After putting a beatdown on Florida Atlantic in week one, the Nebraska Cornhuskers have opened the eyes of everyone around the country with their electric offense. Bo Pelini has put together yet another solid Nebraska squad and this may finally be the year that it captures its first Big Ten title.
Playing their first game of the 2014 season, the McNeese State Cowboys will look to build on their 10-3 finish in 2013 and maybe even win the Southland Conference. Returning some key pieces could lead to an even better finish to the 2014 season and they could be a surprise matchup problem for the Cornhuskers.
Nebraska had put together one of the more impressive week one wins in all of college football, even finishing the game with the second most rushing yards of any team in the nation. Ameer Abdullah is expected to do very big things this season for the Cornhuskers and he got off to a scorching start with 232 yards and a touchdown on just 21 carries — yes, that’s an 11.0 yards per carry average. Terrell Newby, Abduallah’s future replacement, added 107 yards and two scores on 16 carries as well. Tommy Armstrong Jr. also had a solid game at quarterback, finishing with 271 yards and two touchdowns while his completion percentage barely snuck over 50 percent. Jordan Westerkamp led all receivers with 125 yards and a touchdown on seven catches while all-Big Ten target Kenny Bell was close behind with 116 yards on four receptions.
McNeese State will have a major position to fill after losing starting quarterback and star player Cody Stroud who played in all 13 games last season for the Cowboys. Stroud finished the season with nearly 3,000 yards and 28 touchdowns to combat just seven interceptions. Junior quarterback Tyler Bolfing will likely win the starting job as he got the most reps behind Stroud last season and finished with 165 yards on 12 of 22 completions in 2013. Ernest Celestie will give Bolfing some help in the pass game as he is the lead returning receiver with 31 catches for 565 yards and five touchdowns in 2013. The run game loses its top rusher from last season in Marcus Wiltz, but it returns 1,109 yards and 14 touchdowns combined in Dylan Long and Kelvin Bennett.
Defensively, McNeese State wasn’t the most impressive of FCS units in 2013. The Cowboys return some key talent on that side of the ball and the unit allowed over 28 points and 416 yards per game and still managed to finish with 10 wins. Nebraska held the Owls to just 200 total yards in week one, 95 on the ground and 105 through the air, but managed to force no turnovers. Nebraska’s defense looks much improved from a season ago.
McNeese State will travel to Nebraska to take on the Cornhuskers at 12 p.m. EST on Saturday, Sept. 6. The game will be broadcasted on the ESPNU.
PREDICTION: Nebraska 49, McNeese State 9
Connor Muldowney is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.