In a slight twist, this week several members of fellow SBNation blog, Corn Nation, answered my questions. There's a lot of good, level headed stuff here. And then there's Andy.
JDMill: Jokes about PeLLLLini aside, what were Husker fans expecting from 2014 out of the Nebraska football team?
Paul: Most seemed to expect 10 or 11 regular season wins. I'm going to lose a bet that Nebraska would win no more than 8 regular season games, although I'm feeling better about the reasons I made that bet now...my logic was sound, but I still have to lose. But as you know, you can't spell PeLLLLini without 4Ls.
Jon Johnston: If you went back and looked at our forums or are predictions, there are a lot of fans who didn't think we'd get out of the non-conference season without a loss. Many expected a loss to Miami or a road loss to Fresno State. Most expected a loss at Michigan State and anticipated losing to Wisconsin.
Andy: To not have to wake up in the prison infirmary after the Wisconsin game face down chewing a pillow with 20 lbs. of bandages in our ass.
Wait. Too graphic?
[Editor's Note: I, uh... well, let's move on.]
Ranchbabe: Many expected to be about where we are in the win-loss column. But I think they were hoping for a signs of growth. Less than four losses. Avoiding the boneheaded loss or embarrasing blowout. One out of two ain't bad. Oh wait, we can still lose four?
I think we were expecting to see a very good defense, and they have mostly held up, except in Madison. We had high hopes for the offense and Ameer, while he was healthy, has mostly lived up to that. We have seen some worrisome signs of "sophomore slump" from the quarterback, but he is a talented and tenacious kid, so it could all come back together very quickly, especially if the line gets it act together.
JD: How did those perceptions change after Nebraska came out to a strong 5-0 start, beating a decent Miami team in the process, but then fell in a tough game to Michigan State in early October?
Paul: Folks were still pretty confident that we would get to the B1G Championship Game. Remember, at the time Wisconsin was looking pathetic and Minnesota wasn't much to look at either. At the beginning of October Iowa looked to be the only potential stumbling block for Nebraska. How things have changed.
Andy: We tried to convince ourselves that a really good freshman punt returner could overcome a below average QB.
[Editor's Note: #B1G]
Ranchbabe: If you asked after the third quarter of the Michigan State game, then the sky was falling. If you asked after the game where the Huskers came within a fingertip of pulling off one of their patented "OMG DID YOU SEE THAT!" fourth quarter comebacks, then everything was pretty much still in play. Ameer still had two good knees. /sobs. Then, we got to witness every last ounce of derp this team had in the Wisconsin game. It was like all that derp was just burning a hole in everyone's pocket. At least I hope that is all of it. Oh great, what if there is more?!? /starts building fallout shelter.
JD: Ameer Abdullah... HOLY CRAP, that guy?!?! Huh? (Yes, that's a question. Please respond accordingly.)
Paul: Prior to last Saturday I would have agreed with you, but an injured Ameer Abdullah is an ineffective run blocker and slow to make cuts. I don't expect he'll be anywhere near full speed when Minnesota comes to town.
Jon: Abdullah is a special player. He's not only a level above where he was last season, but he's one helluva person as well. If he's not 100% against Minnesota, I'd prefer Nebraska not play him (yes, I said that).
Andy: He'll Definitely be one of the best guys never to make it to New York.
[Editor's Note: Andy is starting to sound like a Gopher fan.]
Ranchbabe: Yes, he is a special player, especially with both wheels intact. We have other very capable backs (they're not Ameer, but there haven't been many in the history of the program that were). I'm with Jon here. I want Ameer healthy before he gets back on the field.
JD: (Long question alert.) From a numbers standpoint, Tommy Armstrong and Mitch Leidner are very similar. Less than 25 attempts/game, 7.6 yards/attempt, ~51.5% completion %, throws slightly more TD's than INT's, ~126 passer rating, both have had 3 games where they completed 60% or better of their passes, both have had 2 games where they completed 40% or less. Essentially both are asked to do about the same thing and get about the same production. However, Armstrong has 5 games over 200 yards passing while Leidner has only one. I would contend that the difference is Armstrong has much better targets to throw to in Jordan Westerkamp (34 rec, 606 yards) and Kenny Bell (36 rec, 591 yards). The Gophers have ZERO receivers that have even reached the 400 yard mark. Sooooo... What I am curious about is, in general, what does the Nebraska offensive scheme ask for from Tommy Armstrong and do you think he is delivering what the Huskers need, or is he limiting them?
Paul: No one really knows what the ‘scheme' for Tommy Armstrong is. Lately it seems like his passing has been limited to hail mary's down the field in hopes of drawing PI calls. He is one of the better running QBs at Nebraska in quite a while though. Westerkamp and Bell are amazing receivers, but neither has been lighting the world on fire lately.
Andy: Dude. You should not spend this much time breaking down awful QB's. It's like calling an FFB talk show last year & going "Gabbert or Freeman??!!"
[Editor's Note: Noted, but what is this FFB you speak of?]
Ranchbabe: Tommy is more talented than his numbers show, and that is probably some of the source of angst in Husker Nation. He has always had some issues with locking onto a receiver and not having a lot of ‘touch' on his passes. Now, with Abdullah hurt, Nebraska has needed the passing game to be effective and we have faced some much better secondaries. Not a good combination. He does have talented wideouts in Bell and Westerkamp. Fortunately both of them take great pride in their downfield run blocking, so they get to celebrate something. An emerging threat in the slot is freshman Pierson-El. Right now, he is more dangerous as a punt returner, but he has definitely flashed in the passing game when given opportunities. Given our offensive struggles, every yard of field position he gives us in special teams is desperately needed.
JD: I hate to open this wound, but I'm sure you've been living it all week, so here goes: Nebraska was giving up 306 total yds/game, 111 rushing yards/game. Those numbers put the Huskers in the top 1/4 of B1G defenses in both categories. Nebraska also hadn't given up more than 200 yards rushing to any of their opponents. Then Wisconsin happened. Y'oh boy. 627 total yards, 581 rushing yards and OHSWEETJEBUS Melvin Gordon. Now, by the numbers, the Huskers run D looks average. What happened last week? Was that a Nebraska breakdown or is Wisconsin THAT good? (Extra points if you say it was a Nebraska breakdown because we still have to play Wisconsin. /drinks)
Paul: Oh look, Wisconsin scored again.
That's all I got to say about that.
Jon: It's a little bit of both. Wisconsin exploited Nebraska in much the same way they did the last time those two teams played, and the Badger defense... well, basically the entire Badger team psyched out the entire Husker team and coaching staff. That's about it, really.
[Editor's Note: Seriously, I can't print that. Essentially Andy asked me to dine on a particularly sensitive area of the male anatomy.]
Ranchbabe: Oh, I'm not worried about this at all. We only get to face a team that looks like Wisconsin-lite on offense and defense. Minnesota also has a coaching staff who used Wisconsin's game plan to beat us last year. I'm sure they will never notice last week's film and use their strikingly similar personnel to try the same thing.
In others words, I am waiting until Sunday to answer this question.
JD: Prediction time. Who wins? How do they make it happen? What is the final score?
Paul: Pelini teams have typically bounced back well after soul crushing defeats like the mauling in Madison. If the game were on the frozen tundra in Minneapolis I might be more concerned, but I think Nebraska wins this one handily. Nebraska 31, Minnesota 17.
Andy: This has the makings of NU charging out to prove last week was an aberration! Huskers stuff Gophers! Pierson-El returns one for 6!! Gerry with the pick. Abdullah goes 63!! 14-0!! Gophers drive 78 yards in 13 plays 14-7. Beck quickly dials up 3 incompletions! Gophs go 64 yards in 14 plays. 14-14. Crowd exhales, Beck keeps Armstrong throwing, Abdullah blocks, crowd boos sporadically....
I just don't think this is who we want to play in this fragile state. Praying for a Buckeye near-miss letdown but... Gophers 27 NU 23
[Editor's Note: Honestly, Andy is clearly a member of whatever Nebraska's version of GopherHole is. Meltdown City that guy, amiright?!?!]
Ranchbabe: Both Paul and Andy are right. Pelini's Huskers do typically bounce back after outings like the one in Madison. However, I'm not sure they have had to face a team so much like the one that embarrassed them immediately afterward. This could go south quickly if Minnesota gets some early success. But all is not lost. If we get out there and score some points with a 75% Abdullah, a quarterback whose confidence has largely been shattered the past few weeks, a shaky (by Nebraska standards) field goal kicker, and an o-line that could be named "the false start brigade", we'll be fine.
OK, serious answer. The offense will continue to be what we've seen the past few weeks with some effectiveness in the run game, and an up-and-down passing game. There will be turnovers, but special teams gives them enough field position to eek out some points in spite of themselves. The defense will come out solid, but have one or two of their usual breakdowns somewhere. They dig deep, adjust, and don't let it snowball this time. Minny will get their yards and points--they are too solid a team to think we can shut them down. Huskers 28 Minnesota 24