Arkansas State Red Wolves vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Date and Time: Saturday, September 2, 2017, 8 p.m. ET
Location: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, NE
Opening College Football Odds: Nebraska -16.5, O/U 48
Arkansas State vs. Nebraska TV Coverage: Big Ten Network
This Arkansas State team came on strong last year and ultimately won a share of the Sun Belt title and the Cure Bowl over UCF in a de facto road game. The Red Wolves are bringing back a slew of talent and could be even better this year, though of course, there are still tempered expectations in this game.
Justice Hansen is going to have a lot of fun throwing the ball to three receivers who are at least 6-foot-1, but that size advantage probably won't come into play here in this one against a talented Nebraska secondary. Instead, the big concern is going to be along the offensive line where there is a total of just two career starts at Arkansas State amongst the five projected starters.
Nebraska needed to find a quarterback in the post-Tommy Armstrong Jr. era, and head coach Mike Riley thinks he found the guy in Tulane transfer, Tanner Lee. Lee was tabbed as the starter late in the summer, fending off redshirt freshman, Patrick O'Brien. Regardless as to who is under center, though, Nebraska needs to get back to its roots of running the ball and playing good defense while getting away from this skittish game that Armstrong loved to play.
With Terrell Newby now gone, the running back situation is going to be by committee. This will suit Riley just fine, as he'll find the right tailback for every situation. Devine Ozigbo, Tre Bryant and Mikale Wilbon could all have 50+ yards on the ground in this game if things start to get out of hand a little bit.
The Cornhuskers did lose four of their last six games of last season, basically turning in the opposite performance of an Arkansas State team that thrived once it got into conference play. The biggest thing that Nebraska struggled with was its defense, allowing over 500 yards per game against Ohio State, Iowa and Tennessee to end the season.
The Huskers are now turning to Bob Diaco to run their defense after firing Mark Banker in the offseason, and that should make this unit a little bit more dynamic. The personnel isn't quite there for a 3-4 at this point as Diaco wants to run, but Mick Stoltenberg supposedly looks like an NFL nose tackle out there now that he has bulked up and added some serious muscle.
Arkansas State vs. Nebraska Free Picks
The Red Wolves were an enigma last season. Sure, they succeeded in the Sun Belt, and beating UCF in Orlando at the Cure Bowl was a nice ending to the season. But if we're being realistic, this team doesn't belong on the same field as a Nebraska team that perpetually makes a mockery of the worst teams on its docket.
Granted, Arkansas State isn't your average run-of-the-mill Sun Belt doormat, and Hansen could keep this game interesting for a while. But in the end, a pounding running game will thump against an inexperienced defensive line for ASU, and Nebraska will finally take the game over with its defensive line dominating at the point of attack.
It's a scary spread to play into at any of the top college football sportsbooks, but we still think the Cornhuskers will be alright and win this game by three touchdowns.
College Football ATS Pick: Nebraska -16.5 at BookMaker.eu
College Football Score Prediction: Nebraska 34, Arkansas State 14