Northern Illinois Huskies vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Date and Time: Saturday, September 16, 2017, 12 p.m. ET
Location: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, NE
Opening College Football Odds: Nebraska -15.5
Northern Illinois vs. Nebraska TV Coverage: FOX Sports 1
The Cornhuskers have allowed 78 points in two games against Arkansas State and Oregon. Granted, this is their easiest test of the young season, but that's still an alarmingly high amount of points allowed before a team ever sniffs playing in the Big Ten this season.
The man who has really struggled getting his act together is Tanner Lee. He was really up against it versus Oregon and got the team in a big hole early on. But in the end, you can't throw four picks in a game and live to tell about it. Lee had interception problems at times at Tulane before transferring to Lincoln, but Mike Riley was hoping that as a fifth-year senior, he was going to be able to get over those problems.
We haven't learned much about Northern Illinois yet this season. The team is 1-1 to show for its work on the young year, and it has covered both of the spreads the oddsmakers have put it up against. Yet there is still this sense that things are about set to go downhill in a hurry, especially with road games these next couple games against Nebraska and San Diego State.
With regular starting quarterback Ryan Graham out with an elbow injury that will cost him at least a few more weeks, Daniel Santacaterina stepped in and played well against Eastern Illinois last week. In a game that could have been quite dangerous, the sophomore threw for three touchdowns and really never had a major sweat against a very good FCS club that was hungry for the win over an FBS program that has been on the ropes the last couple seasons.
Just be aware that this offense looks a lot different with Santacaterina under center than it did with Graham. Graham could have thrown for 3,000 yards and rushed for 1,000 this year if he was given the chance to do so. Now that he's on the shelf, though, Santacaterina is more of a thrower than a runner, and that's shifting around this whole offense.
Graham isn't the only man who is likely out of this game due to injury. Nebraska tailback Tre Bryant went out in the second half against Oregon with what appeared to be a right leg injury.
Bryant was instrumental in helping put 21 straight points on the board against the Ducks at Autzen Stadium, but if he's out of the fold in this one, the Cornhuskers are going to have to find another top playmaker. No one else has run the ball more than five times this season, and someone is going to have to get Stanley Morgan Jr. the ball more often. Morgan did have seven receptions, 103 yards and two scores against Oregon, but Lee was also picked off three times when targeting him.
Northern Illinois vs. Nebraska Free Picks
Northern Illinois has quietly covered eight of its last 10 games dating back to last season and has constantly been one of the more overlooked teams in America. The knock on this team is that it's only an offensive bunch that tries to put points on the board in a hurry, something that won't work against significantly more talented teams.
However, these Huskies can play some defense, and it's a bit shocking to us that all of the best online sportsbooks are tipping them as such big underdogs in this game. Though we don't think NIU is winning, especially not with a backup quarterback under center, Nebraska's lack of explosiveness on offense is troubling.
College Football ATS Pick: Play Northern Illinois at BookMaker.eu
College Football Score Prediction: Nebraska 30, Northern Illinois 17