Nebraska Cornhuskers set to face Northwestern in Aer Lingus College Football Classic in Ireland

The Nebraska Cornhuskers and the Northwestern Wildcats are set to square off this Saturday, August 27 in Dublin, Ireland in a renewal of the Aer Lingus College Football Classic.

These NCAA Big 10 conference rivals are playing in Ireland for the first time, but they are by no means the first college teams to play in the Emerald Isle.

College football in Ireland began initially in 1988 as part of a promotional campaign to mark the Dublin millennium celebrations. Dubbed the Emerald Isle Classic, it was the first NCAA-sanctioned American college football game played in Europe. The game was played at Lansdowne Road in Dublin, Ireland in the years 1988 and 1989. In that first game, Boston College beat Army 38-24.

Since then, the game has been played under various names four more times, most recently in 2016 when Georgia Tech downed Boston College 17-14.

This year’s iteration of the college football classic is the first on a slate of five games to be hosted by Ireland in the coming years. Of the remaining four games, only the 2023 matchup is known at this point: Notre Dame and Navy are returning to Ireland to renew their rivalry. And while this year’s teams are far from college football powerhouses, they are big enough names to attract attention, and viewership at home and overseas.

This year’s game features two teams that underperformed 2021, with records of 3-9 overall respectively both finishing 1-8 in Big 10 conference play. Nebraska, however, will have the advantage, having defeated Northwestern 56 -7 the last time these teams met late in 2021.

A new addition for the Cornhuskers is quarterback Casey Thompson, who transferred this preseason from Texas. He should add a newfound excitement to the Nebraska offense having had the most touchdown throws in the Big 12 conference last season.

The Cornhuskers have also revamped their receiving corps by adding Trey Palmer from LSU as well as Marcus Washington, who followed Thompson from Texas and is a former 5-star recruit.

Nebraska has always been a fast starting team and their record in August is 14-1. In their second ever international game, after playing Kansas State in Japan in1992, the Cornhuskers will be looking to prove a point in Dublin.

For the Wildcats, a new season brings renewed hope. In offensive tackle Peter Skoronski, a top 2023 NFL Draft eligible pick, the Wildcats should be able to run the ball better. They will attempt to control the clock and manage the game more efficiently. Running back Evan Hull also returns, providing the offense solid firepower on the ground.

Although quarterback Ryan Hilinski struggled in 2021, he is still expected to start and will have Malik Washington as his main target.

Defensively for Northwestern, edge rusher Adetomiwa Adebawore is a key. The 6’2”, 265 pound senior recorded 4.5 sacks in 2021 and is expected to cause problems for opposing offensive lines.

International college football games on the rise?

With the interest generated in this game, and another game in Ireland already scheduled for 2023, the future of college football on an international stage definitely looks bright. A total of 32 NCAA games have been played abroad since 1990, the vast majority of which have taken place in the Bahamas, and Japan but Ireland, Australia, China, Bermuda, Canada and even Tanzania have also hosted games. Now though, as the number of international athletes entering the college ranks continues to grow at a rapidly increasing pace, is it not unreasonable to assume that the number of US college football games played outside of North American shores will also increase?

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