No excuses: Nebraska-Illinois looks as even as they come
Where the Huskers have been strong, the Illini have been weak and vice versa. Maybe that's how, "Everyone in Nebraska will find out about this team Friday night."
Nebraska head coach Matt Rhule said it a few weeks ago, but just in case Saturday’s loss to No. 2 Michigan cast any doubt, he said it again Monday.
“We are a defensive football team. The defense has to learn that we're a defensive football team. They've got to play great defense while the offense kinda plays body blows.”
Following the 45-7 loss to the Wolverines, the Huskers’ impressive defensive numbers dropped like Ohio State in Lou Holtz’s Super 16 poll. That’s not just a joke. Most of the numbers fell from very good prior to playing Michigan (2nd in rush yards per play allowed, for example) to still-pretty-good (16th this week).
As should be clear, though, Rhule isn’t changing the blueprint. That’s almost impossible in-season, and definitely is during a short week. Beyond that, it would be crazy to suffer a crisis of confidence with this game.
The strengths and weaknesses of Nebraska and Illinois, the only 0-2 teams in conference play in the Big Ten West, are nearly reciprocal. Where the Huskers have been strong, the Illini have struggled and vice versa. It looks, by most measures, like a completely even matchup, and the market agrees so far with Illinois a 3.5-point favorite, which is essentially just the difference of home field advantage.
Perhaps that’s why Rhule said following the Michigan loss, “We’ll find out who we are Friday night, so I hope everyone watches.”
Will Husker fans like what they learn? Here are a few things Nebraska likely needs to do to pick up Rhule’s first Big Ten win.