Which way are they going? No. 22 Ducks, Huskers to find out
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Mike Riley wanted a change of scenery when he left Oregon State for Nebraska the first week of December 2014. One vision he thought he had left behind was the one of the Oregon Ducks beating his team year after year.
Right after he accepted the job in Lincoln, he said, someone told him the Ducks were on the schedule in 2016 and '17.
The first game of the home-and-home series is Saturday at Memorial Stadium, and Riley says he's excited about it – maybe because he figures he can be more competitive with the Ducks now that he's at Nebraska.
''We didn't fare all that well through the many years with them,'' Riley said, ''but it was a great rivalry and we saw changes in both programs as we went forward. It was one of those deals where you didn't necessarily like it, but you had to admire the work that was going on in that program.''
Riley lost his last seven meetings against the Ducks , who went 80-14, won four conference titles and played in two national championship games from 2008-14.
The Oregon team his Huskers will face is not quite as imposing. The No. 22 Ducks (2-0) are coming off a 9-4 season, and while their offense has continued to ring up big numbers, their defense was one of the nation's worst in 2015 and has been shaky so far under new coordinator Brady Hoke.
Nebraska needs a win to show it's on the rise under Riley, who went 6-7 in his first season with a bunch of close losses and has pulled away in the second halves of blowout wins over Fresno State and Wyoming.
''It is a good opportunity because this is a national team, a team that's been good for a long time, and it'll be a great opportunity for us to get a big win, and that's what we're after,'' Riley said.
Oregon needs a win to show it's not slipping. The Ducks finished last season ranked No. 19 and were No. 24 in this year's preseason poll.
''Especially with the preseason rankings and current rankings, we have an underdog feel, and I love that, and the guys love that,'' quarterback Dakota Prukop said. ''We're working well with that.''
Things to know about the matchup:
PAC-12 VS. BIG TEN
Since 2000, Oregon is 6-3 against opponents from the Big Ten and Nebraska is 12-10 against current members of the Pac-12. Oregon is playing Nebraska for the first time since 1986, when the Huskers were in the old Big Eight. The Huskers have won five of six meetings with the Ducks.
PREPARING FOR NOISE
The Ducks plan to use silent counts on offense to counter the noise of Nebraska's 350th consecutive sellout crowd.
Prukop, the first-year starter who is a graduate transfer, played before about 20,000 at Montana State, and his first two games at Autzen Stadium in Eugene drew about 54,000. ''I've never been in front of 90,000,'' Prukop said. ''I'm sure there'll be a big difference at Nebraska.''
Prukop has thrown no interceptions in 61 attempts, and Nebraska's defense is tied for second in the nation with seven picks. The Ducks have lost two fumbles, both by Charles Nelson on punt and kick returns. Nebraska's Tommy Armstrong Jr. has been intercepted once, and the Huskers have lost no fumbles.
Oregon's Royce Freeman is 129 yards from moving past Kenjon Barner as the school's No. 2 career rusher. Freeman needs 1,588 yards to overtake LaMichael James at the top of the chart. Freeman, who set a single-season record with 1,836 yards last season, comes to Lincoln averaging 147 a game.
TIES THAT BIND
Oregon coach Mark Helfrich and Nebraska offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf have known each other since they were contemporaries as star high school and small college quarterbacks in the Beaver State. Nebraska special teams coach Bruce Read's father, Don Read, was Oregon's head coach from 1974-76.
And both schools have Tom Osbornes . Oregon's Osborne is a longtime assistant, Nebraska's is the College Football Hall of Fame coach and then a congressman.
''We always say `The Tom Osborne' around here,'' Helfrich said, adding that Nebraska's Osborne ''set a lot of standards'' during his 25-year career.
''We know whose stadium we're going into,'' Helfrich said.
AP college football website: http://collegefootball.ap.org