Game Day: Nebraska vs. Minnesota

The upper hand

Minnesota plays well in the trenches, but the Gophers have holes the Huskers can exploit. Will the NU offense — led by whichever quarterback is at the helm — be able to find those openings against a relentless Gophers team? The potential return of Taylor Martinez, who has missed Nebraska's past three games, could give the Huskers a boost.

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2-Minute Drill by Sam McKewon

Nebraska rush offense vs. Minnesota rush defense

The Huskers have the Big Ten's second best rushing team, averaging 284 yards per game, while Minnesota gives up 123 rushing yards per game. Anchored by the league's best defensive tackle, Ra'Shede Hageman, the Gophers can gum up rush lanes. But they lack great speed at linebacker and safety to run down Ameer Abdullah or Taylor Martinez, should he play. NU is missing its top lineman, Spencer Long. Edge: Minnesota

Nebraska pass offense vs. Minnesota pass defense

Martinez feasted on the Gophers' defense last year, throwing for 308 yards. Since Minnesota will likely attempt to take away the run game, the Huskers' receivers — better than Minnesota's defensive backs — should be in for a big day. Edge: Nebraska

Minnesota rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense

The Gophers have had success running the ball this year against bad teams in nonconference play, but in three Big Ten games, they've averaged just 114 yards per game and 2.92 yards per carry. Two running backs — Rodrick Williams and Donnell Kirkwood — have been hobbled with injuries. Edge: Nebraska

Minnesota pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense

Ranked 121st nationally in passing yards, Minnesota's passing game is wholly complimentary to the run game. Gophers quarterbacks Philip Nelson and Mitch Leidner have played extensively; neither is dynamic. The Huskers' corners are the strength of the defense; the safeties will have to watch play-action. Edge: Nebraska

Special teams

With a kick and punt return touchdown to his credit this year, Minnesota defensive back Marcus Jones is a guy to fear. The Gophers' punting and place-kicking game is solid. Nebraska kicker Pat Smith remains relatively untested in field goals, though NU kickoff specialist Mauro Bondi and punter Sam Foltz have been solid. Edge: Minnesota

Intangibles

Minnesota coach Jerry Kill has taken a leave of absence to manage and treat his epilepsy, but he's still around practice, and it's unclear whether he or interim head coach Tracy Claeys will make key decisions Saturday. Nebraska's coming off a bye. Traditionally, Bo Pelini's team do well in that scenario. Edge: Nebraska

Key matchup: Nebraska's defensive line vs. Minnesota's offensive line

The Gophers don't have great offensive skill players, but they do boast one of the bigger, better lines in the league. Nebraska's defensive line is young and at times inconsistent. But it's also talented, and armed with an extra bye week of coaching. The Huskers have shut down Minnesota's run game for the last two years.

Nebraska wins if ...

it shuts down Minnesota's run game. If the Gophers can't run, they won't score much.

Minnesota wins if ...

it runs the ball well, hits a few big passes, and keeps NU's speedy skill players in check.

Our take

Nebraska has whipped Minnesota by 27 and 24 points in the last two years, and although the Gophers are fielding their best team under Kill, they haven't closed the gap enough. Regardless of which quarterback plays the most snaps — Taylor Martinez, Ron Kellogg or Tommy Armstrong — the Huskers should have enough offense to win another road game.

Our prediction: Nebraska 27, Minnesota 13

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Listen: BRT Podcast

In this week’s edition of "The Big Red Today Podcast," Sam McKewon joins host Jon Nyatawa to examine Nebraska’s defense — can the Huskers build on last week’s improvement? Jon and Sam then venture off on a few tangents: Northwestern’s ticket-selling strategy, the aesthetic appeal of Purdue’s athletic campus, the formation of the college football selection committee and more. Click here »

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