Nebraska football is looking to get another win this weekend and head into their bye week with a 5-2 record. That will be no easy task, as the Huskers travel to Minneapolis to face an undefeated Minnesota team. Plenty of questions surround both teams, making this an intriguing Big Ten matchup.
Here’s what to watch for:
Nebraska’s quarterback situation
In the second half of Nebraska’s win over Northwestern, sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez went down with an undisclosed knee injury. Sophomore Noah Vedral played in relief and performed well enough for the Huskers to come away with the win, completing 2 out of 5 passes for 41 yards, along with seven rushes for 33 yards.
His 32-yard pass to freshman Wan’Dale Robinson put the Huskers in range for the game-winning field goal. Other than that, Nebraska played it safe with Vedral, mostly calling run plays and safe passes.
Martinez’s status is unknown as of now, and we may not know who will start until game time. Either a hobbled Martinez will play or Vedral will get the start on Saturday, and neither of which seem ideal for an already banged-up Husker offense.
Martinez practiced on Wednesday, but it is still unclear whether he will be able to suit up on game day.
Last time Martinez missed a game due to injury, Nebraska lost to Troy 24-19 in 2018 with Andrew Bunch at quarterback. In that game, Bunch had 177 passing yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Vedral looked decent in a limited role against Northwestern, but a performance like Bunch had in 2018 likely won’t get the Huskers a win against Minnesota.
Is Minnesota legit?
Minnesota is one of four undefeated Big Ten teams, but it is the only one of those four that is not currently ranked in the AP Poll. The 5-0 Golden Gophers are beginning to see some national respect after a 40-17 win over Illinois. They picked up a No. 25 ranking in the coaches poll and are on the outskirts of the AP Poll.
The reason Minnesota hasn’t earned more praise is the difficulty of its schedule. The Golden Gophers needed a go-ahead fourth-quarter touchdown to beat FCS team South Dakota State by seven, needed two overtimes to beat Fresno State by three points and barely came out on top against Georgia Southern, winning 35-32.
They’ve been better in conference play, taking down Purdue 38-31 and beating Illinois by 23 points. However, the Illini and the Boilermakers have a combined record of 3-7 this year and have gone 0-4 in conference play.
The Huskers will pose the biggest test the Golden Gophers have faced this season. Nebraska took down Minnesota 53-28 last year, but Minnesota seems to have improved quickly. This weekend’s game will give a lot of insight into how good the Golden Gophers actually are. They could either come out and prove themselves with a win, or lose and show that their record is a result of the weaker competition they’ve faced so far.
As of now, conditions for Saturday night’s game in Minneapolis aren’t looking great. The temperature will likely dip to around 30 degrees, along with a chance of rain or snow.
The last time Nebraska played a game in substantial snow was a 9-6 slugfest win over Michigan State in Lincoln last season. The Huskers have shown they can win these games, but they’ve also shown that the weather can have an impact on their performance.
In that game, Nebraska fumbled five times, losing two. The Huskers have had struggles with ball security this season, so the weather may add to those potential struggles on Saturday.
Martinez especially struggled in poor conditions against a strong Spartan defense, only completing 16-37 pass attempts for 145 yards and losing one of his two fumbles.
Despite the offense’s prior struggles in snow, the conditions could help the defense perform better. In that Michigan State game, the Blackshirts allowed just six points and forced two turnovers. The Spartan offense was poor to begin with, but that performance showed that these conditions may help a defense that thrives on forcing turnovers.
Whether it’s clear skies, rain or snow on Saturday night, the Huskers will do their best to execute as planned. Still, the weather may be a factor in how well they are able to do so.