B1G 10 Half-term report

B1G 10 Week 0 Preview – Football’s Back

College football is back! Woohoo! Our B1G 10 devotee Jack dives in with his B1G 10 Week 0 Preview.

Week 0 is here and there are 3 Big Ten teams involved. You might even be going to watch 2 of them, as Dublin hosts a Big Ten matchup on Saturday afternoon. Let’s dive straight in and preview the games.

Nebraska @ Northwestern

A 3-9 record never looks good on the resume. Unfortunately that is how the 2021 season finished for both Nebraska and Northwestern. 2022 should bring brighter days for Nebraska at least. 8 of their 9 losses last year were within 1 score, they just couldn’t win those knife-edge matchups. With that harrowing experience locked in a cupboard labelled ‘the past’ can the Cornhuskers make this a winning season?

Scott Frost will be well aware that a good chunk of those losses need to become wins in 2022, and he’ll be hoiping a change at QB will bring an upturn in fortunes. Out goes Adrian Martinez and in comes Texas transfer Casey Thompson. It’s a signal of a slight change in approach – Thompson won’t run as much as Martinez did, that’s for sure!

The Northwestern Wildcats were pretty bad throughout 2021, and 2022 doesn’t look much better from the outset. The offense has never been Northwestern’s strength, but the defense also stuttered and floundered, leaving coach Pat Fitzgerald searching for answers. His offense is returning lots of starters, especially along the line which should help.

The quarterback battle is still ongoing, although I expect to see Ryan Hilinski at least start the year under centre. Neither he nor freshman Brendan Sullivan inspire a tonne of confidence though, and the Wildcats will rely on their defense for a better season.

A Game on the Emerald isle

On that side of the ball, Northwestern have lost some key pieces. Most notably, Brandon Joseph has transferred to Notre Dame to leave a big hole in the secondary. There are transfers coming in too – they have brought in 3 tackles and need 1 or 2 or hopefully all 3 to hit the ground running. Northwestern needs to win the turnover battle to be successful. More pressure is required on the opposing QB to rack up sacks, fumbles and interceptions otherwise it’s going to be a long season. The Wildcats aren’t going back to the Championship game like in 2019, but small steps of improvement are a must. It can’t get much worse I guess!

For the game itself, I expect Nebraska to be too strong for Northwestern. Look out for Casey Thompson’s Cornhusker debut under new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple. It’ll be fascinating to see how drastic a change Whipple makes to this traditionally run-first offense. Trey Palmer is an excellent receiver who I’m excited to watch, while Northwestern have a bowling ball in the backfield looking to continue a strong college career in Evan Hull. If you’re going, have a brilliant time in Dublin!

Wyoming @ Illinois

The Fighting Illini kick off out-of-conference play by welcoming the Wyoming Cowboys to Champaign. It should be a good matchup for Illinois against the Mountain West outfit, and I expect them to register the win on opening day.

A new offensive coordinator will be hopeful of bringing some consistency to one of the most inconsistent outfits of 2021. Illinois will look to get the most out of their offensive line, hoping the starting 5 can continue to open holes for a talented running back room. Chase Brown rushed for over 1,000 yards last season but didn’t find the endzone nearly enough. Illinois averaged just 20 points per game, and even that was more than they deserved! More scores needed.

The defense outperformed expectations last year, surrendering an average of just 22 points in a classic case of bend-don’t-break. Head coach Brett Bielma demands a certain level of aggression from his defense, and you’ll see a bucket-load of effort on this side of the ball. As they say, ‘hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.’ Illinois will need to harness that mantra again, with few standout players but a collectively strong defense.

A winning start is essential given the calibre of opposition. If they can combine that with a solid performance and execution of the game plan, optimism could be sparked for the Fighting Illini’s season and their fans can begin to get excited for what’s to come.

That will do it for this short B1G 10 Week 0 Preview. We look forward to a full slate in Week 1. 

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