Time: 8 PM EST
Spread: NEB -28.5
M/L: NEB -8000, FS +3375
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
The Nebraska Cornhuskers return fourth-year starting QB Tommy Armstrong Jr, and last year finished with a 6-7 mark while still managing to win a Bowl appearance over UCLA at the Foster Farms Bowl. The Huskers have the coaching in place to make Armstrong succeed, but the OL is going to be rebuilt and lost NFL draftee Alex Lewis over the offseason.
Nebraska will move sophomore Nick Gates to LT, and he is a physical player with plenty of presence. The Huskers will seek to rush the ball plenty this season, and last year they ran for 180.0 yards per game, tied for 52nd in the nation. The Huskers averaged 32.8 points and 446.9 yards per game, ranking No. 43 and No. 34 in the country, and there is enough offensive potential to eke out a better season this year in Armstrong’s final NCAA campaign.
Devine Ozigbo carried it 21 times in the bowl game last year, and he could do that regularly this season. Senior Terrell Newby has 1,360 career rushing yards and is able to function in a variety of roles within Riley’s sets.
Armstrong has a top notch WR available when he does air it out, with Jordan Westerkamp being a strong senior who can make plays. Brandon Reilly and Alonzo Moore are also both senior WRs bringing plenty of experience to Armstrong’s primary targets this season.
The Cornhuskers had a -12 turnover margin last season, and that has to improve this year to have much more than another middling campaign. There were issues last season that may not have been avoidable, but Riley has enough talent in Lincoln to keep this team afloat in the Big Ten at least.
The schedule really is tougher this year with home/away, and last season the Huskers won two of its final three games, including a 39-38 win at home against Michigan State. This year it opens as four-plus TD favorites in Week 1 against Fresno State.
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Fresno State finished last season just 3-9 and is now 29-23 in the four years coached by Tim DeRuyter. The Bulldogs have searched for a new QB coach, and the team has cycled through six QBs in the past two seasons while going just 9-17. The post-Derek Carr era has been dark.
Fresno State this season will turn to restart freshman Chason Virgil and hope to end the cycling at the QB position. He is a former four-star recruit, and his true freshman season was held back by a broken clavicle just three games into the season. He completed 31 of 56 passes for 298 yards, with three TDs and three INTs in parts of those three games.
The offensive system this season will minimize QB responsibilities to some degree, and the OL is led by center Jacob Vazquez. The new OC Eric Kiesau was an offensive analyst at Alabama last season, and he is seeking to simplify things some while installing a multi-set system this spring.
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The Bulldogs have plenty of talent at the skill positions, including WRs KeeSean Johnson and Da’Mari Scott. Virgil is the key to this offensive unit, and it looks to improve on a 2015 that saw it average just 22.3 points and 315.1 total yards, ranking No. 107 and No. 121 among FBS Division 1 schools. 2015 fell apart quickly for Fresno, and the team had 14 newcomers a year ago.
DeRuyter moved around a lot of players, and some stability should help this season. The New offensive coordinators will have a heady task in front of them this season and being four-plus TD underdogs to Nebraska is no small task either, of course.
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