The Oregon Ducks visit the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Saturday in a highly anticipated nonconference college football matchup. Here’s a preview of the game, plus how to watch and follow the action.
No. 22 Oregon Football vs Nebraska Football Teams
Time: 12:30 p.m. PT
Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln
Records: Oregon (2-0, 0-0 Pac-12); Nebraska (2-0, 0-0 Big Ten)
Coaches: Mark Helfrich, fourth year at Oregon (35-8); Mike Riley, second season at Nebraska (8-7 at Nebraska, 101-87 overall)
Latest line: Nebraska by 3
TV channel: ABC (In the Portland area: Comcast 2/702, DirecTV 2, Dish 2, CenturyLink 2/1002), called by Bob Wischusen, Brock Huard and Allison Williams.
Radio: 590 AM in Eugene, 750 AM and 102.9 FM in Portland, Sirius 83, XM 202
Live stream: Watch ESPN
What’s at stake: Saturday has no bearing on either team’s shot at their respective conference titles yet is nonetheless a litmus test for fanbases who each want to gauge the same thing — signs that their team can still win the marquee matchups and belongs in the national conversation.
UO offense vs. Nebraska defense: Coming off a 207-yard performance against Virginia, junior running back Royce Freeman is 25 yards short of entering the top-20 in all-time rushing yardage in Pac-12 history, and 129 yards shy of moving past Kenjon Barner for second all-time at UO. Freeman is averaging a non-typo 9.2 yards per carry. He and the young offensive line blocking for him are facing a Blackshirts defense allowing 2.8 yards per carry, which ranks among the national top-30. But Oregon can’t simply throw over the top — though quarterback Dakota Prukop has thrown six touchdowns without an interception, the Nebraska secondary has seven interceptions, four of which came in the fourth quarter in their last game, against Wyoming. Receivers Darren Carrington and Devon Allen have each gone for at least 100 yards, with Carrington the recipient of a 55-yard touchdown pass against UC Davis and Allen — who is only the fourth athlete to compete in an Olympics while still an active college football player — with catches of 55 and 77 yards against Virginia, the latter for a touchdown. Oregon is 30-1 under Helfrich when scoring at least 40 points. Nebraska, meanwhile, has won 17 consecutive games in which it has finished with a positive turnover margin.
UO defense vs. Nebraska offense: The Ducks likely will not be at full strength in their defensive line and linebacking corps, which should make defending the Huskers’ running game — which gained 292 yards on 51 carries in the season opener, and features sophomore Devine Ozigbo with his 5.1 yards per carry average — more difficult. UO allowed 11 rushes of at least 10 yards to Virginia. Middle linebacker A.J. Hotchkins wore a red no-contact jersey after Thursday’s practice and defensive end Jalen Jelks walking with a brace on his right knee. Safety Juwaan Williams was limited against Virginia with a pulled groin but is expected to get some playing time again, which could lead to more opportunities at deep safety for true freshman Brenden Schooler. Schooler intercepted his first career pass against Virginia. Helfrich said he hopes outside linebacker Johnny Ragin III can play after sitting out against Virginia. According to cfbfilmroom.com, freshman linebacker Troy Dye has yet to miss a tackle this season on 17 attempts, while cornerback Arrion Springs has been thrown at seven times on routes of 10-plus yards yet has not allowed a reception. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong will try to test Springs and the UO secondary with his arm and ability to scramble. He is the school’s career record-holder for touchdown passes with 57 TDs in 35 starts, but his 56.8 percent accuracy this season could lead to opportunities for takeaways.
Did you know: Nebraska’s 515 victories since 1962, the start of its sellout streak that is expected to reach 350 games Saturday, are most in college football. Since 2001, the last time Nebraska played for a national championship, it has won 128 games. Oregon’s 146 victories in the same span are eighth-most in the country.
Individual matchup to watch: Punt returner Charles Nelson against Nebraska’s punt coverage team. Nelson, the electric UO junior, has bobbed two punts thus far, but once he secures the ball he has a knack for finding open room. Nelson is averaging 16.8 yards per return this season, the 11th-highest average in FBS, which makes his returns against the country’s 126th-ranked team in net punting intriguing. The Huskers, whose starting punter Sam Foltz died in a car accident in the summer, have struggled to replace him in a strictly Xs-and-Os way, gaining must 24.6 yards per punt. The 36 touchdowns Oregon has scored on special teams and defense since 2010 are third-most in the country.
Key stat: Nebraska has gained an average of 19.5 yards per completion through two games, the fourth-highest average in FBS.
They said it: “We don’t really talk about underdog or over-dog or anything,” said Mark Helfrich on Nebraska’s status at the betting favorite.
Prediction: Nebraska 41, Oregon 40
The last time these teams met: Nebraska holds a 5-1 lead all-time against Oregon, and won their last matchup in 1986, 48-14. Three Oregon assistants currently on staff were also on the sidelines that day 30 years ago: Running backs coach Gary Campbell, offensive line coach Steve Greatwood and linebackers coach Don Pellum (then a graduate assistant).