SOC - Nebraska
I predicted 3-9. I still think we're going to go 3-9. We've looked a little better than I expected (at least in certain spots like the defensive line), but we've gone even younger than I expected, which means there are still a lot more mistakes to be made. So I think that leaves me in the same spot: 3-9. Which means we have one more win in us.
For the nine Big Ten games, I think that will be the question as I sit down to write these: is this our win? None of this is a bad thing - we're the youngest team in the country, there's mountains of hope to be found in all of these freshmen who are already starting, we're seeing the beginning of something I think will eventually be great - it's just that we're so, so young. Ten true freshmen started the last game.
So looking over the schedule, where is the likely win? Rutgers is probably the only Big Ten game where we'll be favored, but that one scares me. I just don't think we match up very well. Right now, I honestly feel better about a game like Indiana than I do Rutgers. Indiana is a better team, but my gut right now says we lose to Rutgers but beat Indiana. I also expect us to be better in November than October, so maybe it's Purdue or even Northwestern where we get that win. Lots of opportunities.
But I don't think it's tomorrow night. I don't have a good feeling about this one at all. The reason: Tanner Lee has thrown nine interceptions. If Tanner Lee had thrown 2 interceptions, Nebraska is 4-0 and ranked #18 coming into Champaign. But he did, and so they lost, and so everyone thinks they suck. I don't think they suck. I just think Tanner Lee has to stop throwing multiple pick sixes and handing games to teams like NIU.
As you know, as a #turnoverluck guy, I always look to the opposites. Tanner Lee has thrown nine so far, and I'm guessing he throws 15 on the season, which means he only has six more to spread over eight games. Will he be kind enough to let us have one of them? I'm not sure he will. He's had some really bad luck so far, which means good luck is on its way.
It's one of those things I look for when previewing games. Iowa is +13 in turnover margin? That's going to balance out soon - I suddenly feel better about beating them. Tanner Lee has thrown nine picks? That's going to balance out soon - I suddenly feel worse about beating them. Whenever there's a turnover trend, I look the other direction.
Now, I should say, this is a pretty decent matchup for us. They're a bit like Western Kentucky, and we've shown we can stop a team like that. I could see a scenario where we're consitently getting field goals here and then, find a way to score defensively, and win a low-scoring affair.
But then I think of all the freshmen and feel like this thing could get out of hand quickly. If Lee isn't throwing picks, and especially if sophomore tailback Tre Bryant returns from injury, I'm not sure we have the roster to stop Nebraska. I could see it getting out of hand quickly.
So that means I think I'm landing on "turnovers are the key tomorrow" (duh). If they start handing them out, we're certainly accept, perhaps all the way to the win column. If there aren't any, I'm not sure how we can keep up. I haven't seen the offensive fire power necessary to sustain drives against Big Ten opponents.
Which means I can't see us winning. And I can't see us covering. Until we show some signs of life on offense, I just don't think we can win many of these games. Next year and (especially) 2019? Can't wait. September 2017 with ten true freshmen starting? Not there yet.
Nebraska 27, Illinois 10