Mark your calendars for the first big college football game of the season between two 3-9 teams! We’ve waited an entire offseason to get back in on college football action and the sport delivers with this wonky matchup played out in Dublin, Ireland. Find Northwestern Wildcats at Nebraska Cornhuskers odds and betting preview below.
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Northwestern Vs Nebraska Odds
Find the full slate of College Football Week 0 odds here
Nebraska Vs Nebraska odds movement
It didn’t take long for folks to jump on the line for this game. Nebraska originally opened as a -10.5 favorite– a number that’s been pushed three points their way this summer. Week 0 is a pretty shallow week annually, so this game rises to the top. After a long offseason without football, bettors might be anxious to get back in the action and this will be the game that draws it.
Watch for this number to move one way or another– likely in the Cornhuskers’ favor– as kickoff draws nearer.
Moving College Football Forward
Nebraska, USC, and Ole Miss will be among the most interesting case studies in college football history. All three leaned into the transfer portal this offseason and completely rebuilt their rosters with transfers. 2022 really blew the transfer portal open and this is the first look we’ll get at rosters constructed this way. Is it a sustainable model? We’ll certainly know after the season.
The Huskers landed Texas starting QB Casey Thompson to replace departed Adrian Martinez. In Austin, Thompson was a patient passer and dynamic athlete that provides much of what Martinez had while cutting severely down on the turnovers. On the other side of the football, Nebraska anchors a pass rush down with TCU pass rusher Ochaun Mathis. 247Sports ranks Nebraska’s transfer team (16 commits) seventh nationally.
With a completely rebuilt roster, plus the addition of Pitt OC Mark Whipple, this is a team with very little cohesiveness leading into the season. Add in the disruption of playing in Ireland, and the array of outcomes for Nebraska– particularly on offense– is wide.
Keep in mind, Nebraska won this matchup in Evanston last season 56-7.
Toss Out The Records?
In 2021, both Nebraska and Northwestern finished 3-9. For the Huskers, it put Scott Frost seriously on the hot seat as his streak of sub-.500 seasons extended to four in Lincoln. For Northwestern, it should have been seen as a bigger disappointment than it was, as the Wildcats were representing the Big Ten West in Indianapolis just one year prior.
The context of these records needs to be considered. Nebraska set a record with all nine losses being within single-digits and eight of those being within one score. On the flip side, Northwestern finished 117th in net points per drive (-1.32) and just one of their conference losses were within 17 points.
One matchup to keep an eye on: Mathis vs. Northwestern’s next first-round offensive tackle Peter Skoronski. While the ‘Cats will again struggle to find explosiveness on offense, you can bet they’ll have a solid offensive line (ranked sixth in the Big Ten by Phil Steele) to combat Mathis and a very good corps of Nebraska linebackers (ranked 13th nationally).
What About Northwestern?
There’s a real hesitancy around the ‘Cats this coming season. Despite finishing 10th in the 2020 AP Poll, Northwestern was completely uncompetitive last season. In the past, coach Pat Fitzgerald has rallied around losing seasons and succeeded with experienced rosters (which NW has this season). However, Phil Steele failed to land them on his Most Improved Teams list– an accurate indicator in years’ past.
The biggest lost for Northwestern was All-American safety Brandon Joseph, who decided to take his talents to South Bend. The move wasn’t talked about enough, buried under headlines made by Caleb Williams, Spencer Rattler, and a flurry of coaching changes. Joseph would have completed the defensive secondary returning every starter, but instead Northwestern moves forward without their star playmaker.
Joseph was the lone bright spot on the defense last year that was uncharacteristically terrible. While they finished 55th in EPA defending the pass (due large in part to Joseph), Northwestern failed to finish higher than 93rd in any other EPA category on offense or defense.
Ryan Hilinski is expected to be the starter, a college football journeyman who’s failed to inspire much on the field. This is an extended way to say: Don’t get your hopes up too high for Northwestern this year.
Northwestern Vs Nebraska Forecast
As eager as I am about getting back in on college football betting in Week 0, this isn’t a game I care to bet sides on. If you want to chase steam, Nebraska and the points is the pick, but how much can you trust this team?
They’re taking an unproven and brand-new roster construction method, slapping it together with a new OC, and taking it overseas to test it out. Remember, these are college kids (most of whom have likely never flown Transatlantic before)– long travel can and will affect their performance.
Bad as Northwestern may be this year, I’m not putting a dime down on Frost until some of the expectation burns off. Nebraska was a terrific weekly play last year once oddsmakers started to realize this was a 3-9 Nebraska team and made them large underdogs. This year, they’re 44th in SP+. Until that adjusts, expect Nebraska to be overvalued against bad teams (but I’m also sure as hell not betting on this NW team).
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