The Huskers are back in action this weekend following the bye week with a crucial game against Indiana. Both teams have key players injured, and the result could provide clarity on how the rest of Nebraska’s season will go.
Here are three things to watch for:
For both teams this week, there are questions surrounding which quarterback will be starting on Saturday. For Nebraska, sophomore Adrian Martinez seems to still be dealing with an injury he suffered three weeks ago against Northwestern. Martinez didn’t play in Nebraska’s loss to Minnesota, but he might have a better chance to play this week after having a bye week to rehab.
If he doesn’t play, sophomore Noah Vedral will lead Nebraska for the second straight game. Vedral has shown he knows the offense well, but it was evident in the Huskers’ loss to the Golden Gophers that he is a significant step down from Martinez.
For Indiana, Michael Penix Jr. has struggled with injuries this year and is a game-time decision for Saturday’s matchup. The freshman leads a passing offense that ranks second in the Big Ten, but he missed two games earlier in the year with a shoulder injury. In five games played, Penix Jr. has 1,232 passing yards and 10 touchdowns, along with four interceptions.
However, the Hoosiers have a quality backup in junior Peyton Ramsey. Ramsey has played in five games this season, passing for 843 yards and six touchdowns with a completion percentage of 73.8.
There are four different combinations of quarterbacks who could be starting on Saturday, each of which will make a difference in deciding the game’s result.
Blackshirts honoring tradition
This weekend, Nebraska will be wearing Blackshirts-inspired alternate uniforms against the Hoosiers. However, the Husker defense has a tall task in front of them in living up to the Blackshirt tradition.
Nebraska’s defense has struggled in conference play, giving up a combined 120 points to Illinois, Ohio State and Minnesota. The Blackshirts’ best performance came against a Northwestern team that ranks 127th in the country in total offense.
Indiana will provide another challenge, as it ranks second in the conference in total offense and averages 33.4 points per game. The Hoosiers have a dangerous passing attack no matter who starts at quarterback, as they rank second in the Big Ten in passing offense, only behind Purdue.
Along with a quality passing offense, sophomore running back Stevie Scott III has had an impressive season. Through seven games, Scott has the fourth-most rushing yards in the conference with 553. The Blackshirts have struggled to contain the best running backs in the conference so far this season, so Scott will provide yet another challenge.
With the Husker offense banged up and struggling, the Blackshirts will need to play well.
Direction for the rest of the year
With five games left, the Huskers need to go 2-3 to make a bowl game. Despite playing both Wisconsin and Iowa down the stretch, the schedule still looks favorable as the Huskers will play both Purdue (1-3 Big Ten) and Maryland (1-3) along with Indiana.
If Nebraska can’t take down the Hoosiers, those chances will look a lot slimmer. The Huskers haven’t looked great recently, so there’s no guarantee they will be able to take down Purdue or Maryland, much less Wisconsin and Iowa.
Much of this depends on who plays on Saturday as well. If Martinez and freshman Wan’Dale Robinson are out, and Penix Jr. plays for the Hoosiers, a healthy Nebraska team will still be in a good position to make a bowl game.
However, if the Huskers are near full-strength coming off of the extra week of rest and still don’t show up against Indiana, it may be a bad omen for Nebraska’s bowl game chances.