Sun Belt Showdown: Arkansas State Red Wolves vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Historically, the Red Wolves have not been good in Lincoln, enduring punishing beatings from the Cornhuskers in both visits. But this year, Nebraska is young on both sides of the ball, and a transfer from Tulane is starting at QB. Is the the year Arkansas State finally gives Nebraska a game?
Arkansas State has played Nebraska twice (both times in Lincoln), and both times lost by 29 points. That’s not going to happen again, because wow that would be weird.
What isn’t weird is that 90,000 fans will pour into Memorial Stadium on Saturday expecting a double digit win from 3rd year head coach Mike Riley. And why not? The Cornhuskers are a big, fast, and deep Power Five team with an ancient pedigree of excellence.
These Red Wolves, however, have bite.
SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 2ND, 7:00 PM ON BIG 10 NETWORK @ Lincoln, NE
Three Reasons Why The Red Wolves Challenge the Cornhuskers in 2017
1. The Red Wolves have the size
Size and depth are the two elements that routinely separate the G5 from the P5 (also: cash). The Red Wolves have some depth, especially on the defensive line. But what the Red Wolves especially have is size. Only 3 pounds on average separate Arkansas State’s offensive line from Nebraska. Further more, Red Wolves receivers (also deep) are long and rangy, with 6-6 Justin McInnis and 6-5 Kendrick Edwards leading the squad. Apart from stud CB Lamar Jackson (6-3 210) the Red Wolves receivers have an intriguing size advantage.
2. The Cornhuskers are a little green
Nebraska lost starting QB Tommy Armstrong and backup Ryker Fyfe. Super safety Nathen Gerry is gone, and so is WR Jordan Westerkamp. In all, Nebraska lost about 30 seniors from the 2016 squad, and you’ll find a significant number of freshmen and red shirt freshman playing roles on the Husker depth chart. With a 1-year rental behind center, and inexperience on both sides of the ball, this feels like a rebuilding team in Lincoln.
3. The Red Wolves have the advantage at QB
The Cornhuskers like what they’ve seen out of Tanner Lee, the transfer from Tulane who hasn’t seen live action in over a year. In two years with the Green Wave, Lee totaled 3,601 yards, 23 TDs and 21 interceptions. Last season alone, Red Wolves starting QB tallied 2,719 yards, 19 TDs and 8 interceptions despite sitting the bench for two and a half games. Lee may be a fine starter, but he’s game rusty and pick-prone. Advantage, Red Wolves.
Why the Cornhuskers win by 29 again
Nebraska is Nebraska, owners of five national championships and a membership to the Big 10. The Red Wolves are the defending co-champions of the Sun Belt, which won’t even get you a discount at Waffle House. The Cornhuskers bring a hefty front seven on defense, and the secondary is said to be among college football’s best.
So what if Mike Riley’s talent is raw? ESPN FPI projects an 83.9% probability for a Nebraska win. For the Huskers, this is merely a tune up for next week’s tilt with Oregon.
Nebraska has the home field advantage and the Big 10 credentials, but I smell upset here. The Red Wolves are tightly focused after last year’s OOC debacle, and while there are questions on the offensive line and secondary, the experience at the skill positions is for real.
35-24, Arkansas State Red Wolves
A former notary public, Jeremy Harper is a professional writer and Chief Instigator for Storm the Castle Creative. He spends much of his free time staring blankly into space.