At first glance this game may seem like a blowout opportunity for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. The Minnesota Golden Gophers are currently between quarterbacks, and although they beat the Northwestern Wildcats last week they’re are just two games removed from a blowout loss at the hands of the Michigan Wolverines. Both teams have five wins this year and the Gophers have just one more loss, but the Cornhuskers come in ranked No. 24 in the country while the Gophers are still an afterthought for most fans.
While the Gophers are currently between starting quarterbacks, that simply presents the Cornhuskers with more of a challenge when it comes to forming a defense gameplan. Philip Nelson, who threw for 112 yards in relief last weekend, is more of a pocket passer who occasionally runs zone-read plays with the running back but is clearly more of a threat throwing the ball. The Gophers’ other quarterback, Mitch Leidner, has seen extended playing time this year because of the threat he presents with his legs as the freshmen has ran for 344 yards in just three and a half games this year.
Both quarterbacks will likely play on Saturday, but the Cornhuskers could have trouble transitioning between the two on defense as they have complete opposite playing styles. The quarterback position is also of concern for the Cornhuskers as senior Taylor Martinez may be making his first start since mid-September because of a turf-toe injury keeping him out. If Martinez cannot play that means Tommy Armstrong Jr. would be getting his fourth straight start for the Cornhuskers, which would be good news for the Golden Gophers.
While Martinez is known as one of the better senior quarterbacks in the country, Armstrong has struggled in his time replacing the senior as the redshirt freshman is completing 56 percent of his passes despite throwing the ball just 46 times. The Huskers have turned into more of a running team since Martinez’s injury, which is more good news for the Gophers, who limited the run-first Wolverines to just 113 rushing yards.
Although a few things will favor the Gophers, including the home-field advantage they will have, I am not ready to predict the Gophers will actually upset the Cornhuskers. Nebraska does have a solid defensive unit and they could present the Gophers with some problems, but I do believe this game will be closer than many expect and wouldn’t be surprised one bit if the Gophers came away victorious.