Gophers vs. Nebraska: three scenarios, two key clashes, one prediction

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Gophers vs. Nebraska, 11 a.m. Saturday, Huntington Bank Stadium, ESPN2, 100.3-FM. Line: Nebraska par 4

Returning from their week off, the Gophers will look to extend their winning streak against Nebraska to three games, which would be the longest for Minnesota in the series since 1951-54. The Gophers need a win to stay one game away from Iowa in the Big Ten West race and to bolster their bowl hopes.

Three great stories

The rear depth of field will be tested

Mohamed Ibrahim and Trey Potts are out for the season, so the Gophers’ hasty attack now includes a committee of four, presumably led by real freshman Mar’Keise “Bucky” Irving. Minnesota runs the ball 71, 7% of the time, so the new quartet needs to level up quickly.

About this passing game

Quite simply, the Gophers need a lot more from their passing offense, which has averaged just seven completed passes and 140.5 yards in the last two games. Tanner Morgan had three big assists at Purdue, and he’ll need more explosive plays to keep the Nebraska defense honest.

Near misses in Nebraska

Over the past four weeks, the Cornhuskers have lost to Oklahoma by seven points, Michigan State by three and Michigan by three. These undefeated teams are in the top 10 of the Associated Press. With any luck, Nebraska could be 6-1 instead of 3-4.

Two key matches

Nebraska QB Adrian Martinez vs. Gophers rush pass

Containing the devious Martinez will be a big challenge for the Minnesota defense, who will need their line to keep the QB bottled and limit their chances of improvising with the run. Martinez averages 64.3 rushing yards per game and has 10 rushing touchdowns.

Gophers wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell vs. Nebraska high school

Led by three interceptions from safety Deontai Williams and six assists from cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt, the Huskers are tough at the back. Autman-Bell used the week off to recover from his lingering ankle injury, and his return to form would be key for the Gophers.

A statistic that matters

23

Games of 30 yards or more for Nebraska, tied for third nationally. The Huskers also have seven plays over 60 yards.

The Gophers will win if …

The running game doesn’t miss a beat without Trey Potts and controls the tempo of the game, passing play goes over 200 yards for the first time since game one, defense limits Nebraska chunk plays and punter Mark Crawford continues to pin his opponents in their 20-yard line.

The Huskers will be present if …

Martinez breaks free for a few long runs and doesn’t spit the football, running back Rahmir Johnson provides an effective addition to Martinez, and the Blackshirts defense wins the battle up front against a veteran Gophers offensive line.

Prediction

Nebraska 24, Gopher 20


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