HOW DO THE HUSKERS LIGHT UP THE SCOREBOARD?
1. Give Run The Ball Guy something to cheer about. Last week, all the talk was about going pass-heavy and winning games that way. Three Tanner Lee interceptions and an overtime loss later, balance again seems the better part of valor.
2. Finish, finish, finish. This should just have a permanent spot on the list. It’s all about turning field goals into touchdowns. Until a field goal would provide a two-score lead. Then at least make sure you get three.
3. Hit a home run. Lee’s longest completion since the bye week is 46 yards. Not terrible, but the Huskers hit some 60-plus-type plays in the first half of the season. That’s the kind of play that can break a game open or turn it around.
4. Feed the playmakers. Wide receivers Stanley Morgan, JD Spielman and De’Mornay Pierson-El averaged 239 combined receiving yards over a five-game span before last week. Against Northwestern: 120. Get them the ball and let them work.
HOW DO THE BLACKSHIRTS SHUT ’EM DOWN?
1. Take away the one dimension. Plain and simple this week. If Nebraska stops the run, it’s in great shape. Minnesota hasn’t been able to throw it consistently against anyone. If it can’t run the ball either, that pretty much takes care of things.
2. Dig the ball out. The Huskers have forced just 11 turnovers this season and have recovered just two fumbles. Minnesota’s going to run it a lot. Can the Huskers get the ball on the ground?
3. Build on third-down success. NU allowed just one Northwestern conversion in 11 tries (though the Wildcats converted 3-of-4 fourth downs). A repeat performance against the Gophers probably puts Mike Riley’s team in position to win.
4. Shorten drives. The Huskers are giving up more than 22 first downs per game, second-most in the Big Ten. Get off the field early and let the offense lean on the UM defense.
UNDER THE RADAR
WR, No. 1
The freshman has just two catches in NU’s past four games and 11 on the season. With all the focus on JD Spielman’s return to Minnesota, maybe Lindsey makes a big play.
DT, No. 97
Let’s double up on freshmen this week. Thomas and junior Mick Stoltenberg will be asked to hold down the fort against a steady diet of run plays. Thomas is having a nice rookie campaign. Will he have a splashy moment?
THREE NUMBERS TO KNOW
280:38: That’s the number of game minutes since Nebraska’s last rushing touchdown (Devine Ozigbo, Sept. 29 against Illinois). Simply amazing.
8: Rushing touchdowns this season for the Huskers (T-12 with Iowa). They’ve allowed 17.
2: Number of rushing touchdowns for Lee this season, both against Northern Illinois. Also the number of rushing scores for NU in six Big Ten games.
Minnesota cornerback Antonio Shenault against Nebraska wide receiver Stanley Morgan
Shenault has played in 29 career games, making him the Gophers’ most experienced corner. Morgan is second in the Big Ten in receiving yards per game and has seven touchdowns on the season. The Huskers’ receiving corps is balanced, but at its best when Morgan is having a big game.
Huskers’ secondary against Minnesota’s passing game
This needs to be dramatically in Nebraska’s favor, and it should be. UM sophomore quarterback Demry Croft is completing 39 percent of his passes the past three weeks and averaging less than 90 yards per game. Nebraska logged two interceptions against Clayton Thorson last week and should get Antonio Reed back at safety.
Nebraska 24, Minnesota 17
The question is whether the Huskers are up for a long, physical, drag-out fight. It would be easy to doubt that in a 4-5 season, but the bet here is that they play hard and find a way.
The Gophers just don’t seem to have enough offense. Even though Nebraska’s is inconsistent, it’s at least potent. That’s more than Minnesota can say. The weather is supposed to be downright pleasant for Minneapolis in November.
Here’s the real inside scoop: The official betting line on Dilly Bars consumed in the TCF Bank Stadium press box by HuskerExtra is set at 5½. Take the over.