Ranking Big Ten Opening Week Games-ELITE Tier

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4. BYU @ NEBRASKA (Sept. 5, 2:30 p.m. CT) ABC

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

The Mike Riley era in Lincoln, NE starts off with a tough test with BYU traveling to the Cornhusker State.

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  • Despite going 9-4 last year and contending for a Big Ten West division crown, Nebraksa lost three of their last four games and decided to kick Bo Pelini to the curb after the season. Riley takes over a good team with a passing game that has potential, but will need to find some way to replace explosive running back Ameer Abdullah. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong, Jr. returns after putting up 2,695 yards and 22 touchdowns to 12 interceptions. But Riley will have to find a running back, as Armstrong, Jr. was the second leading rusher last year, but that won’t fly in Riley’s pro-style offense. One aspect Nebraska will need to improve on is the defense. Gone are two leaders of the Blackshirts, Randy Gregory and Zaire Anderson. Filling those shoes will be a tall order for Riley and defensive coordinator Mark Banker.

    BYU had a decent season last year and was able to have success both on the ground and through the air, and the Cougars had no problem putting up points. The Cougars put up just over 37 points per game last year thanks in part to quarterback Christian Stewart who took over for Taysom Hill after he fractured his leg halfway through the season last year. Hill was on his way to put up some big numbers through the air and ground as he was BYU’s second leading rusher only playing four-plus games. If Hill can stay healthy this year, he will put up some big numbers. The Cougars’ defense held its own, but was led by linebacker Bronson Kaufusi, who led the team in sacks last year with seven on the season. Although BYU can put up big numbers, their defense will need to tighten up to keep teams from putting up big numbers as well.

    This will end up being a better game than most will think. It will be interesting to see if BYU and Taysom Hill can get the offense rolling and if Nebraska can find their identity on defense. Because the game is in Lincoln, NE, I’m going to have to give the slight edge to the Huskers.

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