It's a full mailbag as the entire Hail Varsity team answers your Husker questions ranging from what it would take to get a win over Northwestern, what Nebraska's offensive line will look like next year and more.
What's more likely? The Cornhuskers have: A) fewer than 7.5 penalties versus Northwestern or, B) more than 430 yards of total offense? (@Corn_Huskers)
JP: Well, the Huskers have gone over 430 yards of offense in three of their five games and have finished with either 10 or 11 penalties in all five, so I think you have to go with the total offense over here.
DP: I feel like Nebraska tops 30 points for the first time this season in this one so I’ll take the yardage here as well.
GS: I’m certainly going with the total offense here.
What’s the Blackshirt count at now? Haven’t heard much about them lately… I can see why, but just wondering. (@navymousel)
JP: They’re still sitting at eight, the original seven (Stoltenberg, Akinmoladun, Gifford, Ferguson, Young, Barry, Bootle) plus Aaron Williams who earned his after the Troy game. I will say that those Killer Bee jerseys are starting to get pretty worn down – a lot of the numbers on the defensive linemen’s jerseys have peeled completely off.
Is there a team performing more abnormally than MSU from the last few years in terms of win/loss record? (@CoryHonold)
DP: It doesn’t feel like it. And there’s really no reason for the Spartans to be having a down season this year. You could sort of justify it two years ago when they lost a bunch of pieces and had to start over at key spots but Michigan State returned more production from last season than any other team in college football. That game in Memorial Stadium is looking better the closer we get to it.
BV: Well, for Michigan State it’s fairly normal. The Spartans always seem to buck the odds to arrive at whatever Dantonio-like record they have year to year. It’s either win a bunch of close games and go 10-3 or lose a bunch of close games and go 7-6. Michigan State is the ultimate Pythagorean wins team. And this year they were a team coming off a 10-win season (and being given credit for that in the preseason rankings) that actually deserved to win eight in 2017. It was the opposite going into last season, a three-win team that probably deserved to win five. And out of whack again going into 2016 (previous team won 12 games but outscored opponents at a rate of 9.5 wins). This is just what Michigan State does.
JD Spielman needs to average about 77 yards per game to hit 1,000 this year. Stanley Morgan Jr. needs a shade over 90. What's the likelihood they both break that barrier? (@JarodIvey)
ES: As someone that really thought Morgan would for sure hit 1,000 yards this season and Spielman would get close, I’m not sure I think either is all that likely anymore. I definitely think Spielman has a better shot, solely based on how he and Adrian Martinez have connected so far this season. I can see both hitting those needed marks for some remaining games, but not all. They might get close, but I think it’d be tough for both to break the 1,000-yard mark now this season.
DP: If someone gets to it, there will only be one. We thought the yardage would be spread around a little bit more but so far it has really only been those two guys, which is surprising to me that both are in this situation where we can even ask the hypotheticals. But I don’t see both guys getting to 1,000 yards; I’d probably put that likelihood at around 10, 15 percent. One guy getting there is probably closer to 45, 50 percent.
Offensive line is a concern, Coach Frost wants to move Cam Jurgens to the o-line (somewhere), commits by Bland (should play next year), Anderson and Lynn (probably redshirt). Any other o-line targets leaning toward Nebraska? Should we be worried? (@ChuckandM)
JP: I’ll let Greg handle which players Nebraska is still in on. As for being worried, that depends. The line certainly hasn’t performed to the level that one would hope, and that isn’t an easy fix. It just seems like it’s difficult for young linemen to get to the point where the coaches trust them enough to put them in the game, whether it’s because of physical reasons or mental ones. We thought Boe Wilson was close to playing as a true freshman but he’s just now finally seeing the field as a redshirt sophomore. Jurgens, Anderson and Lynn all seem like exciting prospects but I don’t know how early they’ll be able to see the field. For the most part, you need guys within the program to develop if you’re hoping to see improvement. Both tackles are sophomores, so that’s not unreasonable, but who replaces the departing seniors? Desmond Bland is a different story as a highly-touted junior college player, and I think Nebraska is hoping he can plug one of those interior holes right away. If Nebraska can add another junior college player to that mix, maybe a tackle that would allow Matt Farniok to slide inside, then maybe you can start to feel a little bit better.
GS: Bryce Benhart is Nebraska's top high school offensive line target and I’d say Myron Cunningham from Iowa Central is their top JUCO line target currently. Both project as tackles and both have a good shot to end up as Huskers. Both of them are good enough to play early. Desmond Bland will start somewhere on the Huskers line next year. The problem is it’s very difficult to find instant-impact offensive linemen. Let’s say Nebraska finds three guys this class that contribute in 2019. If they do that, they’ve done well. I’m not worried yet.
If NU wins against Northwestern, how do you think it will occur? Defense creates more takeaways? A significant decrease in those untimely penalties? More offensive consistency? (@Sal_Vasta3)
DP: So I’ll go process of elimination. The penalties aren’t just going to disappear overnight; Nebraska cleaned up the dumb ones, for the most part, against Wisconsin and it was still flagged 12 times. Offensive consistency is another thing I can’t confidently say will just magically change. The takeaways are different though. Dicaprio Bootle leads the conference in passes broken up with 10 and doesn’t have a single interception… I don’t really know how that happens anywhere outside of Lincoln. The opportunities have been there all season long for the Huskers to create some turnovers. Their expected turnover margin is only minus-0.5 and yet their actual margin is minus-six. It’s hard to continue to be that unlucky. And given the opponent’s tendency to throw the ball all over the yard and Clayton Thorson’s five picks in five games this year, predicting a few takeaways feels like a safe bet to make.
BV: I would agree with Derek, turnovers is the one category most likely to suddenly flip. Go plus-two or plus-three against an opponent this year and it would make all the difference for Nebraska. I’ll also be keeping a close eye on Northwestern’s ability (or inability) to be multiple on offense. The Wildcats go into this game having rushed for 36 yards on 54 carries the past two weeks (sacks not removed). The Huskers should be able to load up against the pass, which could be just the medicine this defense needs.
Say we win at Northwestern, do you think it flips the confidence level of the players? If this is the case, do you see us winning out and potentially becoming bowl eligible and shocking the world? Its OK to be optimistic. (@_LilBigRed12_)
JP: Well, Ohio State is still on the schedule so running the table would be pretty shocking. That being said, if Nebraska can clean some stuff up enough to get a win, none of the other games seem unwinnable. They have to get that win first before I can put any confidence into them actually figuring it out, though.
ES: If Nebraska beats Northwestern, I could easily see them winning the next two games after that. It gets a bit tougher when the Huskers head to Columbus to face Ohio State and you still have Michigan State at home and Iowa on the road to worry about after. However, I think beating Northwestern would provide some much-needed confidence and that’s worth something even if it doesn’t mean Nebraska runs the table.
Which player not currently listed in the 2-Deep will become a starter by Black Friday? Feel free to show-off by including one for offense and one for defense. (@Corn_Huskers)
DP: Well I would have said Cam Jurgens but… I don’t think there is a guy. I don’t see anyone on offense moving up from third-string, there isn’t enough depth on the offensive line, ditto for most of the spots on the defense. Cam Taylor is probably the only lower guy I could see moving into a starting role and even he’s with the twos.
BV: Cam Taylor seems like the most likely pick.
Been following the Redshirt Tracker. Do you think the redshirts burn for Cam Taylor, Deontre Thomas, and Jaron Woodyard? Who do you think will see some more playing time, but not burn the redshirt, in the remaining games? (@Sal_Vasta3)
JP: I think they see Cam Taylor as important enough on special teams to continue to play him there on coverage teams while mixing him in on defense in subpackages or perhaps in blowout situations. We’ll know for sure on Saturday since he’s already reached the four-game threshold. Deontre Thomas is back at practice with a club on his hand; I don’t think they’d bother doing that if they were planning to shut him down for the rest of the season. He’s played in four games as well. Jaron Woodyard went from not playing at all the first two weeks to the point where his snaps are going up each week over the last three, so I’d expect him to continue to be part of the rotation at receiver the rest of the way. I’d expect Andre Hunt to get back into the mix at some point but I don’t think he plays in more than four now. We might see safety CJ Smith and corner Braxton Clark get into a few more games here; they’ve each played in one to this point. Based on what Ryan Held told me today, I think we’ll see Miles Jones in some games before the end of the season but not enough to burn his redshirt.
Is Alabama really that freaking good or is the opposition just not very good? (@IBeLionsBeats)
JP: Their schedule hasn’t been particularly challenging to this point, but I think the Crimson Tide would be doing this regardless of who they play. Tua Tagovailoa is looking like the best quarterback Nick Saban has had in Tuscaloosa by far and you pair that kind of playmaker with the 5-star talent that is all over that offense and I don’t see how teams keep up.
GS: I would be stunned if Bama loses this year because I think they are that good. Counting on Tua and that defense to be off in the same game seems far-fetched.
BV: I think Alabama is this good. You took the best program of the past decade and gave it the best quarterback it’s had over that stretch. And while the schedule may not be “strong” at this point, it has included four P5 teams and two G5 teams (Louisiana-Lafayette, Arkansas State) that aren’t typically terrible.
With all the departures this season (and probably some more after) how big will this next recruiting class be? Could we see 30? (@Sal_Vasta3)
GS: The short answer is that you could see 30 but you won’t see 30. A big reason why is because the 2020 class is loaded as I outlined here in a recent recruiting notebook. A more detailed dive into the numbers and what types of players are being targeted can be found in my latest Big Red Recon.
Is it possible for WI to lose at least 3 and maybe 4 games? Can Indiana break through and get noticed by beating Iowa? (@CoryHonold)
JP: I’d be shocked if the Badgers lost that many games the rest of the way. They’ve already had their surprise slip-up and outside of Michigan and Penn State, I just don’t see anyone else on their schedule that has enough talent to challenge Wisconsin (unless Rondale Moore manages to explode for like 300 yards of total offense for Purdue). As for Indiana, an upset over the Hawkeyes is certainly possible. I don’t think Iowa has done anything too terribly impressive so far this season, but then again, neither has Indiana. I’ll take the Hawkeyes in this one but I wouldn’t be shocked to see them stumble.