Which game could turn a season on a dime? Or flip it on its head? We asked Land of 10’s Sean Keeler and Corey Masisak to break down the football games in the fall that intrigue them the most — and why. We’ll start with the Nebraska Cornhuskers:
2016 record: 9-4, 6-3 Big Ten
2017 predicted record (Massey): 7-5, 5-4 Big Ten
Home games: Arkansas State; Northern Illinois; Rutgers; Wisconsin; Ohio State; Northwestern; Iowa.
Road games: Oregon; Illinois; Purdue; Minnesota; Penn State.
Most intriguing game: at Oregon, September 9
Questions, questions, questions. How much teeth does the new 3-4 look have under defensive coordinator Bobby Diaco? How does new quarterback Tanner Lee handle a Power 5 defense in a hostile, rocking Power 5 environment?
The season-opener against Arkansas State should shed some light on the first question, but coach Mike Riley should — should — be able to keep things close to the vest against the Red Wolves.
Back-to-back home games with West favorite Wisconsin — a rival the Huskers haven’t beaten since 2012 — and CFP contender Ohio State to open October will determine the shape of the season and the stretch run that follows.
But a trip to Eugene on Sept. 9 is the first real test of substance, on several fronts. In five career contests vs. Power 5 foes with Tulane, Lee went 0-5, completing 72 of 140 throws (51.4 percent) with 4 touchdown passes and 8 picks. Then again, the junior transfer was a statistically better passer on the road (54.4 completion percentage, 110.0 passer rating) than he was at home (52.8, 107.1) with the Green Wave, so who the heck knows.
Nor do we know how far a putrid Ducks defense — Oregon allowed a whopping 3.4 points per drive to FBS foes in 2016, the worst rate in the country — will come under new defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt, who worked wonders at Colorado.
On the plus side, the Huskers are 2-0 against the Pac-12 under Riley, who knows the league back-to-front from his tenures at Oregon State. But the Big Red are also 4-5 in West Coast games since 2001, and new Ducks coach Willie Taggart could use an early big-scalp victory to assuage some of the locals who fear the former USF coach might be out of his depth. Few scalps come bigger than the Big Red’s.