Nebraska enters the middle of October with the distinction of being arguably the best 3-4 team in the country. Such is life in Lincoln with a team that seems to be improving under the mold of head coach Scott Frost but continues to find ways to stumble across the final hurdles to a victory (also 1-3 in Big Ten play) in recent weeks. Nebraska has dropped close decisions against Oklahoma, Michigan State, and Michigan, and all three games could have been wins that would drastically change the Cornhuskers' outlook.
This week, Nebraska hits the road to take on P.J. Fleck's Minnesota Golden Gophers hoping to catch a break. And fortunately for Nebraska, the Huskers are taking on a Minnesota program that has had some similar ups and downs this season. The Gophers (3-2, 1-1) also are starting to see injuries mount against them.
Nebraska at Minnesota
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 16 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Nebraska -4
When Nebraska Has the Ball
Nebraska continues to be putting more of its offense together as the season progresses, and the Huskers are showing definite signs of progress. But it is still probably too reliant on the highs and lows of quarterback Adrian Martinez. Martinez is a roller-coaster player to watch with glimpses of fantastic plays and a handful of unfortunate mistakes.
Minnesota does own the Big Ten's second-best rushing defense, with the Gophers yielding just 77 yards per game. But those numbers have been largely influenced by two recent games against the nation's No. 122 (Purdue) and No. 129 (Bowling Green) rushing offenses in the nation. Nebraska should pose a much more viable threat to the Gophers. Martinez leads the Huskers with 450 rushing yards, and he should be expected to rack up some good yardage in this one, but the offense will benefit by having freshman Rahmir Johnson continuing to be involved.
When Minnesota Has the Ball
The Golden Gophers' running game suffered a devastating blow this week with the news of a season-ending injury to running back Trey Potts. Potts was the Big Ten's second-leading rusher on a per-game basis (110.4 ypg). It is the second time this season that Minnesota has lost a key running back, with star Mohamed Ibrahim going down earlier this season. For a team that ranks 12th in the Big Ten in total offense, it is beginning to be a battle of attrition for the Gophers.
Nebraska's defense has been doing a good job of keeping opponents off the scoreboard. Nebraska is giving up 17.9 points per game despite already playing Oklahoma, Michigan, and Michigan State.
Nebraska is due to start getting some breaks to fall its way, and Minnesota is quickly becoming a team that may have to limp across the finish line this season. So expect the Cornhuskers to finally have reason to celebrate after as many close calls they have experienced lately. And to add a bit of relief, Nebraska won't have to sweat this one out.
Prediction: Nebraska 34, Minnesota 20
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