Nebraska Cornhuskers vs Illinois: Pre Game Roundtable Discussion


Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

The Nebraska Cornhuskers battle the Illinois Fighting Illini this Saturday in a Big Ten matchup. I caught up with Husker Corner staff writers Leland Johnson and Josh Shaw to get their thoughts on the game.

It’s going to be another week without Taylor Martinez behind center. If Tommy Armstrong looks impressive for the second straight game, is Martinez in jeapardy of losing his job as starting quarterback?

Josh Shaw: Martinez is Bo Pelini’s quarterback when healthy. Tommy Armstrong Jr. is the future of the program at quarterback, but there is no doubt that when Taylor gets healthy he will regain his starting spot. Armstrong could play excellent Saturday but that wouldn’t change the status at quarterback.

Leland Johnson: I expect Tommy Armstrong will take the majority of the snaps on Saturday against Illinois.  Even if he lights up the scoreboard, I don’t see Taylor Martinez losing his job.   I do see a Husker quarterback controversy in the near future.

John Ackeren: Knowing Pelini, Martinez will start when healthy. I do, however, believe that if Armstrong can make this offense click and they continue to progress, Armstrong should be the starter.

Illinois has a problem stopping the run. How big of an impact will Ameer Abdullah have in Saturday’s game?

Josh Shaw: The chances are good and it could take the pressure off the passing game if Armstrong/Kellogg III show any struggles. The Huskers could ground and pound their way to victory. Because of that, Ameer Abdullah may get a career high in both carries and rushing yards.

Leland Johnson: Ameer Abdullah will play an important role in Saturday’s game.   He might even prove to be the Huskers savior in a close game.

John Ackeren: Abdullah will be crucial to Nebraska’s success against Illinois. Washington wore down the Illini by running the football in the second half. If the Huskers use Abdullah and the other backs establish a good run game early it gives them a better chance to win.

Do you have confidence that the defense will have a better showing against Illinois because they have had two weeks to prepare?

Josh Shaw: The defense is still shaky in my book. The two true freshman Josh Banderas and Nate Gerry have lost their starting spots and we don’t know what to expect. With two weeks to prepare for the Fighting Illini there should be a sense of urgency. Illinois has primarily passed the ball this season, so that could help given our ball hawking corners on defense. The key is stopping the run and watching out for any gadget plays from the Illinois offense.

Leland Johnson: The jury is out on this year’s rendition of the Blackshirts.  From week to week it’s anybody’s guess what will happen.  Randall Gregory and Stanley Jean-Babtiste will likely make an impact.

John Ackeren: If the defense has two weeks to prepare for a team and they still cant stop them it’s going to be time to hit the panic button. I don’t know if this staff has what it takes to turn things around. The athletes are there, just don’t know if the scheme is right.

Prediction time. What is the final score and who gets MVP honors?

Josh Shaw: Final Score Prediction: Nebraska 34 Illinois 24. Ameer Abdullah will set a career high in rushing yards and score two touchdowns to earn game MVP.

Leland Johnson: Nebraska 44 Illinois 41.  Expect to see Kenny Bell in the end zone a few times to capture MVP honors.

John Ackeren: Stanley Jean Baptiste wins MVP honors by grabbing his fifth pick of the season and saving the game. Nebraska 42 Illinois 40.