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Indiana Football Week 5: Meet the Nebraska Cornhuskers

Indiana (3-1) heads to Nebraska (1-3) on Saturday for a 7:30 p.m. ET kickoff. Nebraska fired coach Scott Frost after a home loss to Georgia Southern, and the Cornhuskers are coming off a blowout loss to Oklahoma in Mickey Joseph's first game as interim head coach.
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It's been a season of significant change for Nebraska football.

Entering the 2022 campaign, Nebraska welcomed in 15 transfers and 18 freshmen, and some thought Nebraska could contend for a Big Ten West title.

But those aspirations quickly went down hill before the end of non-conference play. Nebraska started its season with a 31-28 loss to Northwestern in Dublin, Ireland, a game in which Scott Frost was heavily criticized for an onside kick attempt with an 11-point lead and nine minutes left in the third quarter.

Frost and the Cornhuskers defeated North Dakota 38-17 the following week, but a 45-42 home loss to Georgia Southern meant it was time for a change. Frost held a 16-31 record at Nebraska, including a 10-26 mark in Big Ten play, and he never finished better than fifth in the Big Ten West division. On Sept. 11, three games into his fifth season, Frost was fired.

Nebraska promoted Mickey Joseph to interim head coach, and in Joseph's first game leading his alma mater, Nebraska lost to Oklahoma 49-17 at home. Joseph joined the Nebraska coaching staff before the 2022 season as an associate head coach, wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator. He played quarterback for the Cornhuskers from 1988 to 1991. 

Despite a 1-3 start to the season and a midseason coaching change, Nebraska is favored by six points in Saturday's 7:30 p.m. ET matchup against Indiana in Lincoln, Neb., according to the SI Sportsbook.

Here are the key players to watch from Nebraska.

A transfer-heavy offense

Two key members of Nebraska's incoming transfer class this offseason were quarterback Casey Thompson and wide receiver Marcus Washington from Texas.

In four starts for Nebraska, Thompson has completed 65 percent of passes for 995 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions. Oklahoma bottled up Thompson in the run game, but he rushed for three touchdowns against Georgia Southern. He has connected with the 6-foot-2 Washington 12 times for 198 yards. 

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Thompson's go-to target this year is LSU transfer Trey Palmer, who has caught 28 passes for 323 yards and a touchdown. Palmer played 10 games at LSU last year, hauling in 30 receptions for 344 yards and three touchdowns. New Mexico State transfer Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda is Nebraska's third-leading receiver at 120 yards and a touchdown on five receptions. 

Florida State and New Mexico Military Institute transfer Anthony Grant has taken over lead running back duties at Nebraska, and Indiana coach Tom Allen referred to him as one of the best running backs Indiana will play all season. In two seasons at the junior college level, Grant rushed for 2,549 yards and 28 touchdowns, averaging 7.1 yards per carry. As a true freshman at Florida State, he played every game as the Seminoles' primary kick returner.

Since returning to the Division I level, Grant has rushed 82 times for 464 and five touchdowns at Nebraska, which is good for 5.7 yards per carry. Grant's backup was true freshman Ajay Allen, who carried the ball 33 times for 190 yards and two scores, but he is out for the season with a collarbone injury.  

Through four week's Nebraska's offense ranks in the middle of the pack, statistically, compared to the rest of the Big Ten. The Cornhuskers average 451 total yards (7th), 30.5 points (8th), 193.5 rushing yards (6th) and 257.5 passing yards (7th) per game. 

Defensive leaders

Nebraska fired defensive coordinator Erik Chinander on Sept. 18 and promoted special teams coordinator Bill Busch to that role. Before the season, the Cornhuskers lost linebacker JoJo Domann and defensive back Cam Taylor-Britt, who were second team All-Big Ten players in 2021. 

Lincoln-native linebacker Luke Reimer leads Nebraska with 39 total tackles after receiving an All-Big Ten honorable mention last year. Along with Reimer, linebackers Caleb Tannor and Nick Henrich, edge Garrett Nelson and cornerback Quinton Newsome started all 12 games for Nebraska in 2021. Sophomore safety Marques Buford has the team's only two interceptions this year, both of which came against Georgia Southern. 

Ochaun Mathis started 34 games at TCU, and since transferring to Nebraska, he's made 1.5 tackles for loss and one sack at defensive end. Defensive lineman Stephon Wynn transferred from Alabama to Nebraska, and he recovered a fumble in Nebraska's win over North Dakota. Another impact transfer is Devin Drew from Texas Tech, who had his first career sack against Oklahoma. 

On a per-game basis, the Nebraska defense has allowed the most points (35.5), total yards (514), rushing yards (233.5) and passing yards (280.5) of any Big Ten team. The Cornhuskers are also last in sacks (4) and opponent third down conversion rate (52.5).

  • MICKEY JOSEPH PREVIEWS INDIANA: Nebraska football's interim head coach Mickey Joseph spoke to the media on Tuesday, and he had a few comments about the Cornhuskers' upcoming matchup with Indiana on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET in Lincoln, Neb. CLICK HERE
  • INDIANA ENTERS WEEK 5 AS UNDERDOG: Indiana football heads to Lincoln, Neb. for a Week 5 matchup with the Cornhuskers at 7:30 p.m. ET. Nebraska is favored by 5.5 points, according to the SI Sportsbook. CLICK HERE
  • ALLEN, BELL RESPOND TO OFFENSIVE LINE CONCERNS: Indiana football coach Tom Allen and offensive coordinator Walt Bell addressed concerns surrounding the Hoosiers' offensive line at Monday's press conference. CLICK HERE