Husker Buzz: Well learn a lot in Week 1
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[rl]Mike Riley doesn't get the luxury of opening with Western Illinois or Maine to kick off his coaching tenure at Nebraska.
Instead Riley will arguably face the toughest season opener the Huskers have seen since 2003 when they played a Les Miles led Oklahoma State team that started the season ranked No. 24. Before that you'd have to go back to 1994 the last time Nebraska opened the season against a ranked opponent.
The BYU Cougars are not ranked, but this is no doubt a toss-up type of opener - or at least Las Vegas thinks so. Going into Tuesday the Huskers are just a 7 point favorite at home, despite the fact they've won every season opener since 1986.
Most coaches typically like a season opener where they can try and experiment a few new things against a lesser opponent. Riley on the other hand welcomes the challenge NU will face on Saturday.
"That part is going to be really good for us," Riley said on Monday. "This is going to be a really good football team that always plays with a lot of confidence, and they are very physical. We'll find out a lot about our team through this game."
The make-up of this Cougar team is also much different than any opponent NU has ever faced before.
Because BYU is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, several of their players enroll for a year then leave for a two-year Mission.
When you look at the age of the juniors and seniors on the Cougar roster, several graduated in the high school classes of 2009 and 2010 making them much more physically and mentally mature then a normal Division I player that age.
"They have some big boys, and they run some smash-mouth offense," senior defensive end Jack Gangwish said. "It's going to be a physical game. We're going to be feeling it afterwards, but you know what, we're a physical defense. We've got some head-butting mother-fathers down there in that locker room. We're ready to go, I'll tell you that."
Preseason Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Taysom Hill also presents a unique challenge. At 6-foot-2, 234 pounds, Hill has been compared by Riley to former Washington Husky first round draft pick Jake Locker with his style of play.
After being limited with contact this August, junior defensive tackle Maliek Collins is very excited for the test the Huskers will get from Hill and BYU.
"They're a very physical team up front, but I like to say that we're a very physical team," Collins said.
I followed up a question to Collins asking if he's looking forward to somebody trying to come up and punch him in the mouth.
"I think I'll be doing the punching," Collins said smiling.
Three and out
***Every Nebraska fan needs to watch the video of Jack Gangwish getting his Blackshirt on Monday. That's what it's all about folks. A hard working in-state kid from small town Nebraska cherishing the moment of receiving his Blackshirt. Huskers.com did an unbelievable job of capturing that moment.
***Riley has been pretty careful on saying how much he wants to run the ball this year. The word Riley keeps going back to is "balance."
***This probably has to be one of the hardest years to lay down a preseason prediction. Until we see what it all looks like in Week 1, it's very hard to know what type of team this will be. I look at NU as a team that will win 8 to 10 games, with a lot of that depending on if they leave the non-conference 2-2, 3-1 or 4-0. Today I'm saying 9-3 with a trip to the Outback Bowl vs. Arkansas.
Sean Callahan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and he can be heard each day at 6:50 am and 5:05 pm on Big Red Radio 1110 KFAB in Omaha during the football season. He can also be seen on KETV Channel 7 TV in Omaha during the fall and each week he appears on NET's Big Red Wrap Tuesday's at 7 pm.
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