HOW THE HUSKERS LIGHT UP THE SCOREBOARD
1. A week of normalcy. Adrian Martinez is practicing. Everybody knows he’ll start. The playbook is wide open. Nebraska hasn’t had that certainty in its offensive huddle in practice since the lead-up to the Colorado game. It can make a difference.
2. Start fast. Or at least don’t give it away. The Huskers have been outscored 37-7 and turned the ball over six times in three first quarters so far. The bet here is that if NU wins the coin toss for a fourth straight week, Frost will take the ball. Can Nebraska turn a first possession into an early lead?
3. Dig in along the trenches. Nebraska doesn’t have to face a bunch of All-Americans this weekend, but the offensive line still must play much better. The three senior starters in the middle — Jerald Foster, Cole Conrad and Tanner Farmer — have a combined 57 starts. Is this the ceiling?
4. Help out the quarterback. As NU erased an early deficit against Colorado, receivers and tight ends made play after play to help pick up Martinez. Kurt Rafdal made a diving catch. Stanley Morgan caught a contested pass. JD Spielman ran a perfect route. So did Mike Williams. Where did that go? The drops and missed opportunities have to be eliminated or curbed sharply.
HOW THE BLACKSHIRTS SHUT ’EM DOWN
1. Fit it up. Michigan’s offense probably held a physical advantage against Nebraska’s defensive front, but it wasn’t as dominating as the edge Michigan’s defense held. Early on, tackling and run fits killed any chance of the Huskers getting stops. Purdue will stress NU’s run defense and make it cover a lot of ground.
2. Get off the field. The Huskers are currently 11th in the Big Ten in third-down defense, having allowed 37.8 percent conversions through three games. They’ve also allowed conversions on half of opponents’ six fourth-down tries. Those are momentum killers.
3. PBU to INT. Dicaprio Bootle had five pass break-ups against Michigan. Travis Fisher liked the downfield effort, but said the Huskers have to start turning those into interceptions. The more times the NU offense gets the ball, the better.
4. Rondale Warning. Purdue freshman Rondale Moore is off to a dynamite start to his college career. The receiver's racked up more than 500 yards of offense and five scores in four games. He can go the distance on any play. The Huskers must account for No. 4 at all times, but not abdicate other responsibilities.
THREE NUMBERS TO KNOW
6 and 371: Memorial Stadium losing streak for Nebraska and the number of days since the Huskers’ last win in their home, on Sept. 23, 2017, against Rutgers.
5: Times in 70 games an offense guided by Scott Frost over the past five-plus seasons has failed to score 20 points, including the past two weeks.
6.8, 4.9, 3.8: Yards per play for Nebraska in each of the first three weeks of the season.
UNDER THE RADAR
TE, No. 86: The sophomore from Colorado drew rave reviews from teammates and coaches through spring and preseason camp but has just two catches for 13 yards through three games. If he can establish himself as a blocker and a pass threat, he can help the Husker offense get on track.
DL, No. 96: The big junior might be in for something of a role change this week. Senior defensive tackle Mick Stoltenberg appears poised to miss significant time with a knee injury, and Davis could see more turns at defensive tackle. To date, he’s played end and played quite a bit, though he’s yet to start a game. Will he play all inside? Split time in multiple spots?
Nebraska coach Scott Frost vs. Purdue coach Jeff Brohm. Two of the most well-respected young head coaches in the country square off in a matchup of touted offensive systems. Brohm is a year ahead in terms of program-building, while Frost is coming off a 13-0 campaign at UCF. The pair will be a compelling matchup for as long as they’re both in the Big Ten.
Purdue’s confidence level vs. Nebraska’s confidence level. There are many similarities between the season starts for these programs. Purdue lost at home to Eastern Michigan. Nebraska lost at home to Troy. Purdue lost close at home to a solid Power Five squad in Mizzou. Nebraska did the same at home against Colorado. The big difference? The Boilermakers just beat a Top 25 team and the Huskers got throttled by one. So, does it all make any difference? Only time will tell.
Purdue 31, Nebraska 30. This game is essentially a toss-up. It's a tough read given that the teams are in similar spots, but the Boilermakers are coming off a big win and the Huskers a 46-point loss. The hunch here is those decisions don't factor heavily on Saturday. Nebraska must learn how to win. It's not meant as a knock, but I'll believe it when I see it at least once.