We asked Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star columnist Steve Sipple for his take on the Cornhuskers going into Saturday’s game against Illinois at Memorial Stadium:
How is Year 2 of the Scott Frost era going compared to where you thought it would be?
I thought Nebraska would be 3-0. But I didn’t necessarily think it was going to be an easy 3-0. I figured the Colorado game would be difficult. Not too far off from what I expected. Now there is one interesting thing going on. And that is the offense has kind of lagged behind the defense. The offense has sputtered a little bit. It sputtered in the opener to a large degree. It sputtered in the third quarter against Colorado to a large degree. But then it kind of looked like itself last week against Northern Illinois. But the defense has just been really strong. I want to see what it looks like now when Nebraska gets into the Big Ten and plays better competition.
How important is the game at Illinois to Nebraska?
It’s important because Nebraska has lost eight straight road games. People within the program and outside the program are pretty anxious for that streak to end. That’s a bad look for a proud program. Here’s a great opportunity. Nebraska rebounded from the Colorado loss, got a good win, got a little momentum. They should be able to go in there and take care of business if they play OK.
Other than 2015, Nebraska has dominated the recent series. How do Nebraska fans view Illinois?
I’d say they just don’t think about them very much. It’s also a Big Ten foe that has to be respected. I think what Illinois did last year in Lincoln got people’s attention. They came in and put up a pretty big number (35) points-wise. Reggie Corbin is respected throughout the Big Ten, including Lincoln.
Why should I keep Adrian Martinez on my Heisman watch list?
I thought he really played well against Northern Illinois and played well for most of the Colorado game. Adrian is doing what he can. We all have to remember that Nebraska’s playing with a lot of key guys on the offense for the first time. Adrian trusted some guys that he lost, foremost Stanley Morgan and Devine Ozigbo. They are working their way through some kinks right now. I think he can heat up.
Who is one under-the-radar Nebraska player Illinois fans should keep an eye on?
Inside linebacker Collin Miller. He played sparingly last year. He has really emerged as an explosive playmaker this year. Illinois fans will be aware of No. 31 when he’s flying around on Saturday night.
Who’s going to win?
Nebraska 34, Illinois 21. I think Nebraska will control it for most of the evening, and I think Illinois can put a fair amount of points on the board.