After surprising many, including myself, by beating Michigan last weekend, the Nebraska Cornhuskers welcome Michigan State to Lincoln in a big Legends Division match up in the Big Ten.
The Huskers (7-2, 4-1) look to take first place atop the Legends Division against the Spartans (8-1, 5-0), who come into the game with nation’s best defense. And although the Spartans lead the nation in seemingly every defensive category (rushing yards allowed, total yards, first downs, pass efficiency defense, and third-down conversion percentage), it;s once again the Huskers defense that will be under the microscope.
For perhaps the first time all season, the Huskers defense looked to be clicking on all cylinders against the Wolverines a week ago, holding Michigan to -21 yards rushing and 175 of total offense. What it means for this week’s game is that the Huskers should be riding high on confidence and have a little momentum heading into Saturday’s game. Michigan State doesn’t have the most prolific or effective offense by any means, as it ranks 100th nationally in passing, 44th in rushing and 59 in scoring. But, the Spartans offense plays smart football, leading the nation in time of possession and
However, Nebraska’s banged-up offense has much to worry about, as the Michigan State boasts arguably the best defense in college football. In addition to all the statistical categories they lead, the Spartans have also not allowed a single team to rush for over 100 yards this season – something Huskers running back Ameer Abdullah has done eight times already this season.
And while I have no doubts he is capable of doing so again, the Spartans present a defense much more aggressive than any the Huskers have seen all season, and it certainly doesn’t help that Nebraska’s offensive line is without many of its starters, including senior All-Big Ten selection Spencer Long.
If Abdullah is going to rush for over 100, it’ll be largely on him to do so. But the Huskers can’t be one-dimensional against a defense that only allows 11.2 points per game. Redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong Jr. will need to play his best game of the season against the Spartans. He has been both stellar and wildly inconsistent at times this season, with two three-interception games in his young career, but needs to look sharp this weekend for the Huskers to have any realistic chance of winning.
Michigan State is definitely the favorite heading into the game, and some people surely think Nebraska won’t be able to hang around for long, including Sports Illustrated’s Stewart Mandel, who predicts a 34-7 beat down of the Huskers. In spite of his outlandish claim, I think this game will be much closer than most people think.Nebraska is 7-0 all time against Michigan State, including the last two meetings since the Huskers joined the Big Ten.
In terms of how this game goes down, I think Abdullah becomes the first rusher to go over 100 yards against the Spartans this season and the Huskers defense plays well, albeit not like they did last week against Michigan. Much like last week, I think Nebraska gets out to an early lead, but that stingy Spartan defense keeps them in check for most of the rest of the game.
I truly think this game can go either way, and it all comes down to which teams makes the least amount of mistakes. Michigan State on paper is a better team and there’s no questioning their defensive prowess, but Nebraska has plenty of players on both sides of the ball that are ready and capable to help the Huskers pull of the upset.
I guess we’ll just wait and see.