What a win for Nebraska — excuse me, the No. 20 Nebraska Cornhuskers.
That’s the first time I’ve been able to actually use a ranking in relation to the Big Red since 2014. With Mike Riley more than ready to put a big win against Oregon behind him and focus on Northwestern, I feel I should do the same. Time to tally my points for last week and pick out five champions as Nebraska starts Big Ten play.
Running back Devine Ozigbo – Zig had the opportunity to step up and be the man once more, as the Huskers continue to grind their way to more yards per carry. He totaled 95 yards on 21 carries (4.5 yards per tote) and scored a touchdown midway through the third quarter. A solid day for Ozigbo means an easy point for me.
Defensive end Ross Dzuris – My doubling down on Mustachioed Mayhem paid off. He was easily the most effective defensive lineman against the Ducks. He tallied five tackles (three solo), one tackle for loss, and the Blackshirts’ lone sack of the day. Two for two.
Linebacker Josh Banderas – I was really hoping that Banderas would break out against Oregon, but he was too slow to the outside and his instincts always had him moving a second late. He was alright in coverage and did have five tackles (three solo) including a tackle for loss, but I expected more and thus cannot accept a point.
Safety Nate Gerry – On one hand, Gerry had a couple of plays when his athletic ability usually would have caused a turnover but didn’t. I was expecting an interception from him against the Ducks. However, he was the Huskers’ leading tackler with nine (four solo), two tackles for loss and a pass breakup. It’s not his best day ever as a member of the Blackshirts, but far from a bad one. Call me three for four.
Safety Kieron Williams – Now officially BLACKSHIRT Kieron Williams (thank you very much).
The more I watch him play, the more I love seeing him do his thing. He works with intensity and athleticism that will likely bring him many accolades during his career. Against the Ducks, he trailed only Gerry in tackles with seven (three solo) and broke up a pass late in the game when Oregon was trying to put the Big Red to bed.
I’ll take a week that nets me four points out of five, which now has me sitting at 9.5 out of 15 for the season. With the non-conference slate in the rearview mirror, it’s time to predict who will represent the Big Red the best in Evanston, Illinois.
Quarterback Tommy Armstrong – There’s no coincidence that Nebraska’s senior gunslinger gets his first call into my starting lineup after his gutty performance against Oregon. He looked very good overall, but I also expect the grass at Ryan Field to grow a little longer this week. While I do anticipate Nebraska’s running backs having a good day, I also see Armstrong testing a Northwestern secondary that ranks No. 101 in the nation.
Running back Devine Ozigbo – As I just mentioned, Northwestern’s Ryan Field has a grass surface. I anticipate the grounds crew getting longer lunches and a siesta or two this week as the Wildcats make an effort to slow down Zig and the Big Red’s backs. That said, Northwestern gave up four yards per carry against the trio of Western Michigan, Illinois State and Duke. Nebraska’s offensive line should be able to shove the Wildcats’ front four around to make lanes for No. 22.
Wide Receiver Jordan Westerkamp – Remember when I said the Wildcats’ secondary doesn’t exactly strike fear into my heart? Nebraska will pursue significant gains through the air, and Westerkamp’s already had one big day against Wyoming when he caught 105 yards and two scores. I was debating choosing Alonzo Moore for this spot, but since I picked Armstrong, I’ll go with the Roommate Connection®.
Defensive end Ross Dzuris – The first defensive player to get the call three times – let alone in a row – Dzuris is simply effective. He’s not the most athletic guy in the whole wide world, but he gets the job done and that’s what matters. It’s going to be a challenge to wrangle Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson due to his dual-threat capability. However, if we’ve learned anything in 2016, it’s that Dzuris is always capable of setting a higher standard.
Safety Kieron Williams – His play seems to be getting better and better. Northwestern’s passing game isn’t fantastic, but the Wildcats did put up 320 yards versus Duke which boasts a No. 30 ranking when it comes to defending the pass. While Northwestern did add three touchdowns by air, Thorson also threw two picks. This is where I suspect Williams shines.
Think you can best my picks? Leave yours in the comment section below.