Oct. 13, 2021: As they return from a bye week, the Golden Gophers will look to extend their winning streak to two games when they welcome the Nebraska Cornhuskers to Huntington Bank Stadium.
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- Date: Sat., Oct. 16
- TV channel: ESPN2
- Time of kickoff: 11:00 a.m. (CST)
- Broadcast team: Brian Custer (play-by-play) & Kelly Stoufer (color)
- Betting line: Minnesota (+3.5) v. Nebraska; over/under (48)
Opponent Information (Nebraska):
- 2020 record: 3-5
- 2021 record: 3-4
- @ Illinois: 22-30 L
- v. Fordham 52-7 W
- v. Buffalo: 38-3 W
- @ Oklahoma: 15-23 L
- @ Michigan State: 20-23 (OT) L
- v. Northwestern: 56-7 W
- v. Michigan: 29-32 L
- Head Coach: Scott Frost (4th season)
- Returning starters: 17
- Players to watch: Adrian Martinez (QB), JoJo Domann (LB), Samori Toure (WR), Ben Stille (DT), and Cam Taylor-Britt (CB)
Following a week six bye, the Gophers welcome a motivated and talented Nebraska team that is playing great football as of late. Head coach Scott Frost seems to always be in the headlines, but he finally has his Cornhuskers’ playing good football and the program might finally be trending in the right direction. With Trey Potts out for the season, the Gophers’ offense could have a tough time against a Nebraska defense that ranks No. 22 in scoring this season (17.9).
Nebraska season storylines:
- Scott Frost’s back is against the wall:
Scott Frost has been one of the most polarizing figures in college football since taking over the Nebraska head coaching job four seasons ago. After turning around UCF in only two season’s he was expected to turn around his alma-mater Nebraska. It has not really gone that way; his 34-31 record, season-high of five wins and zero trips to bowl games was not how he would’ve liked to start with the program. So far in 2021, it has finally looked like Frost’s Huskers are playing with an identity. This is a run-heavy offense (No. 18 in NCAA 223.6 YPG), that has played like one of the best defenses in the Big Ten this season.
Nebraska has been within one score in every game they’ve played in 2021, and it looks like Frost’s best team since taking over. It is really put-up or shut-up time for a head coach that likes to talk a lot of game. It might’ve not translated into wins yet, but for the first time in a long time it looks like the Nebraska football program might be starting to trend in the right direction. The Gophers should expect Nebraska to have a team and a head coach that will be tremendously motivated to pick up a win.
- QB Adrian Martinez’s 4th season turn-around:
Much like Frost, Adrian Martinez was onced hyped-up to be the next-big-thing. It wasn’t long ago; when Nebraska was ranked in the preseason AP poll, and Martinez was a perenial Heisman favorite heading into the 2019 season. Since then Martinez has batteld injuries, gotten benched and looked more primed for a trip to the transfer portal rather than the Heisman Trophy ceremony.
In 2021, Martinez has begun to show the potential he flashed after his freshman season. Throught the air, he has completed 66.3% of his passes for 1,754 yards, nine TDs and three INTs. He has been one of the most effective rushers from the QB position in the country this season with 88 carries, 450 yards and 10 TDs — all team-highs. The 6-foot-2-inch senior might not be the Heisman canidate he was once hyped up to be, but he has finally settled in as a capable starting college quarterback.
- Best 3-4 team in the country?:
Since oppening the season with a dissapointing 22-30 loss against Illinois, Nebraska has been improving ever since. After two dominating wins against Fordham and Buffalo, the Cornhuskers played a very good Oklahoma team tough for four quarters, and should’ve beat Michigan State after losing in overtime. After a dominant win over Northwestern, it looked like they would knock of Michigan, until a late field goal by the Wolverines.
Having played in week “zero” against Illinois, Nebraska is the only team in college football to be at 3-4, so I think it’s fair to say the Huskers are the best 3-4 team in the country. In all seriousness this is a very talented team, that is built to only get better in the future. Their playmakers are led by FCS All-American transfer WR Samouri Toure, and 6-foot-9-inch TE Austin Allen. Hybrid LB/S JoJo Domann leads an aggressive group on defense that has been effective all season. This is not the same Frost-led Nebraska team, and I would expect them to only get better in the future.
Gophers’ path to victory:
This will be a tough game for the Gophers, but all fans of the Maroon & Gold should be very thankfull this game is being played at Huntington Bank Stadium. After a tumultuous bye week that saw Trey Potts officially get rulled out for the season and OG Curtis Dunlap Jr. enter his name into the transfer portal, this team will have a lot of adversity to overcome. I think the most important thing for the Gophers to do Saturday morning, will be staying true to themselves and don’t try to do too much. I would imagine losing your star RB for the second time in one season, can be tough for team moral, on top of losing a contributing offensive lineman to the transfer portal.
As for X’s and O’s, I think it’s finally time for Mike Sanford Jr. and the Gophers’ to let Tanner Morgan and the passing game loose. The fact if it will happen is a different story. Chris Autman-Bell is hopefully 100% for the first time this season and Dylan Wright is expected to return to the lineup. I would expect this team to still heavily rely on the run, but with two freshman (Irving & Thomas) likely to be the top contributors at running back, I would hope they dial up some more plays for their veteran QB. Nebraska’s defense has looked very stout at times this season, so Saturday will be a huge test for an offense that has struggled at times this season, and is now facing some serious adversity.
On the defensive side of the ball, I think Minnesota matches up quite well with Nebraska. A front-seven that has looked dominant at times this season, should be able to at least slow down Nebraska’s potent rush attack. Boye Mafe and the rest of the defensive front will need to get pressure on Martinez and force him into tough situations, make him beat you through the air. Although he has looked better this season, quarterbacks like him can still implode at any minute. It will be stregnth on stregnth when Minnesota’s defense is on the field.
Saturday will be a huge test for this Gophers’ team out of the bye week, and to put it blunty this offense must play well if they want any chance of winning. There is no reason why Minnesota cannot win this game, but it will not be easy to take down a highly-motivated Nebraska team.