me our Defense could be respectable (even though it also showed IMO Oklahoma wasn’t as good as advertised).

      For me, I’ll be paying attention to Michigan, Ohio St, Wiscy, and Iowa to see how we look. The other games I don’t think are guaranteed wins, but don’t know if I’ll read much into them.

  2. Hi, SSO. Off topic but I thought I’d ask.
    Lincoln East has a QB who is lighting it up again this year. Is he even on Nebraska’s radar as a walk-on? If not, why?

    1. I bet they will try to get him to walk-on. If i’m him i’m heading to South Dakota or North Dakota State though. That would be a great landing spot for him rather than trying to walk-on and beat out guys they’ve given a scholarship to.

  3. Interestingly, that’s exactly what I called Northwestern on the “other site.” Looks like Buffalo to me. I even used the term, “bad,” when describing Northwestern. And went so far as to suggest if we don’t beat Northwestern, Frost should be fired on the spot. If we don’t beat Northwestern, I doubt we win another game. Purdue may have seemed like a win prior to the season, but their defense is significantly better this season. Frustratingly, the Big Ten West minus Iowa is really poor. The Big Ten as a whole is not near its typical level. We may never again have this much opportunity to win a lot of games…

    1. I knew they were bad, but I didn’t think they were that bad. Nebraska made them look that way of course. I don’t think i’ve ever seen a Northwestern team look like that. Trying to get some stuff up for the recap, but it’s nice not having to rely on special teams that’s for sure.

  4. Purdue 2019 was on the road. We’ve not played them in Lincoln since we lost that winnable game in 2018.

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