Nebraska football preview: Huskers 2017 schedule, roster and three things to watch

Nebraska opens the 2017 season with a quarterback competition in Mike Riley's third season.

Nebraska stayed in the Big Ten West hunt in 2016 and now will look to take the next step under third-year coach Mike Riley.

The Huskers weren’t quite ready last season. Nebraska lost road games to Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa in the regular season and finished 9-4 after a loss to Tennessee in the Music City Bowl. The Huskers open spring practice with a quarterback battle, and former UConn coach Bob Diaco takes over at defensive coordinator.

MORE: 17 questions for the 2017 season

The Huskers are unranked in Sporting News' Way-Too-Early Top 25, and here's a preview of Nebraska’s 2017 schedule, roster and biggest questions entering the season.

When is Nebraska's spring game?

Nebraska’s spring game is 1 p.m. CT (2 p.m. ET) on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb.

Where will Nebraska's spring game be televised?

Nebraska's spring game will be televised on Big Ten Network.

2017 Nebraska football schedule

Sept. 2: vs. Arkansas State

Sept. 9: at Oregon

Sept. 16: vs. Northern Illinois

Sept. 23: vs. Rutgers

Sept. 29: at Illinois (Friday)

Oct. 7: vs. Wisconsin

Oct. 14: vs. Ohio State

Oct. 21: BYE

Oct. 28: at Purdue

Nov. 4: vs. Northwestern

Nov. 12: at Minnesota

Nov. 18: at Penn State

Nov. 24: vs. Iowa (Friday)

Dec. 2: Big Ten championship game

2017 Nebraska recruiting class

Nebraska did not have a composite Top 15 recruiting class. The Huskers ranked No. 23 on’s team rankings. Four-star receiver Tyjon Lindsey and four-star cornerback Elijah Blades were the top recruits in the class. Four-star quarterback Tristan Gebbia is already on campus.

2017 Nebraska roster

Nebraska’s roster will be updated in the spring and fall here.

Three things to watch

1. Who starts at quarterback?

Four-year starter Tommy Armstrong is gone, so the battle is on between Patrick O’Brien and Tanner Lee for the starting quarterback job. O’Brien, a redshirt freshman, and Lee, a Tulane transfer, could have competition from Gebbia. Riley will likely keep the options open, and efficiency is the key. Nebraska quarterbacks combined for 18 TDs and nine interceptions last season after compiling 27 TDs and 21 INTs in 2015.

2. Who are the playmakers?

Nebraska’s leading rusher and receiver from last season are gone, but there are playmakers-in-waiting. Running back Devine Ozigbo averaged 4.2 yards per carry with five TDs last season, and Stanley Morgan Jr. and Demornay Pierson-El are among the receivers who should offset the loss of Jordan Westerkamp. Nebraska needs more from their lead playmakers, especially with a new quarterback under center.

3. What will Diaco do for the defense?

Diaco was an excellent defensive coordinator at Notre Dame, and now he’ll try to bring back the Blackshirts. Nebraska improved last season, but they also allowed 40.8 points per game in those four losses. Can Freedom Akinmoladun develop into an All-Big Ten pass rusher? What will the back seven look like? Those are trends worth watching.

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