The Nebraska Cornhuskers are offering a $600,000 payday to the Idaho State Bengals for a glorified bye week. The game comes a week after the Cornhuskers dominated Arkansas State and is Nebraska's lone matchup with a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) opponent on the schedule.
Nebraska will enter the heart of its Big Ten schedule when it hosts Wisconsin next week and is undoubtedly spending most of this week looking ahead.
Head coach Bo Pelini basically admitted as much when he stated in a press conference that Idaho State is "a little bit unconventional defensively, and we are just going to have to kind of wait and see what they see in us and their game plan and try to react to whatever they do" (via local ABC affiliate KLKN).
To demonstrate just how unbalanced this contest is, there currently isn't a betting line being offered by the major sports books.
Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.
When: September 22, 2012, at 3:30 p.m. ET
Watch: Big Ten Network
Listen: Nebraska feed on KSID Radio 98.7 FM and Idaho State Radio on Game Central
Betting Line: Nebraska, no line
Idaho State opened the season with a 49-21 road loss to Air Force before winning a game over a NAIA opponent. This will be the first time Idaho State has squared off against a Big Ten team.
The Bengals play in the Big Sky Conference, home to several FCS power teams like Montana, Montana State and Eastern Washington University.
One of those teams would actually manage to elevate the heart rates of Nebraska's players while on the field, but Idaho State hasn't won a conference game in the last two seasons and has a record of just 11-58 since 2006.
Key Storyline: An Easy Win
The trend of major conference teams paying high dollars to beat up on FCS teams once a year will change somewhat in 2014. That is when strength of schedule will become more important in determining which teams play for the national title.
For now, FBS teams can count wins against FCS opponents in their total wins relative to being bowl eligible. That is the sole purpose of this contest.
Who Might Not Play for Idaho State
No injury report at this time
Who Might Not Play for Nebraska
Rex Burkhead, RB (probable with MCL Sprain)
The entire starting lineup in the second half.
BCS/Top 25 Implications
Nebraska could fall out of the Top 25 with anything but a dominating performance against Idaho State. The Cornhuskers' season begins in earnest next week.
What They’re Saying
There was very little talk of the showdown with Idaho State during Pelini's recent press conference. Instead, the Nebraska coach talked about the health issues he faced last week:
He opened with a bit of humor before talking about the health scare that saw him leave for the hospital at halftime of their win over Arkansas State (via Josh Harvey of Fox Sports).
It also appears that at least some Nebraska students have little interest in watching Idaho State:
Selling Nebraska vs. Idaho State Student Ticket for this weekend September 22nd. $30, $25 if you buy it today. Message me if interested!— Ben Ramos (@BCRamos329) September 17, 2012
Whom to Watch for Idaho State
Kevin Yost has put together two quality games so far in 2012 as the Bengals quarterback. The 6'1", 195-pound senior was 41-of-52 for 355 yards passing and a pair of touchdowns against Air Force.
Yost threw for another 424 yards, completing 41-of-58 passes with two more touchdowns against Black Hills State. The difference in competition vs. Nebraska will be huge, but if Yost's offensive line can give him any time to run the team's spread offense, he could have a decent day.
Whom to Watch for Nebraska
Fans should be watching to see how many carries Nebraska gives Burkhead this week. The Cornhuskers need to make sure he's healthy and ready for the Big Ten schedule; their next five games are against Wisconsin, Ohio State, Northwestern, Michigan and Michigan State.
Pelini said in the press conference that Burkhead will play this weekend:
Rex will play. He'll be out there practicing this week, so we are anticipating that he is going to play. We'll see how he progresses during the week. He probably could've played last week, but I really like how we've handled it.
I've leaned on the trainers and the doctors. I think he's ready to play. He's anxious and nipping at us to try and get him in there.
Right now I think is the right time. I think he will be a heck of a lot more ready this Saturday than he was this last Saturday. I think he'll be pretty much 100 percent.
This game will turn in the trenches. If Nebraska completely dominates at the line of scrimmage, this game will be a massacre.
If the Bengal offensive linemen can sustain blocks and the defensive line isn't knocked completely off the ball, then it will merely be a major drubbing. Idaho State can move the ball through the air, but Nebraska should have too much power on the defensive line to allow plays to develop.
On the Hot Seat
The Nebraska athletic department, as they had the gall to schedule a game with an FCS school that can't win games in its own division, let alone the FBS.
It is understandable that a team like Idaho State will sign these types of deals. This payday will go a long way in funding the Bengals athletic program.
It would be nice to see Nebraska schedule a school that could give its team a good scrimmage, but, again in the press conference, Pelini addressed some of the issues that lead to games like the one against Idaho State:
You try and do what you can to schedule the games. I'm not big on playing these games. I'd rather play all I-A opponents. I'm not sitting here trying to talk bad about Idaho State. I'm just talking about the things we would like to do as a football program.
You look across the country, and a lot of coaches aren't really fond of playing these games, but there are a lot of scheduling conflicts and issues. You find times where it's hard to find an opponent.
There are a lot of issues of how that all works out, and you hope to keep them to a minimum and eliminate them altogether, but it's not always possible.
The main goal for Idaho State in this contest is to leave with a big check and its team still healthy enough to challenge Sacramento State next week.
Idaho State's starting unit will try to keep the game close in the first quarter, but the depth and talent of a program like Nebraska will quickly wear out the Bengals.