NEBRASKA OFFENSE VS. MICHIGAN STATE DEFENSE
How will Tim Beck try to attack the vaunted Michigan State defense, ranked No. 1 in the Big Ten? Last season, he rode running back Rex Burkhead to the tune of 35 carries against the Spartans, but can Ameer Abdullah handle that kind of load? This year’s offense is more diverse because of an improved passing game, but Michigan State either breaks up or intercepts an average of 5.7 passes per game. The Spartans are also superb on third down, meaning Nebraska has to gain yards on early downs and avoid falling behind the chains.
Edge: Michigan State
NEBRASKA DEFENSE VS. MICHIGAN OFFENSE
There, there. All better now. Those mean old spread offenses and mobile quarterbacks are gone now, and Nebraska won’t see them again for the foreseeable future. That, combined with Nebraska’s newfound confidence on defense, should make John Papuchis and company rest easier. That’s especially true against offensively challenged Michigan State, which has scored more than 23 points only twice this season -- against Central Michigan and Indiana. Nebraska will turn its attention to stopping big running back Le’Veon Bell, the Spartans' biggest offensive threat, and then ideally pin its ears back against quarterback Andrew Maxwell, who’s completing an ordinary 55 percent of his passes.
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Nebraska still isn’t satisfied on special teams. The Michigan game was a vast improvement, if only because the Huskers didn’t do anything debilitating. Their returns were ordinary. Their coverage was ordinary. Ordinary might not cut it in a close, low-scoring game. Then again, Michigan State’s been rather ordinary, too. Can either team make a game-changing play? Blocked punt? Fake field goal? Big return?
Michigan State has lost three home games this season, and the Spartans have never beaten Nebraska in six tries. In fact, they’ve averaged only 6.1 points all-time against the Huskers. But more recent history says to be wary of Nebraska coming off a big, emotional victory. Is this team different than the ones that stumbled against Texas Tech, Texas and Northwestern the weeks after beating Missouri, Kansas State and Michigan State, respectively, in each of the past three seasons? The Huskers need to play like they haven’t yet arrived -- which, by the way, they haven’t.