Previewing Corn, Lots and Lots of Corn - Minnesota @ Nebraska

Jamie Squire

We're officially into the "Nothing to Lose" part of the season. Can the Gophers pull the big upset and put a big dent in Nebraska's Rose Bowl dreams? Let's take a look at what stands in the way.

OPENING THOUGHTS

The Gophers getting bowl eligible last week has taken the pressure off for these last two games, as Minnesota can now look to play spoiler and pull off an upset instead of worrying about getting that magical sixth win. Nebraska, on the other hand, is gunning for much bigger things, as wins against Minnesota this week and the most hated Iowa Hawkeyes next week would punch their ticket to Indy for the B1G Championship game. If they win that, it'd be their first B1G conference title, 44th total conference championship, and their first conference title since winning the Big XII in 1999. Oh, and it would be their third trip the Rose Bowl, and first since 2002.

Don't get me wrong, it'd be great for the Gophers to break the 15 game losing streak against the Huskers that goes all the way back to 1963, but this is not the week- or maybe more accurately not the year- for pulling off the upset. Not with the Huskers having such big goals right in their grasp, and not with the Gophers' offense still struggling with injuries. The depth chart for Saturday's game was released and while Tommy Olson is back in the starting lineup at LG and brother Ed is off the injured list and listed as the backup at LT, wide receiver AJ Barker was not as fortunate, and is listed as out for the game. That does not bode well for a true freshman QB and passing offense that has really struggled without the go-to guy in Barker in the lineup.

Oh, and definitely not the year for an upset with Nebraska's rush offense (7th in the country and tops in the B1G) going against Minnesota's pourous rush defense (8th in the B1G and they've given up the third-most yards per carry at 4.6 and rushing TD's with 18).

THE BASICS

When and Where:

2:30pm, Memorial Stadium, Lincoln,NE

Media

TV: Big Ten Network

Radio: KFAN (100.3 FM in the Twin Cities) and the Gopher Radio Network (Radio Affiliates). You can also listen to the game via the IHeartRadio app for your mobile device.

Weather Forecast:

Overall look at the day...

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...the weather for tailgating...

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...and here's how the hourly look for kickoff and beyond...

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That's some FANTASTIC weather for the middle of November!

THE ENEMY

Last Season:

In their inaugural season in the Big Ten the Huskers finished 9-4 on the season and 5-3 in conference, but just third in the Legends West division. They had victories over quality opponents like Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State, Iowa, and Washington, while their four losses came to Wisconsin, Northwestern, Michigan and to #9 South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl.

2012 Season To Date:

8-2 overall and 5-1 in the B1G, the Huskers are in the driver's seat to play Wisconsin in the B1G conference title game. All they need to do is beat the Gophers this week and those dirty good for nothing Hawkeyes next week. Nebraska's two losses came at UCLA early in the season and a 63-38 depantsing by Ohio State- at home, no less.

General Notes:

- Senior QB Taylor Martinez has been much improved as a passer in 2012, something that seemed impossible for someone who looks like he's either arm-punting or arm-puking the ball when he throws. Still, the fleet-footed "T-Magic" is one of only two QB's in the conference this year to throw for over 2000 yards thus far, and is third in pass efficiency completing almost 63% of his passes for 2112 yards, 19 TD's and just 8 picks.

- 17th year senior tailback Rex Burkhead, who rushed for 1357 yards and 15 TD's in 2011, has missed most of season due a left knee sprain he suffered in the season opener and has twice since reaggrivated. With Roy Helu in the NFL and Burkhead hurt in there were questions about who was left to run the ball, and the answer has been sophomore Ameer Abdullah, who so far has piled up 942 yards and 8 TD's at 5.2 yards per rush. He also returns kicks and is second in the B1G in punt returns with a 13.9 yard average, including one for a TD. Martinez hasn't had to carry the ball as much this season, but he's still been plenty dangerous on the QB keepers, rushing for 770 yards and 8 scores at 5.8 yards per carry. Oh, and if that wasn't enough for the struggling Gopher run defense, it sounds like Burkhead will be back for Saturday's game.

-Sophomore wideout Kenny Bell has become the Husker's go-to receiver with 35 catches for 653 yards and six scores. Assuming Nebraska ever has to throw the ball, it should be a fun matchup to watch him go against Gopher corner Michael Carter. It will also be fun to watch Bell anytime he takes his helmet off, as he has maybe the greatest fro in college football. Qoovtlmwdcqnozg_20110429145741_medium

That thing is awesome. I want to be friends with it.

-On defense Nebraska is led by senior DE Eric Martin, who is tied with the far superior DL Wilhite for the league lead in sacks with 7.5, and is fifth with 10.5 tackles for loss. Their leading tackler is senior LB Will Compton with 83 total, including 28 solo, and in the secondary senior safety Daimion Stafford is second in tackles with 72, leads in solo tackles with 38, and is tied for the lead in interceptions with 2.

- Herbie Husker is not the only mascot for Nebraska. Like Purdue, they have two. Unlike Purdue, the secondary mascot doesn't just have evil soulless eyes. It is pure evil. Like, Children of the Corn evil. I give you, Lil' Red:

Lil_red_medium

via www.huskerj.com

As Marshmoose would say:

Kill_2520with_2520fire_2520-_2520lil_2520red_medium

Coaches:

Head Coach: Bo Pelini

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via coachesbythenumbers.com

In his fifth season at Nebraska Pellini is 47-18 overall, 27-11 in conference with a 3-2 bowl record. If you're scoring at home, that's an average of nine wins a season. Great right? Not at Nebraska. While we'd be naming streets after any coach who could do that over five seasons at Minnesota, before this season began Pelini was on the hot seat because he had failed to deliver a national championship or a conference championship, something considered a birth right for Husker fans even though they haven't won either since 1997 and 1999 respectively. If Pelini gets his team to the Rose Bowl this year the heat should be off. At least for this season.

Offensive Coordinator: Tim Beck

Beck is in his fifth season with the program, and second as offensive coordinator. If the offense continues to play as well as they have this season, job security won't be an issue for him.

Defensive Coordinator: John Papuchis

This is his fifth year with Nebraska and the first as DC. At 34, he's the fourth youngest defensive coordinator in the country, and the youngest solo coordinator. The pass defense has been great and the run defense pretty meh under him this season, but it looks like Papuchis is a rising star in the coaching ranks.

The Offense:

- Rushing Offense: 7th (1st); 269.30 ypg

- Passing Offense: 83rd (5th): 213.10 ypg

- Passing Efficiency: 32nd (1st); 146.68 rating

- Total Offense: 17th (1st); 482.40 ypg

- Scoring Offense: 23rd (2nd); 37.40 ppg

- 3rd Down Efficiency: 36th; 44.44%

- Red Zone Efficiency: 30th; 86%

The Defense:

- Rushing Defense: 84th (10th); 179.90 ypg

- Passing Defense: 2nd (2nd ): 164.40 ypg

- Passing Efficiency Defense: 7th (1st ); 100.60 rating

- Total Defense: 28th (5th); 344.30 ypg

- Scoring Defense: 50th (9th); 25.00 ppg

- Turnover Margin: 102nd (12th); -.80

- 3rd Down Defense: 32nd; 35.26%

- Red Zone Defense: 28th; 76%

Special Teams:

- Kickoff Returns: 64th (5th); 21.41 ypr

- Punt Returns: 23rd (2nd); 11.48 ypr

- Net Punting: 87th (8th); 35.68 ypp

- Kick Return Defense: 70th; 21.54 ypr

- Punt Return Defense: 103rd; 11.41 ypr

NOTE: As usual, all stats are listed nationally first with the B1G rank in parentheses.

Keys to the Game:

Stopping the Huskers Run game: If Minnesota has any hope at all in this one, it's going to be somehow, someway stopping, or at least slowing, Nebraska's running game. If selling out to stop the run doesn't work might I suggest tanks, cement barriers or just try and sneak a 12th or 13th guy on the field to help out. The refs won't notice, they'll be too busy being creeped out by Lil' Red.

Making big plays: Without AJ Barker the offense has struggled to throw the ball well, and they haven't been able to do much at all down the field. They could really, really use a few big plays to open things up and hopefully steal some momentum.

Win the turnover battle: If the Gophers want to pull the upset and slowing the run game will problem, forcing turnovers would be huge. Fumbles, picks, whatever it takes, but getting some takeaways and not giving it back on offense would be a huge help.

Completely Worthless Prediction:

Hopefully someday, and someday soon, there will be a day when Minnesota can go into Lincoln and win. Heck, considering the 15 game losing streak to the Huskers, I'd be happy seeing the Gophers beat them anywhere, but this just isn't the year. The Gophers are too beat up on offense and the Husker run game too strong for it to happen this season. The Gophers have scored 13 points in all four of their losses this season, so I'm saying 34-13 Nebraska.

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