Nebraska vs. Fresno State prediction and game preview for the opening contest of the 2016 season. Find out who’s projected to win the matchup between the Cornhuskers and the Bulldogs.
Nebraska vs. Fresno State Game Preview
When: Saturday, Sept. 3 – 8 p.m. ET
Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.
Matchup to Watch
Chason Virgil vs. Nebraska’s pass defense
Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter tabbed the redshirt freshman Virgil as his starting quarterback following a disastrous 3-9 season during which the Bulldogs finished 121st in the nation in total offense. Virgil won’t have it easy, though, working with three new starters on the offensive line and a new offensive coordinator in Eric Kiesau.
Facing that inexperience could benefit the Nebraska defense. The Cornhuskers ranked 13th in the Big Ten in pass defense allowing an average of 290.5 yards per game through the air.
Edge on Offense
Nebraska finished 5-7 in the regular season in Mike Riley’s first year before beating UCLA in the Foster Farms Bowl, a game they wouldn’t have even qualified for if the FBS had more bowl-eligible teams. A major reason for the disappointing campaign was the minus-12 turnover margin as Tommy Armstrong tossed 16 interceptions. His decision-making needs to improve, and the offensive line needs to protect him despite losing starting guard Jerald Foster for the year to a knee injury.
Kiesau seems to be working his game plan around the running game, but the Bulldogs’ top two running backs from last season are gone.
Edge on Defense
Although the Huskers struggled to defend against the pass last year, they had the second-best run defense in the Big Ten. Returning linebackers Michael Rose-Ivey and Dedrick Young should help the Blackshirts be solid in that department again.
The Bulldogs are starting over with a different scheme under new defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward after finishing 101st in the nation in total defense.
Edge on Special Teams
The Huskers dealt with tragedy this offseason when Sam Foltz, one of the nation’s best punters, was killed in a car accident during the offseason.
Both Riley and DeRuyter are under pressure to turn around programs that are used to and expect success. Nebraska is coming off its first losing season since 2007, and Fresno State missed a bowl game for the first time in four years. The Bulldogs, though, have new coaches on each side of the ball.
The Huskers’ seven defeats last season came by a combined 31 points and they also shocked Michigan State at home late in the season. There’s potential there for a turnaround year.
Nebraska vs. Fresno State Prediction
The Huskers start off strong with a 31-20 victory.