NCAA Football Saturday Picks: Nebraska Cornhuskers at Oregon Ducks

Big South Tournament
Oregon is 14-point favorites in Week 2 play against a Big Ten foe in Nebraksa

Nebraska – Oregon
Time: 3:30 PM CT (9 Sept, 2017)
Spread: ORE -14
Total: 70.5

Odds c/o 5dimes

The Nebraska Cornhuskers began its season with a 43-36 victory over Arkansas State, but Week 2 could present some tougher challenges for the Huskers as they travel to face Oregon as two-touchdown underdogs according to college football oddsmakers at 5dimes.

The point total is set very high at 70.5, in a game that will feature plenty of scoring between two schools far more stacked on the offensive end than the defensive. The game will air at 3:30 (CT) on FOX.

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Nebraska survived a close call last week in edging out Arkansas State. Justice Hansen overthrew Kendrick Edwards on the game’s final offensive play for State, and it enabled Nebraska to hold them off. Nebraska led 27-26 at the half, in a game that was closely contended the entire way. Tanner Lee threw 19 of 32 for 238 yards with a pair of TD passes, while not throwing any interceptions. But it was Tre Bryant who was the star of the game for the Huskers, rushing for 192 yards on 31 carries and scoring one of the Huskers’ two rushing TDs.

No other Husker made any significant contributions from the backfield, though Mikale Wilson did score a TD on one of his two rushes for 15 yards. Stanley Morgan Jr. was the star receiver with five catches for 102 yards and a TD. He also had a long-catch of 44-yards, one of two plays for 35-yards or longer. Nebraska posted a 12.5 yard per reception average on its 19 catches, and Oregon’s secondary should have its hands fall, particularly with Morgan Jr.

Oregon won 77-21 over Southern Utah in Week 1. It allowed the Thunderbirds to rack up 266 passing yards and 99 rushing yards, but Oregon was its typical dominant self on the offensive end. The Ducks had 281 passing yards coming from starting quarterback Justin Herbert, who also threw for a TD.

But its backfield was even more dominant: Oregon rushed for 348 yards on 52 carries, averaging 6.7 yards per attempt and racking up nine TDs via the rush. Royce Freeman went hard, with 150 yards on 23 carries and four of those TDs, while also notching a 28-yard run in the game. Kani Benoit also rushed for 100-plus yards on only seven carries with three TDs.

The Huskers defensive line and tackles are going to have a wealth of problems with three Ducks all capable of amassing big yardage, though Tony Brooks-James had just 32 yards on nine carries in the opener. To see Brooks-James or even one of the fringe backs have a big game this week would not be shocking.

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At wide receiver, the Ducks also had five players with 39 yards or more in the game. The Ducks have plenty of options to air the ball out to, if the backfield is not doing all the damage at any rate. Granted, Oregon will unlikely get over 700 yards as it did in Week 1, but this week offers plenty of chances for the score to be run up, on both teams’ account. Oregon will go on to face Wyoming and California after this game, so the Ducks have a real chance to begin its season 4-0. But after that the Ducks face No. 20 overall Washington State and No. 14 Sanford.

With this being something of a down and rebuilding year for Oregon, it needs to secure victories against teams like Nebraska early on. Oregon finished just 4-8 last season and was only 2-7 in Conference play, but improving on that is no guarantee this year for the Ducks.

Last year, Oregon’s defense was abysmal and allowed 41.4 points per game, ranking near the bottom of the nation at No. 126 overall. The secondary was ineffective, allowing 271.9 passing yards per game, and Tanner Lee certainly has the talent to continue to exploit that this season in Week 2.

The Ducks lost three of its final four games in 2016, and the Week 1 victory can only be taken with a grain of salt given the overall pathetic play of its opponent. What this is to say, is that Oregon is not the heady two-TD favorites it appears necessarily, if only because of how questionable the defense is. While we expect an Oregon win, Nebraska has enough offensive talent to keep this within two touchdowns and thus cover the spread.

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