The Illinois football team heads to Lincoln to take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers this Saturday.
Both teams haven’t started the season strong as the Illini are only 1-3 and Nebraska sits at 1-2. But this should be a pretty competitive game as both teams are starting to pick up some momentum from winning their first game last Saturday.
Needing a victory, Illinois heads into the matchup against the Cornhuskers with some positive vibes. Improvements were made last week, but they need to continue being made on Saturday. This game is winnable, but the Illini need to do a few things to come away with the W.
Here are four ways the Illini can beat the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
1. Contain Luke McCaffrey
The Illinois defense hasn’t exactly gone up against the most dynamic quarterbacks in the nation in 2020. While the defense has struggled, it hasn’t been because the quarterback was dual-threat.
In week one, Graham Mertz rushed for two yards. Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell rushed or -26 yards. Illinois held Tanner Morgan to -9 yards on the ground. This past weekend against Rutgers, the Illini managed to hold Noah Vedral to just 22 yards rushing.
The scary part about this upcoming game against Nebraska is the fact the Illinois defense has struggled this season with one-dimensional players. Now we are going to face Luke McCaffrey for Nebraska.
McCaffrey, a Michigan transfer and brother of Christian McCaffrey, saw his first start of the season last week against Penn State. Former starter, Adrian Martinez, struggled the first two games this year, so it was time to move to McCaffrey.
In his lone start, McCaffrey led the Cornhuskers to a victory over Penn State, 30-23. He was 13-of-21 for 152 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception through the air. Those are okay numbers. What worries me is the fact he had 13 carries for 67 yards and 1 touchdown.
Illinois’ strength on defense is their ability to stop the rush and even that isn’t very good. They are giving up 189.5 yards per game on the ground, which ranks No. 88 in the nation. The Illini defense is also giving up 272.8 yards per game through the air.
If Illinois wants any chance at beating Nebraska, they are going to have to contain McCaffrey. There is a chance this kid could go off. We can’t let that happen.