Distractions about in Nebraska after the University’s President, Hank Bounds, and chancellor Ronnie Green informed the coaching staff that athletic director Shawn Eichorst had been fired.
“I don’t know what that means for sure,” Nebraska head coach Mike Riley stated after hearing the news. The significance of Eichorst’s termination is significant in that he was solely responsible for hiring Riley to replace Bo Pelini. “It’s going to be perceived in a million different ways,” Riley said.
Riley has amassed a pedestrian 16-13 record in Lincoln and has lost six of his past nine games overall. Riley’s program is 1-2 for the second time in three seasons and the school’s hierarchy has grown impatient.
Many insiders believe the termination of Eichorst has effectively made Riley a lame-duck coach with no lifelines within the administration. A home loss to Northern Illinois in Week Three served to make Riley’s tenuous job security even worse.
Nebraska is 0.4 yards per play better than average offensively (5.1 yards per play against teams that would combine to allow 4.7 yards per play) and 0.4 yards per play better than average defensively (5.4 yards per play to teams that would combine to average 5.8 yards per play against a mediocre stop unit).
The Cornhuskers’ attack is one-dimensional due to its inability to throw the ball (6.2 yards per pass attempt; 52.1% completion rate).
Illinois’ defense has been very good at home where it’s limiting opponents to a mere 14.0 points and 309 total yards per game at 4.3 yards per play and 22.1 yards per point.
Nebraska won’t be able to throw against the Illini, whose secondary is 0.2 yards per pass attempt better than average (6.8 yards per pass play to a group of quarterback who would combine to average 7.0 yards per pass attempt).
Illinois defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson has dialed up the pressure this season as evidenced by the fact that his front seven is ranked 38th in the nation in sacks (2.67 per game) and has excelled in the red zone (ranked 30th-nationally).
Special team’s coordinator Bob Ligashesky has put together a solid kick return defense that is currently 5th in college football and a solid punt return defense that is 30th-best in the country.
From a technical standpoint, the Cornhuskers are 1-5 ATS in their last six games, 1-3-1 ATS in their last five conference affairs and 1-5 ATS in their last six games under the Friday Night Lights.
Nebraska running back Tre Bryant is questionable to play in tonight’s game due to a knee injury. Bryant’s absence would be devastating for a scuffling Nebraska attack in that he is averaging 299 rushing yards at 5.9 yards per carry in two games this season.
The Cornhuskers will also be without senior linebacker Marcus Newby and senior free safety Joshua Kalu. Wide receiver Stanley Morgan, right tackle David Knevel and safety Aaron Williams are also considered questionable for Saturday’s conference affair.
Finally, my primary math model only favors Nebraska by 5.2 points and the Illini are coming off a much-needed bye. Grab the points with Lovie Smith’s Fighting Illini and invest with confidence.