The Nebraska Cornhuskers take on the Northwestern Wildcats in Dublin, Ireland, to open up the 2022 college football season. The two teams get right at it with a conference game in a very unfamiliar place. They travel across the Atlantic Ocean to Ireland, where they will play in Aviva Stadium in what should be a great atmosphere. Ireland has held numerous college football games, but this will be the first time that Nebraska and Northwestern make the trip.
The Cornhuskers and Wildcats are coming off disappointing seasons that saw them finish sixth and seventh in their division, respectively. They both finished 3-9 overall and 1-8 in conference play, though Nebraska finished ahead of Northwestern by way of a 56-7 victory over the Wildcats. The only Big Ten team to finish with a worse record was Indiana in the East, (2-10, 0-9 Big Ten).
Nebraska's season in particular was strange. The Cornhuskers outscored their opponents 335-272, with their three victories coming by an average of 39.7 points. Moreover, each of their nine losses came by single digits; only one team, No. 5 Ohio State, won by multiple possessions (nine points).
The pressure is on Cornhuskers coach Scott Frost as he heads into Year 5, considering he has yet to lead his alma mater to a winning season. To that end, a similar result to last year's contest would be a great way for Nebraska to start its 2022 season.
Here's how to watch the Week 0 thriller that is Nebraska vs. Northwestern:
Read some of what Ken Maguire of the Associated Press wrote about the Huskers preparing for a Northwestern team that has yet to name its starting quarterback.
Nebraska’s defense knows Ryan Hilinski from last season but it is also preparing for a surprise or two at quarterback against Northwestern in the Irish capital on Saturday.
Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald hasn’t named a starter for the season opener and this week refused to talk quarterbacks: “I’m not going to tell you anything.”
The Huskers say they will be ready.
“We know they’re going to have some surprises for us, some different personnel groupings, might be two quarterbacks playing, might be a surprise starter, we don’t know, but we’re ready for all of them,” defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said Wednesday after practice.
The Big Ten matchup is the first regular-season international college football game in five years.
Coaches won’t admit it, but “the craic” (Irish for friendly chatter) among the 13,000 U.S. fans who made the trip is that the game is practically must-win territory already, especially for the Huskers and coach Scott Frost.
Both teams were 3-9 last year. Nebraska hasn’t won since its 56-7 rout of Northwestern in Lincoln last October. Six consecutive losses. The Wildcats have also dropped six straight games, but Fitzgerald has a long-term deal and full support from his alma mater
Hilinski made five starts last season as a sophomore and threw for 978 yards but completed just 54% of his passes. In nine appearances, he threw for three touchdowns and four interceptions. He also had a costly fumble in the loss to the Huskers.
Redshirt freshman Brendan Sullivan is also a possibility, though neither he or Hilinski are run threats.
“We’ve worked very hard on a lot of the unbalanced stuff from the last couple of years from (Northwestern), a lot of the quarterback runs,” Chinander said. “We’ll see, are they going to put someone else in for the quarterback runs? Are they going to do it with wildcat? We’ve worked very hard on both.”
Evan Hull rushed for 1,009 yards last season on 5.1 yards per carry, so keeping him involved will be vital for Northwestern’s chances. He boasted about the whole running backs room.
“We all have our different strengths, for sure, and I think that’s what makes our group so dangerous,” Hull said. Andrew Clair “runs with an attitude to him. He can bring the boom, too.”
Northwestern’s defense couldn’t stop anybody on the ground last season. The Wildcats allowed a Big Ten-worst 213 rushing yards per game, including 427 to Nebraska.
Gabe Ervin Jr. said the Huskers running backs are raring to go: “We’re here to run the ball downhill, down their throat, each and every play we get the ball.”
The Cornhuskers come into the season needing to show signs of improvement under head coach Scott Frost. Frost is very much on the hot seat after going 3-9 last year and just 1-8 in the Big Ten.
The Cornhuskers did lose every one of their games by nine points or fewer, so they were right on the edge. Their one win last year in the Big Ten was a big 56-7 trouncing of Northwestern.
The Wildcats will be looking to avenge that loss as they also try and bounce back from a very difficult year. They went just 3-9 last year and also had just one Big Ten win. They were able to beat Rutgers 21-7, but lost seven of their last eight games.