Ireland is known for four things: bogs, leprechauns, Guinness beer (although not necessarily in that order) and Big Ten football. Saturday, the Emerald Isle's passion for American football will be on full display for the world to see as the 2022 college football season begins with a game at Dublin's Aviva Stadium between Nebraska and Northwestern.
Both teams are coming off seasons they would like to forget. Nebraska went 3-9 last season, but the silver lining is that many consider that Cornhuskers team to be the greatest three-win team in history. The Huskers went 1-8 in Big Ten play while scoring as many points (239) as they allowed. A big reason they pulled off that semi-impressive feat was due to a 56-7 win over Northwestern. However, that marked Nebraska's last win, with Scott Frost's team losing six straight games to finish the year.
Unfortunately for Northwestern, that loss was one of many low points for a team that also lost its final six games of the season. In other words, both teams hope to wipe the slate clean and start fresh in 2022.
Check outfrom the top games in Week 0
Nebraska vs. Northwestern: Need to know
Nebraska will look different on offense: With Scott Frost entering the 2022 season on one of the hottest seats in the country, he's made changes to the offense. Long-time QB Adrian Martinez has transferred to Kansas State, and in his place is Texas transfer Casey Thompson. Mark Whipple will be calling the plays, and if that name is familiar to you, it's because Whipple was the offensive coordinator at Pitt last season. Whipple helped turn Kenny Pickett into a Heisman finalist, Jordan Addison into a Biletnikoff Award-winning receiver and was a big reason why the Panthers won the ACC. Frost is hoping Whipple can do for his Nebraska team what he did for Pitt. While winning the Big Ten is probably too much to ask, a bowl game would be nice and easier to achieve.
Northwestern must recover on defense: Pat Fitzgerald's Northwestern program has never been immune to highs and lows, but what stood out about last year's disappointing campaign was how poorly the defense performed. Long-time defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz retired following the 2020 season and was replaced by Jim O'Neil, who inherited a young defense. The results were not good. After allowing only 15.9 points per game en route to a division title in 2020, the Wildcats allowed 29.0 points per game last season while lacking the offense capable of making up that deficit. They aren't likely to have an offense capable of scoring 30 points per game in 2022, either, so the defense must improve if they are to entertain the prospect of returning to a bowl game.
Lucky No. 7: This will be the seventh college football game played in Ireland. Nebraska was supposed to open the 2021 season against Illinois in Ireland, but plans changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the Cornhuskers began 2021 with a loss to the Illini in Champaign. This year's "make-up" game will be Ireland's first college football game since the 2016 season when Georgia Tech beat Boston College 17-14. The first game in Ireland occurred at Lansdowne Road in Dublin, where Boston College beat Army 38-24 in 1988. Notre Dame and Navy are the only other programs to play two games in Ireland, and both will play their third game next August when they open the season against each other in the Emerald Isle (the first two meetings were in 1996 and 2012).
How to watch Nebraska vs. Northwestern live
Date: Saturday, August 27 | Time: 12:30 p.m. ET
Location: Aviva Stadium -- Dublin, Ireland
TV: Fox | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Nebraska vs. Northwestern prediction, picks
If I'm betting the spread, I'm taking Northwestern and the points -- but not because I have that much faith in the Wildcats. It's that I don't have much faith in there being a lot of points scored in this game. Nebraska has made a lot of changes on the offensive side of the ball, and there's a strong chance the Huskers will be on a limited playbook in the first game of the season. I also expect the Northwestern defense to improve because it's part of the program's DNA. Even if it hasn't, though, and the Nebraska offense is firing on all cylinders, we can still rely on Northwestern's offense not doing too much damage. The under is the best play. Prediction: Under 49.5
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