Q: Oregon fans know Mike Riley quite well and what they are used to seeing from him is a tall, pocket passer with a bigtime arm (Derek Anderson is an example) and some very speedy receivers (Marquese Wheaton is a good example) on offense using some standard plays like the fly-sweep with a speedy wide out (Like James Rodgers) coming around for a pitch and making big yardage. They also remember seeing lots of small running backs like Jacquizz Rodgers (James’ brother) that was a fireplug running back that defenders had trouble seeing, and made life miserable for opposing defensive coordinators and Duck fans. Is this something we can expect to see with Nebraska? If not what will the Nebraska offense be like?
A: Riley has really taken his offense, tried to match with the talent he currently has on the roster, and made a hybrid version of it. He’s never had a quarterback with the skillset of Tommy Armstrong when it comes to running the football and making throws outside the pocket. At the same time, Armstrong doesn’t live up to the more traditional type of quarterbacks Riley has had when it comes to a pocket passer. Oregon fans can still expect to see the jet sweep, although they won’t be seeing that running back that is short and gets lost behind the line of scrimmage.
Q: Defensively, Mike Banker was known to go out get some unknown defensive linemen and turn them into NFL prospects like Stephen Paea (now with the Browns). Oregon State under Mike Riley and Banker may have struggled to attract blue-chip players, but they develop tons of NFL players. What can we expect to see from the Husker defense?
A: We still don’t know enough about this defense after two performances against much-lesser opponents. Dating back to last year, they really struggled at times, especially with teams with speed and who could throw deep. I think they are better in both areas, but time will tell. The defensive line is young or inexperienced, but the back seven has a lot of starts to their name. I think the group has also benefited from Nebraska’s rushing efforts against Fresno State and even dating back to UCLA in the bowl game. When defenses are given a bit of a breather on the sidelines instead of going 3 and out, it is amazing what can be accomplished.
Q: We know Mike (Riley) is concerned about Oregon’s speed and he said on Monday that it was always an issue when he was in Corvallis, how will Nebraska match up speed-wise with Oregon?
A: Talent wise there is no doubt he matches up better with his Nebraska roster compared to Oregon State and I believe this to be true in the speed department as well. Will Nebraska be as fast as Oregon? No, but how many teams in college football can really say that? Can the Nebraska defensive line possibly get some push up front – I believe they can. I can say, when looking at the Huskers’ backs seven on defense, they aren’t the traditional Big Ten squad. They are more athletic.
Q: Duck fans have been extremely worried about stopping the Nebraska running game and remember too vividly the Tom Osborne days when the Cornhuskers had all those big linemen knocking everyone out of the way and the power/speed running backs plus some great option quarterbacks (i.e Tommy Frasier, et al) is this an offense that will be mowing down the somewhat undersized Oregon front?
A: I would have said Nebraska will have success running against Oregon after week one, but last week they really struggled to get the rushing attack going, even against a non-power five school. Now Wyoming definitely sold out to stop the run – daring Nebraska to pass the football. But, in the old days it wouldn’t have mattered. Nebraska would have still run it down their throat. If the Ducks’ defense plays them straight up and respects their passing game, which I think they will after last week, Nebraska should be able to hit on some nice runs. This offensive line group definitely likes running the football.
Q: Finally, many eDuckers are of a generation that clearly remembers the Ducks going to Nebraska in the past and well it causes some pretty traumatic recollections. That sea of red intimidated a lot of teams coming into Lincoln, will the Ducks face the same as in the past?
A: The Nebraska program has struggled to stay in the conversation when it comes to the nation’s elite, but the fan base is still one of a kind and are much pumped for Saturday’s contest. The Huskers are undefeated, playing a ranked opponent at home and are heading into the contest a favorite. That hasn’t happened since 2013. In year two of a new coaching staff, this looks like a game to really test the transition to a new era. They might down play it, but this is an important one for the coaching staff as well. It is no secret they struggled with Oregon while in Corvallis. Our recruiting breakdown showed starters wise Oregon still has the advantage when it comes to the level of talent they grabbed out of high school, but I have to believe Riley and crew feel like things are a little more even this time around. The fans realize this.