For the Nebraska Cornhuskers, it comes as good news that senior quarterback Taylor Martinez will likely play this weekend, although it’s been declared a game-time decision whether he’ll start.
Regardless, the Huskers’ upcoming game against Minnesota shouldn’t come to down to who starts for Nebraska. In Martinez’s absence, both backup quarterbacks, Tommy Armstrong Jr. and Ron Kellogg III, have filled in nicely. Aside from a few mistakes in his last outing, Armstrong has been largely effective in moving the offense, and should get the start if Martinez doesn’t.
Nebraska heads to Minneapolis coming off its second bye week of the season, and Minnesota is coming off an impressive 20-17 victory over reeling Northwestern. The Golden Gophers are 5-2 on the season, and after two consecutive Big Ten losses to start the conference schedule, they were able to pull out a big win, providing momentum for when the Huskers come to town.
While the Gophers are vastly improved from last year, there is nothing about them that says they’ll have success against a well-rested and high-powered Huskers offense that averages nearly 500 yards of offense per game.
Minnesota gives up 375. 9 yards and 23.1 points per game, which isn’t great, but also isn’t terrible, which makes for a favorable matchup for the Huskers. Nonetheless, Ameer Abdullah and the eighth-ranked rushing attack in the country will probably have their way on Saturday. Abdullah is second in the conference in rushing and is sixth nationally with 816 yards through six games. He averages 7.2 yards per carry, and is primed to run all over Minnesota behind a very good offensive line that has allowed the least sacks in FBS this season.
So while Nebraska will have no problem finding the end zone, the only real concern, as it has been all season, is how the defense will handle Minnesota’s two-quarterback system. I don’t foresee too many issues, as the Huskers have steadily improved on the defensive end since the embarrassing 41-21 defeat against UCLA a month ago, but the Gophers’ rushing attack could be troublesome.
Nebraska likely won’t get beat in the passing game, as Minnesota comes in ranked 119th nationally with barely 117.7 yards per game. Barring something completely unexpected, Nebraska should be able to handle Minnesota’s one-dimensional offense and find a way to come away with the victory, regardless of who starts at quarterback for the Huskers.
Nebraska and Minnesota have played a total of 53 times, with the Gophers surprisingly leading the series 29-22-2. But Nebraska has won the last 12, including last season’s 39-14 win in Lincoln, and the 41-14 victory in 2011. None of the last 12 meetings have been close, as the Huskers have won by as least 25 points every time.
Prediction: I think Minnesota comes out and plays well in the first half with a couple scores, keeping it competitive. But Nebraska finds their stride on offense and makes some crucial stops on defense to open it wide up, and I believe the Huskers will continue their dominant streak over the Gophers in a blow-out to stay undefeated in B1G play.
Final score: Nebraska 45, Minnesota 20