Quick 2019 Recap:
Entering last season, high and unrealistic expectations surrounded the Nebraska Cornhuskers program as they entered year two under Scott Frost. Reality would soon set in that Nebraska was not going to take the Big Ten and college football world by storm when they fell to Colorado in week two, 34-31. They’d pick up their second and third wins of the season in their next two games to start the season 3-1, but once they got into the heart of conference play, they struggled.
Starting with a 48-7 loss to Ohio State in the final week of September, the Cornhuskers would drop six of their final eight games of the season, including a four-game losing streak in the middle of the season. While the 5-7 record was an improvement from their 2018 campaign that saw them go 4-8, it still marked the third straight losing season for the program, their longest such stretch since the 1959 to 1961 seasons.
Offensive Player To Watch: QB Adrian Martinez
While his sophomore campaign last year was a disappointment compared to his freshman season, Martinez still has the talent to be a dangerous quarterback at any given time. The dual-threat quarterback has rushed for 1,200 yards through his first two seasons and has accounted for 42 total touchdowns. If he takes a step forward as a passer or even rediscovers what he showed as a freshman, the Penn State secondary will have to be careful. As a freshman, he completed 64.6% of his passes for 2,617-yards and 17 touchdowns. Those numbers fell drastically last year, as he completed just 59.4% for 1,956-yards, and 10 touchdowns.
Defensive Player to Watch: LB JoJo Domann
While defensive back Dicaprio Bootle is probably Nebraska’s best defensive player overall, we’re going to go with linebacker JoJo Domann. Domann put together a really nice junior campaign in 2019 for the Cornhuskers racking up 52 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, and 2.5 sacks to go along with one interception, five pass deflections, one forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries. It’s safe to say Domann has the chance to be a game wrecker in any game he plays and that’s not always easy to do from the linebacker position.... Well unless you’re Micah Parsons, then it’s probably pretty easy.
Major Changes for 2020: Following their disappointing 2019 season, the Cornhuskers made some major changes to their coaching staff. For starters, offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Troy Walters was let go and would be later replaced by former Washington co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Matt Lubick. The Huskers made several other positional coaching changes as well. Additionally, the Cornhuskers also recently loss star wide receiver JD Spielman to the transfer portal, which is a major hit to a receiving corps that already had questions coming into this season.
Penn State Wins If: This could end up being a scary game for the Nittany Lions: They’re going into a hostile stadium against a team you know will be hungry for a major victory at home over a probable ranked opponent, not to mention it could be right in the part of the season that Nebraska could be finding their stride. However, it’s also the second game of a four-game stretch for Nebraska that features Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa, and Wisconsin, with only the Nittany Lions traveling to Lincoln. That being said, Penn State wins this game if they play smart and clean football by limiting their mistakes and not allowing Nebraska any glimmer of hope. On paper, this is a game Penn State should win by double-digits.
Nebraska Wins If: The Nittany Lions make too many mistakes in terms of penalties and turnovers. I have no doubt this Nebraska team could be decent in 2020, and they have the skill players on the offensive side of the ball to do damage against the Nittany Lions. Penn State has historically always struggled with dual threat quarterbacks, and I expect Adrian Martinez to make a few players no matter if PSU wins or loses. Overall, it will take a big performance from Martinez to pull off an upset against PSU.