The Illinois Fighting Illini begin their Big Ten schedule this weekend on the road against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. It’s Nebraska’s homecoming and the Illini will be looking to upset the Huskers. The Illini did not win a single conference game in 2012 and are looking for their first under head coach Tim Beckman.
Today, we talk with John Ackeren. John is the lead editor of huskercorner.com and he give us a preview of the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Ricky Widmer: Besides the Washington game, the Illinois offense has looked great to start the season. Bill Cubit has come out swinging and has given new life to Nathan Scheelhaase’s college career. How will the Blackshirt defense of Nebraska try to slow down Nathan Scheelhaase and the Illini offense and will they be successful?
John Ackeren: Scheelhaase is the most underrated quarterback in The B1G Ten. Nebraska will likely try to focus on the potent wide receivers that he has at his disposal, but I honestly don’t know if they will be able to. Nebraska’s best bet would be to try to pressure Scheelhaase and try to disrupt the backfield if possible. I just don’t know if they have enough play-makers to get the job done. The Husker offense might be their best defense against the Illini.
Ricky: With Taylor Martinez still listed as questionable, do you think the Illinois defense will see him on Saturday or will true freshman Tommy Armstrong Jr. make his second career start? Is Bo just doing this to force Illinois to prepare for two QBs?
John: Bo Pelini has emphasized that Taylor Martinez will not play until he is at 100%. Pelini knows that without Martinez posing the threat of running the football, he is not effective at all. To be honest, a large number of Husker fans are hoping that Armstrong starts, and that he is a better option at quarterback. He has a stronger arm, can run a true option, and has good instincts. Personally, I don’t know if Martinez will start until October 26th at Minnesota. Armstrong is more than capable of operating the offense until the dog days of the Big Ten schedule comes calling. Nebraska will want it’s most lethal assassin completely healed and well rested for the final moth of the season.
Ricky: Special teams has been big for the Illini this season. Does the Illinois special teams unit scare you at all in this game?
John: I think that Nebraska will be able to cover Illinois special teams unit fair enough. It’s Nebraska’s return game that scares me. They have not been able to do much in that department.
Ricky: After everything that’s been happening to the team these past two weeks, how badly does Bo Pelini need a win against Illinois?
John: This team needs a win, preferably a big one against the Illini. Pelini is a competitor, and he will want to make a statement in the first conference game of the year. With the rough games against Wyoming and UCLA, Nebraska needs to win with a purpose.
Ricky: If Illinois beats Nebraska, will Pelini be on the hot seat? Also, what will your opinion on an Illinois squad that didn’t win a single Big Ten game last season?
John: After Audiogate Pelini’s seat is already warm. While the administration has said the issue is over, that doesn’t mean that boosters and all fans have forgotten. A loss to Illinois would only make his haters more vocal.
Illinois is a quality football team. Before the season started many Husker fans thought this game would be a walk in the park. After four games Nebraska does not look as good as they were expected to be. Illinois on the other hand has looked like a team on a mission. I like the direction the Illini are headed in. They have already exceeded expectations so anything else they can do this season will be icing.
Ricky: Prediction time: Who do you got and why?
John: Although the Huskers have struggled I think they walk away with the win. Tommy Armstrong is going to make at least one highlight reel play, and Nebraska will force a turnover or two that will give them a win. Remember the name Stanley Jean Baptiste. The Husker cornerback has four interceptions through four games. He will make a play that wins the game for Nebraska. Huskers 42, Illini 40.
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