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Breaking down the matchup between Nebraska and No. 22 Oregon

Nebraska and No. 22 Oregon will meet for the first time in 30 years on 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Memorial Stadium – but there will still be quite a bit of familiarity on the sideline. Nebraska coach Mike Riley faced these Ducks 14 times during his tenure at Oregon State from 1997-98 and 2003-14. Pac-12 reporter Chantel Jennings and Big Ten reporter Josh Moyer break down the matchup between the Ducks and Cornhuskers.

How to beat Oregon: Run the ball well. Brady Hoke’s Oregon defensive unit hasn’t picked up the 4-3 defense quite as quickly as it seemed to have happened at Michigan in 2011. Against Virginia last weekend the Ducks allowed 11 rushes of 10 or more yards -- it’s second-most ever allowed in the Mark Helfrich era. Hoke has spent a lot of time harping on how Oregon’s tackling needs to improve; the Cavaliers picked up 79 rushing yards after contact (nearly two yards per rush) against the Ducks. So, if the Cornhuskers can run the ball well with Devine Ozigbo (and add some carries from Tommy Armstrong Jr.), they’ll put themselves in a good spot. -- Jennings

How to beat Nebraska: Go for the big play. Maybe this goes without saying when you play a team with the speed of Oregon. But the Huskers have struggled in this department and, if Oregon takes advantage, it could be a long day in Lincoln. Since the start of Riley’s tenure at Nebraska, only a half-dozen Power 5 defenses have allowed more big plays (83) of at least 20 yards. And only two -- Arizona State and Indiana -- have allowed more big plays through the air. On the other end of it, Oregon is No. 2 in the Power 5 when it comes to producing said 20-plus-yard plays (110). If Nebraska doesn’t generate a pass rush, or the secondary plays like it did in 2015, it could be another huge day offensively for Oregon. -- Moyer

How Oregon beats you: Offensive weapons. Last week, quarterback Dakota Prukop seemed to settle into this Oregon offense. He aired it out, scrambled well and made the right decisions at the right time. If he’s playing well, it only makes the job of his talented offensive weapons that much easier. Oregon will look to pound on the ground with Royce Freeman, Kani Benoit and Tony Brooks-James. And then they’ll air it out with a slew of receivers who have diverse skill sets -- Devon Allen, Darren Carrington, Dwayne Stanford and Pharaoh Brown. -- Jennings

How Nebraska beats you: Run, run, run. The Huskers’ offense has flashed quite a bit of versatility these first two weeks, running on 80 percent of their plays in Week 1 and then throwing for 412 yards in Week 2. But, against the Ducks and their so-so front seven, the key is going to be to keep that run game going a la Stanford in 2012 and 2013. That’s really when Nebraska has been at its best. Since Riley took over, when Nebraska runs for more than 200 yards, it’s an undefeated 5-0. When it runs for 170 yards or less? Try 1-5. Riley’s crew can control the tempo against Oregon by establishing the run game, much like they did against UCLA in the Foster Farms Bowl, and it’ll be hard to top them. -- Moyer

Oregon's X factor: Offensive line. Prukop and Freeman need a young offensive line -- the Ducks start three redshirt freshmen along the O-line -- to get the job done. Though Prukop and Freeman can still make plays when the line’s play isn’t perfect, their production is certainly aided when the linemen are acting as a well-oiled machine and not picking up penalties every other down. -- Jennings

Nebraska's X factor: QB Armstrong. As Huskers fans know, he can almost single-handedly win you the game -- or lose it. Armstrong is a streaky, strong-armed passer who can take off running and has the ability to turn a game on its head. Against a top-15 pass defense in Minnesota last season, he completed 69 percent of his passes and boasted a QBR of 95.8 en route to a win. Against Miami’s No. 38 pass defense, he completed less than half his attempts and tossed three interceptions en route to a loss. If Armstrong is consistent and doesn’t turn the ball over, it’s hard to beat those Cornhuskers. But if the turnover-prone Armstrong shows up, well, then it’s another story. -- Moyer

Predictions:

Jennings: Nebraska 48-38. I think the Cornhuskers jump out to a quick lead on the Ducks but by the end of the second quarter/beginning of the third quarter, the Ducks will have made it a game. At that point, it’ll come down to which defense can make the greater number of plays. And since I’ve yet to see Hoke’s defense really stand out, my nod goes to Mark Banker and crew for this one.

Moyer: Nebraska 38-35. The Ducks’ speed on the outside is concerning, but Riley has really shown a commitment to the run -- and I like how that matches up against the Ducks. The secondary will be tested against Oregon, but they’ve proven to be opportunistic in the early going -- the Huskers lead the nation with seven interceptions -- and that should be enough for a close win.