Nebraska/Illinois AP capsule
Tommy Armstrong (USA Today)
Tommy Armstrong (USA Today)

Posted Oct 3, 2013


Both are 3-1 and both look to get off to a good start in conference play.

Illinois (3-1) at Nebraska (3-1), 11 a.m. CT (ESPNU)

Line: Nebraska by 9 ½.

Series Record: Nebraska leads 7-2-1.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

The Big Ten opener looks to be more of a dicey proposition than expected for Nebraska. The Illini are clicking on offense, averaging 40 points and 479 yards, and the Cornhuskers' defense can't seem to stop anybody. Despite its 14-game Big Ten losing streak, Illinois comes to Lincoln with lots of confidence.

KEY MATCHUP

Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase vs. Nebraska defense. The fourth-year starter is completing 67 percent of his passes for almost 300 yards a game. Never mind that Nebraska has nine interceptions. Opponents are completing 63 percent for 284 yards a game. Illinois needs Scheelhaase at his best in what could turn into a scoring contest.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Illinois: LB Jonathan Brown. The Butkus Award candidate leads the Big Ten and is sixth nationally with 11.8 tackles a game. He has led the Illini in tackles every game this season.

Nebraska: CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste, who's the first Nebraska player to pick off a pass in four straight games since Josh Bullocks in 2003. Jean-Baptiste already has 140 interception return yards, 37 off the school record held by Daniel Bullocks in 2004.

FACTS & FIGURES

Tommy Armstrong Jr. will be Nebraska's starting quarterback for the second straight game if Taylor Martinez (turf toe) can't play ... The teams will play every year from now on with both schools heading to the Big Ten West Division in 2014 ... The Huskers have won 35 of their past 38 conference openers, with all three of the losses coming since 2002 ... Illinois is breaking more big plays under new offensive coordinator Bill Cubit. The Illini have 27 plays of 20 yards or more through four games, compared with last season's 12-game total of 34 ... Illinois scored a school-record 161 points over its first four games, bettering the 158 in the first four games of 1914, when the Illini won Big Ten and national titles.


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