Close calls have not been kind to Nebraska this season, and the Cornhuskers are beginning to have their backs against the wall of being ineligible for a postseason bowl game once again. That makes this weekend's home game against Purdue a must-win situation for Scott Frost and his program.
Each of Nebraska's five losses this season has come by one score (including an eight-point loss to Illinois to open things), and the line is predicting another one-score game this weekend in Lincoln. Purdue (4-3, 2-2 Big Ten), after pulling the upset of Iowa two weeks ago, came up empty last week against Wisconsin. Can the Boilermakers get enough steam back to frustrate Nebraska this weekend?
Purdue at Nebraska
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 30 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Nebraska -7.5
When Purdue Has the Ball
For Purdue to come out on top, it will need another high-quality game from wide receiver David Bell. Bell torched Iowa's defense two weeks ago and could be in a position to do some serious damage against Nebraska as well. But the blueprint for containing Bell may have been written by Wisconsin last week as the Badgers did everything possible to keep Bell from ripping them apart.
Nebraska's pass defense has been good enough at times but could use a big performance this weekend to slow down Purdue's No. 1 playmaker. The Cornhuskers are tied for 20th nationally (and fourth in the Big Ten) with eight interceptions, four of which have come from senior safety Deontai Williams.
When Nebraska Has the Ball
It appears Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez will be at full capacity this weekend, which should be encouraging news for the Huskers. Martinez was banged up by Minnesota two weeks ago but had the luxury of a bye week to get ready for this game.
Martinez is the key cog in the Big Ten's second-best offense, with Nebraska averaging 477.5 yards per game. He's also a significant contributor to the running game with a team-high 433 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns this season. The Huskers will need to help him out at times, but Martinez can easily deliver a win and give one away at any given moment.
It's been said before, and it will be said again. Eventually, the breaks have to fall Nebraska's way, right? Considering the importance of this game for the Cornhuskers with bowl hopes on the brink, the biggest concern is whether or not Martinez will lose the football at the worst possible time. This time, he will not, and Nebraska will keep its bowl hopes alive for another week.
Prediction: Nebraska 31, Purdue 23
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