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Nebraska Football: Previewing the Cornhuskers' Game Against Southern Mississippi

LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 29: Quarterback Taylor Martinez #3 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers runs for a first down against the Michigan State Spartans defense during their game at Memorial Stadium October 29, 2011 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska defeated Michigan State 24-3. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images
Patrick RungeCorrespondent IJune 16, 2016

For Nebraska fans watching the game against the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska, on Saturday, September 1, at 2:30 p.m. CT on ABC/ESPN2:

 

You'll Be Happy If...

The T-Magic Is Back

Yes, we’ve heard a lot about Taylor Martinez improving his throwing mechanics. What we’ve heard far less about is that his ankle is fully healed from the injury he suffered in 2010. If Martinez really is back to full speed on the ground, he will add an extra layer of attack to Nebraska’s offense.

It’s Not Rex’s Show

Rex Burkhead was the primary—at times the only—offensive weapon for Nebraska last season. According to Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald, Offensive coordinator Tim Beck has promised a less-is-more strategy for Burkhead this season. In the amount of offense that runs through Superman, we’ll get a good idea of what the balance will look like in the upcoming season.

There’s Pressure in the Backfield

Much has been said about Nebraska’s defensive struggles last season, particularly about how the secondary did not look like a Blackshirts squad of old. But Nebraska also struggled mightily to generate a pass rush last season. If Nebraska’s front four can heat up Southern Miss quarterback Chris Campbell, it will be a sign of improvement for NU.

 

You'll Be Sad If...

History Repeats Itself

Remember the last time the Golden Eagles came into Lincoln? It was September 11, 2004, and it was Bill Callahan’s second game in charge of the Cornhuskers. Southern Miss pulled off the upset, 21-17.

Nebraska Isn’t Ready for a Fight

The Golden Eagles are the defending Conference USA champions and won their bowl game last season. In the past, they’ve knocked off teams like Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina State, so the program is familiar with—and has the confidence to play with—a team like Nebraska.

The Children of the Corn’s Restlessness Bleeds Over

Southern Miss has enough front-line talent to give Nebraska a good test. The Golden Eagles will struggle with depth, meaning Nebraska has to wear down its opponent. The crowd, excited for opening day but a little restive after a 12-year title drought, could begin to get anxious if the game remains close going into the fourth quarter. If Nebraska picks up on that anxiety and tightens up on the field, the Golden Eagles have the talent to party like it’s 2004.

 

Fearless Forecast

Southern Miss is the toughest opening game Nebraska has faced since Arizona State in 2002.

A tough opponent—combined with the inevitable rust from playing their first competitive game since January—suggests the game will be relatively even for the first half. Look for Nebraska to weather the storm and pull away late, although the 19.5 point spread in favor of NU seems to be a poor investment strategy.

Nebraska 35, Southern Mississippi 17

If you would like to contact Patrick directly to schedule an interview, ask a question or to get his recipe for a killer peach cobbler, send an email to patrickrunge@gmail.com.  (DISCLAIMER: Peach cobbler recipe might not be all that killer.)

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