NEBRASKA OFFENSE VS. MINNESOTA DEFENSE
Don’t just assume Nebraska will move the ball at will against Minnesota. The Gophers are much improved on defense, and are particularly formidable against the pass. Minnesota has two of the Big Ten’s top four sack leaders in defensive end D.L. Wilhite and defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman, and its secondary is sound in coverage. Nebraska, though, has the upper hand in the rushing game with Ameer Abdullah, and may get a spirited boost with the return of Rex Burkhead. Not to mention, Taylor Martinez is playing at a very high level at quarterback.
NEBRASKA DEFENSE VS. MINNESOTA OFFENSE
When they’re communicating and not out of sorts, the Blackshirts have been pretty solid. There’s no reason to think they should falter against Minnesota and true freshman quarterback Philip Nelson, who’s making his fifth consecutive start. He’s been the steadiest of the three quarterbacks Minnesota has started this year, and does bring a bit of a mobile aspect to the position. But has he faced somebody as violent -- using John Papuchis’ description -- as Eric Martin?
Minnesota boasts the Big Ten’s all-time leader in kickoff returns in Troy Stoudermire. It’s a great honor, for sure, but it also means the Gophers have had to return a lot of kickoffs in Stoudermire’s time. Nevertheless, he’s a threat. Nebraska, meanwhile, has been wildly inconsistent on special teams, particularly on fielding and returning punts. Look for another windy day to play a factor for the kickers, where Nebraska has the edge with senior Brett Maher.
You’d think this would be as much of a lock as Nebraska will have in Big Ten play this season, especially on Senior Day, and for Tom Osborne’s last home game as athletic director. But stranger things have happened with these “for-sure” home games, as we’ve seen in recent years. That history, combined with Nebraska’s string of emotional comebacks, makes you wonder about a letdown. Yet, this team seems stronger and more focused, with the uncanny ability to overcome periods of dysfunction. Look for the Huskers to finish their first unbeaten season at home in 11 years.