Can Minnesota Be Competitive Against Nebraska?
Unlike a number of Big Ten programs, Minnesota actually has a fairly sizeable football history with Nebraska. There have been 53 games between the schools, including more than a dozen games in the last half century. But not since before Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon have the Golden Gophers managed to play a close game with the Huskers. In fact, last season's 24-point NU victory has been the closest contest since the Eagle landed. The point spread for this weekend's game is only 10 and a half points in Nebraska's favor. Should we expect the game to actually be that close?
Minnesota has a few things to be hopeful about. First, the game is at home. That didn't stop them from getting steamrolled the last six times the game was played in Minneapolis, but it can't hurt. With all of the Red likely to be in the stadium, this has to be a modest edge, at best.
Next, the health of Taylor Martinez remains a question. Will he play? Will he be limited as he appeared to be against UCLA and in the second half of 2010? If we see that Taylor Martinez, you'd have to like the Gophers' chances. If Martinez doesn't play, will Tommy Armstrong have another bad passing day like he did against Purdue (though he still scored a rushing touchdown)?
Perhaps most important is the rushing defense. Minnesota has been strong in that area and Nebraska hasn't. That could really hamper the NU offense and facilitate the Golden Gopher ground game. That would mean the Huskers would have to be effective with their passing game. In that scenario, Minnesota might win the time of possession battle and keep the game close with ball control.
On paper a spread of 10 or 11 seems more than fair, given all of these factors. You could probably argue for one even closer. But history has a way of repeating itself. Let's hope that's the case again this week.