We continue to look at some of the marquee nonconference games involving Pac-12 teams in 2016. Today we'll look at Nebraska.
Opponent: vs. Oregon
Date of matchup: Saturday, Sept. 17
Offseason storyline: Major losses on the defensive line. Both Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine decided to leave early for the NFL, and their decisions were validated when both were drafted on day two. Then defensive lineman Greg McMullen decided to leave the program early after realizing his heart wasn’t in it anymore. On top of those losses -- all three would’ve been leaders in that position group room this fall -- Mike Riley has a new defensive-line coach, John Parrella, after he fired Hank Hughes in February. So yes, there’s plenty of personnel turnover, which likely means that by the time the Ducks come to town, there won’t be a super cohesive pass rush. But will there be a super-cohesive offensive line that’s able to protect whichever quarterback wins the job? That’ll be one of the biggest defining questions for this game.
What's at stake for Oregon? The Ducks have two solid nonconference games this year, against Virginia and Nebraska. It would be a huge national statement for Oregon to enter Pac-12 play with an ACC win and a Big Ten win. How many other Power 5 schools would be able to boast something like that? With the Cornhuskers’ likely struggles on the defensive line, there’ll be a chance for the Ducks to do something big. But don’t overlook the chemistry between Armstrong and Westerkamp. K.C. Joyner has already named Nebraska as a sleeper for the College Football Playoff, and Riley, the former Oregon State coach, is plenty familiar with Oregon and its schemes.