By: Michael Hanich | Sports Editor
The day that many people have been waiting for is finally here. College Football season is back. The South Alabama Jaguars returns after going through significant changes in the previous offseason. Head coach Steve Campbell and his Jaguars are looking to make a statement after finishing 3-9 (2-6 in Sun Belt play) last year.
South will not have an easy transition into the 2019 College Football. The Jaguars will be facing the #24 Nebraska Cornhuskers in Lincoln, Nebraska this Saturday at 11 am on ESPN. This is a Cornhuskers team that went 4-8 last season in head coach Scott Frost’s first year but are projected to account for a 9-4 record in 2019. This is due to the excellent coaching qualities that coach Frost builds into a program and a Heisman-Trophy dark horse contender in sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez.
The Jaguars are no stranger to upsets. In the 2016 season, they beat their first-ever power five conference opponent in the Mississippi State Bulldogs (21-20) as well as their first-ever ranked opponent in the #19 San Diego State Aztecs (42-24).
This will be a difficult matchup for the Jaguars as they not only have to match the playing capabilities of the Cornhuskers’ highly recruited players, but they must contain Martinez. He was selected a preseason third-team Big Ten Conference quarterback by Athlon Sports. Martinez is a dual-threat player, who can beat defenses with his arm and his legs. Last season, in his freshman year, he threw for 2,617 yards, 17 touchdowns, and eight interceptions on 224 completions out of 347 attempts. He also rushed for 629 yards and eight touchdowns on 140 carries.
Much like any other college football team, the Cornhuskers lost some key players from the previous season. They will be replacing three offensive linemen with all three from the guards and center. The Jaguars’ defense can make an immediate impact by shutting down the running game from the inside zones.
Defensive coordinator Greg Stewart mentioned in Monday’s press conference that he has confidence in his edges. The Jaguars cannot allow Martinez to scramble and account for big plays on the ground. This will be a big game for senior defensive end Tyree Turner and junior outside linebacker Riley Cole.
Jaguars senior running back Tra Minter will once again be the leader of this offense this season. He will have a big task this Saturday against Nebraska. He and the Jaguars’ stout offensive line that returns three starters from last season, will go against a virtually new Cornhuskers defense. Last season, they were ranked 96th in the nation (out of 130 division one programs) in rushing yards allowed per game (195.8 rushing yards per game). The Cornhuskers, however, do return senior inside linebacker Mohamed Barry. Last season, Barry was selected to the All-Conference third team as he accounted for 112 total tackles and ten tackles for loss.
Jag Nation is excited to see sophomore quarterback Cephus Johnson step up to take the role as the full-time starter. While this is a Cornhuskers defense that has suffered many departed players, this is still a potentially dangerous defense to play against. Coach Campbell said his team will take the game one play and one drive at a time in order to potentially take down the Cornhuskers in a shocking upset in week one.