Nebraska Football: Opener vs Illinois will set the pace for the 2021 season

Adrian Martinez #2 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers runs the ball during the game against the Illinois Fighting Illini (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Adrian Martinez #2 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers runs the ball during the game against the Illinois Fighting Illini (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

Rejoice Husker Fans, as after a long offseason it is officially game week. Nebraska Football will take on Illinois this Saturday to kick off the college football season.  I’m here to give you my thoughts on what will happen and what this game means to Nebraska’s season as a whole.

Nebraska and Illinois have had somewhat of a rivalry during the Scott Frost era, which is not what most Husker fans would like to hear.  In the last three meetings, Nebraska Football is 2-1 with the most recent matchup being an embarrassing loss in Lincoln (not much of a home-field advantage due to Covid).  However, Nebraska is 2-0 in that era when Adrian Martinez is starting at quarterback.

Whatever your opinion on Martinez may be one thing is for certain… he has torched Illinois.  As a freshman, he put up 345 total yards and four touchdowns en route to a 54 point performance by the offense, and in 2019 as a sophomore, he recorded nearly 450 yards and three more touchdowns in a close 42-38 victory.  Let it be noted that Illinois is also transitioning from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4, which Scott Frost’s offenses historically have success against.

Many players return for Illinois.

In fact, they have a nation-high 22 super seniors returning.  That’s something Brett Bielema probably appreciates in his first year at the helm. It will be interesting to see how much that experience pays off as they switch to a different head coach and a new system.

Personally, I have believed for quite some time that this game is the most important for Nebraska football. Over the past couple weeks I have noticed there are many fans who agree with me, especially with the recent allegations coming into play.

If the Huskers can win this game it could have an immense impact on the season as a whole. The advantage to playing a conference opponent in the first game as opposed to a cupcake is that you get tested immediately and have the momentum to build off.

If Nebraska can win this game they will most likely be 3-0 heading into Norman to play Oklahoma.  Assuming Nebraska loses that game (crazier things have happened right?), 3-1 feels a whole lot different than 2-2 and could give the team an entirely different mentality to start the meat of the season.

Although Illinois has plenty of returning production, so do the Huskers.  They return 17 starters and a few super seniors of their own.  More importantly, I’m expecting improved defensive performance and for the offense to take advantage of the Illini’s transitioning period.

Let’s hope the turnover margin is in favor of Big Red for once. If it is, it could be a blowout, but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself.

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Nebraska – 34

Illinois – 20