Nebraska football vs. Akron: Time, TV schedule, game preview, score
Cornhuskers host Zips in season opener
LINCOLN, Neb. – After watching Scott Frost turn Central Florida from a winless team into an undefeated one in two seasons, Nebraska would like nothing more than to watch its last national championship-winning quarterback spark a similar revival following their worst season since 1961. The Cornhuskers hope their native son can get them pointed back in the right direction starting Saturday when they host Akron.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Nebraska -24.5
Frost took over UCF in 2016 following a 0-12 campaign and guided the Knights to a six-win season before they became the darlings of FBS in '17 by going 13-0, including a 30-27 victory over Auburn in the Peach Bowl.
The 43-year-old, who led Nebraska to the last of its five national titles in 1997, assumes control of a program that has suffered losing campaigns in two of the past three years - including a 4-8 mark in 2017 - after finishing 49 of the previous 53 seasons with at least nine wins.
Frost wasted little time making his first notable decision last weekend, naming Adrian Martinez as the starting quarterback and making him the first true freshman signal-caller to open the season as the starter in school history.
The Zips proved to be more than the sum of their parts in 2017, winning the East Division of the Mid-American Conference despite sporting the 121st-ranked offense and 103rd-ranked defense in FBS by leading the league in turnover margin and winning three of their games by a total of five points.
ABOUT AKRON (2017: 7-7)
Sophomore quarterback Kato Nelson sparked the offense with four touchdown passes in a critical conference victory over Ohio last season and faces the daunting task of trying to improve after losing four of his top five pass-catchers from a season ago.
The one returning receiver is senior Kwadarrius Smith, who averaged a MAC-best 21.4 yards per catch and led the team in receiving yards (726) and receiving scores (seven) despite finishing with only 34 receptions.
First-team all-conference linebacker Ulysees Gilbert III tallied 140 tackles, five sacks, 9.5 tackles for loss and three interceptions as a junior; he is one of nine returning players back from a defense that led the MAC with 19 interceptions.
ABOUT NEBRASKA (2017: 4-8)
Martinez should have no shortage of weapons at his disposal as senior Stanley Morgan Jr. (61 catches for 986 yards and 10 touchdowns) and sophomore JD Spielman (55, 830 and two) ranked second and fifth, respectively, in the Big Ten in receiving yards.
Junior college transfer Greg Bell is expected to get the first shot at being the next in a long line of great running backs for the Cornhuskers after averaging over six yards per carry and rushing for at least 1,187 yards in each of his two seasons at Arizona Western.
The Cornhuskers struggled mightily on defense in 2017, surrendering nearly twice as many rushing yards as the offense gained on the ground (2,577-1,290) and recording a Big-Ten low 14 sacks.
1. Nebraska gave up at least 54 points in each of its final three games last season.
2. Akron failed to rush for 180 yards against any FBS team and allowed a FBS-worst 328 first downs last season.
3. The Cornhuskers' only other matchup against the Zips came in the aforementioned 1997 national championship season. Ironically, Nebraska's second game that season was against UCF.
PREDICTION: Nebraska 38, Akron 20
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