LINCOLN, Neb. – He wouldn’t outright say it, but Nebraska coach Mike Riley did hint at his press conference on Monday the playing field is now pretty even between him and Oregon.
After years of being the younger brother at Oregon State, Riley now sits at the helm of a blue-blood program and is ready to change his narrative against Oregon.
“We never lost confidence that we could beat Oregon,” Riley said of his history at Oregon State. But he also added it “was harder” to beat Oregon with the smaller program.
Riley’s history with Oregon is well documented. He’s 4-10 all-time against the Ducks, and some of the blowout losses to Oregon caused a lot of discomfort in Corvallis, Ore., near the end of Riley’s tenure in 2014.
But now, Nebraska is the favorite to win the matchup this Saturday, a rarity in the Riley vs. Oregon matchup. Though that doesn’t necessarily stand out to Riley.
“I’ve never put much stock in that as a coach,” Riley said of the point spread. “We always feel real confident going into a ballgame. We don’t pay a lot of attention to that.”
Riley admitted that during his time at Oregon the Beavers didn’t fare well against the big brother.
When Oregon was ranked in the top 20 in the Associated Press Poll, Riley is 1-8. The average score of the 14 matchups was 41-28 in Oregon’s favor.
But at the same time, Riley says Oregon State’s performances against Oregon were highlighted because they were an in-state rival. In reality, Oregon beat a lot of people in those years, Riley said.
“It was one of those deals where you didn’t necessarily like it but you had to admire the work in the program,” he said.
Oregon will come to Lincoln as the No. 22 ranked team in the country, and Riley pointed out the speed of the Ducks is their greatest asset.
The issue, he said, is speed in space. The key to stopping, or slowing down, Oregon, he said, is limiting big plays and controlling what you can control.
“You have to be very, very sound passing and have very, very good attackers on defense and take great pursuit angles when they do run the football so you get more people to the party,” Riley said.
On Saturday, no matter the surrounding story lines, like what jersey Oregon wears or what Oregon’s rank is or Riley’s record against Oregon, Riley said the team will approach the game like they’d approach any other game. Though this game does mean a little more to him because of his history, Riley said his main issue with Oregon has always been the same:
“They were a pretty darn good football team,” Riley said. “It will be fun. For this team right now, this is a good opportunity.”