Football is back at Memorial Stadium, and a sea of red will overtake Lincoln as Nebraska opens its 2012 season against Southern Miss.
The Cornhuskers struggled to separate themselves in a tough Big Ten conference last season, then lost to South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl. The Golden Eagles, however, rose to the top of Conference USA and beat Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl.
Both teams will be looking to start the season off with a strong performance, although the pressure will certainly be on Nebraska to perform in front of their home crowd.
Here is everything you need to know about the game.
Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Ne.
When: Saturday, September 1, 3:30 p.m. ET
Watch: ABC, ESPN2
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Betting Line: Nebraska -20, according to Sports Book
Southern Miss Injury Report (via USA Today)
The Golden Eagles have no significant injuries heading into this game.
Nebraska Injury Report (via USA Today)
The Cornhuskers have no significant injuries heading into this game.
BCS/Top 25 Poll Implications
Nebraska currently sits at No. 17 in the AP Top 25 poll and is one of five teams in the Big Ten who are ranked. The Cornhuskers will not be able to improve their ranking much in this match, but a victory will be a step towards establishing themselves as a force in their conference.
Southern Miss is not ranked, but an upset in the season opener would certainly turn some heads. Whether it jumps all the way into the Top 25 is uncertain, but it would certainly put itself in contention.
What They’re Saying
David Brandt of the Associated Press notes the connection between Nebraska and Southern Miss’ first-year head coach Ellis Johnson, via Yahoo Sports.
Of course, the 60-year-old Johnson has been around a long time and isn't a complete unknown - especially for the Cornhuskers. As South Carolina's defensive coordinator last season, his fingerprints were all over the defense that helped beat Nebraska 30-13 in the Capital One Bowl, even though Johnson had already left to take over at Southern Miss.
CBS Sports’ Mike Singer reveals why Taylor Martinez may be even more dynamic this season than he has been earlier in his career with the Cornhuskers.
Taylor Martinez's dual-threat ability will be vital against the Eagles, who limited their opponents to under 100 yards rushing seven times last season. Martinez spent the offseason working with quarterbacks coach Steve Calhoun, whose past students include Cam Newton and Jake Locker, in order to iron out his throwing motion.
Southern Miss Player to Watch: Jamie Collins, DE
Ellis Johnson will be scheming to limit Nebraska’s rushing attack in this game, and Collins will be his most lethal weapon. The senior defensive end had 98 tackles this past season, 19.5 of which were for a loss.
He has proven that he can be a disruptive force in the trenches, and he will need to be at his best in this game for his team to have a chance at victory.
Nebraska Player to Watch: Rex Burkhead, RB
Taylor Martinez is Nebraska’s star, but he will not be able to beat the Golden Eagles by himself. If Burkhead can run downhill consistently, the Cornhuskers offense will open up.
Burkhead is a blue-collar back who will receive plenty of carries after receiving 284 carries for 1,357 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. If he can equal his 104.4 yards per game average from a season ago on Saturday, then Nebraska will win the game.
Key Matchup: Nebraska Rushing Attack vs. Southern Miss Rush Defense
The Cornhuskers had the 15th-best rushing attack last season and the Golden Eagles ranked 24th in rush defense. With Johnson at the helm, Southern Miss stands a chance to improve its standing this season.
Nebraska is a running team, and if it is not successful on the ground, it will be vulnerable to an upset. But if Martinez and Burkhead start rolling early, there will be little suspense in this game.
Key Storyline: Nebraska Living Up To Expectations
Nebraska has a storied program, but has rarely been a national contender in recent seasons despite perennial high expectations. This year, fans are once again expecting big things from their team.
Who wins this game?
If the Cornhuskers look shaky, the doubt will start creeping in, even if they pull out a victory. Nebraska’s performance against Southern Miss will be judged in the context of this entire season.
Prediction: Nebraska 28, Southern Miss 17
The Cornhuskers running game is simply too strong for the Golden Eagles. Martinez and Burkhead will control the clock and the scoreboard as Nebraska gives the crowd a reason to celebrate.