Jacob Bova, Senior Sports Editor: Minnesota 38, Nebraska 35
This game feels like the toughest to get a good read on. Minnesota is undefeated, but almost every game has been close and none have been against good competition. Nebraska is coming off a close win against Northwestern that seemed to raise more questions than answers. On top of that, no one knows who Nebraska will start at quarterback.
My bet is on sophomore backup quarterback Noah Vedral getting the start. Vedral can run the offense well and is very familiar with it as he ran it while at UCF. While he may not be as dynamic as Adrian Martinez, the offense shouldn’t be inhibited by Vedral’s presence.
The Blackshirts, specifically the secondary, have a tall task ahead of them. Minnesota has two of the best wide receivers in the Big Ten in Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman, and a capable quarterback who can get the ball to both of them. The defense has played well most of the season, but most of those good performances were against subpar offenses. When they faced off against better offenses like Colorado and Ohio State, they struggled.
Because of this, I think it will be a high scoring affair. History backs this up, as the last two games between the teams had combined point totals of 75 and 81. In the end, I think Minnesota has too much offensive firepower for Nebraska to handle and will win on a late field goal.
Luke Mullin, Assistant Sports Editor: Nebraska 33, Minnesota 31
As we still don’t know who will start at quarterback for Nebraska, this is a tough one to predict. Vedral didn’t exactly have the entire playbook last week, and one has to wonder whether the coaching staff will trust him to make difficult throws in a cold, potentially snowy game against Minnesota.
The good news for the Husker offense is that no matter who is under center, the Golden Gophers don’t have a stellar defense. No matter Minnesota’s opponent this year, they’ve always managed to score points against the Gophers, and that won’t change this week.
However, Minnesota’s offense is the strength of its team and will pose a serious challenge for the Husker defense. NU corners, senior Lamar Jackson and junior Dicaprio Bootle, will have to go up against two of the best wideouts in the conference in Johnson and Bateman. Even Nebraska’s rush defense has a challenge to contend with, as a three-headed backfield headlined by Rodney Smith will gain chunks of yardage.
The bottom line of this matchup will be something that Husker fans dread to hear: turnovers. Gopher quarterback Tanner Morgan has three interceptions on the year, compared to five from Martinez. With the weather playing a factor, this should be a tight matchup either way, much different than the beatdowns that occured in the teams’ last two matchups.
Drake Keeler, Assistant Sports Editor: Minnesota 27, Nebraska 21
Despite coming off of a big win at home, there aren’t many signs going in Nebraska’s favor for this game. The Huskers are beat up, with the status of their starting quarterback and top wideout in doubt. They are also traveling to cold and possibly snowy Minneapolis to face off against an undefeated Minnesota team.
On paper, nearly everything points toward a Minnesota win. The Gophers will stay undefeated this weekend, but Nebraska won’t go down without a fight.
The Huskers got an easy 53-28 win over Minnesota last year, but much will be different in this matchup. Not only will the Gophers be at home with a better record than they had at this point last season, but their personnel has improved as well.
The biggest difference for Minnesota in this game will be at the running back position. Rodney Smith missed last year’s matchup due to injury and has been one of the best backs in the Big Ten so far this season.
The Husker defense has struggled against the best backs in the Big Ten, allowing a combined 311 yards to Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins and Illinois’ Reggie Corbin. Smith currently is third in the conference in rushing yards, so he is bound to pose problems for the Blackshirts.
Nebraska’s injuries will also play a factor. Whether or not Spielman and Martinez play, their banged-up conditions will hurt Nebraska to some degree. If they don’t play, the Huskers are in much more trouble, as both have been important contributors. If they do play, neither will likely be at full strength, making life harder for an already struggling Husker offense.
The Huskers are hungry to get their fifth win before the bye week, but that goal may have to wait until after the week off.