Week 2 College Football Free Pick - Nebraska at Oregon (9/6/17)
FREE PICK: Nebraska +14 at Oregon (Covers 55.4%)
The Nebraska Cornhuskers will head into Eugune, Oregon to take on the Ducks this weekend after narrowly escaping Arkansas State with a victory. Mike Riley took home a 35-32 victory against Oregon last season in a more impressive show of defense than last week.
New defensive coordinator, Bob Diaco, introduced a 3-4 scheme coming into this season that struggled badly last week. They did seal the 43-36 victory last week with a red zone stop in the final minutes. In the end, Arkansas State put up 497 yards and took advantage of Nebraska outside the tackles.
If it weren't for Tanner Lee and Tre Bryant, Nebraska's hopes this season for an unlikely run would have started off in an unexpected position. Lee, a Tulane transfer, completed 19 of 32 throws for 238 yards while Bryant ran for an impressive 192 yards. Stanley Morgan came away with 102 of Lee's 238 passing yards on five catches. Lee did not add to the running game this week, but he has been seen as an athletic player who will need to contribute there this week if the Huskers want to keep it close.
Meanwhile, Oregon took on the Southern Utah Thunderbirds where they scored eleven touchdowns to take home a 77-21 victory. Quarterback, Justin Herbert, completed 81.0% of his passes for 281 yards and a touchdown. The Ducks had no issues smashing the ball into the end zone on the ground, either. Royce Freeman ran for 150 yards and four scores. Kani Benoit ran for 107 yards and three scores on just seven carries. Oregon's high-pace style of play and speed is a challenge for any defense, especially so the Thunderbirds.
Nebraska will need a minor miracle to pull out a victory in Eugene, especially in the form they showed last week. However, we see a large number of teams struggle in week one against bad opponents throughout college football. As Diaco gets more film, the new defense should improve. We also believe the 3-4 defense will allow the Cornhuskers to spread out with Oregon in a way they would not be able to do previously with speedier, more athletic players on the field.
Nebraska's young offense should have plenty of opportunity to get after Oregon's smaller defense with the pace of this game. It's a stretch to expect Nebraska to compete late into the fourth quarter in this one, but keeping the game within two touchdowns is more likely than not.
According to 50,000 games played by our simulation engine at PredictionMachine.com, Nebraska wins over Oregon just 23.9% of the time with an average losing score of 38.2 to 29.0. As a 14-point underdog losing by an average margin of 9.2 points, the Cornhuskers cover the spread 55.4% of the time, which would justify a $32 wager for an average $50 bettor.