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NCAA Football Nebraska Cornhuskers

Big Test Looms for Nebraska Cornhuskers’ Offensive Line

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Big Test for Nebraska Cornhusker Offensive Line

Big Test for Nebraska Cornhusker Offensive Line
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

What many Nebraska Cornhusker fans have dubbed the most important game of the season has arrived. A Big Ten championship game was the expectation at the beginning of this season and after two losses, one against UCLA Bruins and the other on the road against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, the dream of appearing in the big game was beginning to fade. The Huskers have battled back and endured many hardships to reach this week’s matchup against the Michigan State Spartans with the chance to appear in that game once again being a reality.

If the Huskers are to defeat the Spartans, each team will have one loss out of conference play and one loss in conference. The Huskers will obviously hold the edge if they win this game as they will have won the head-to-head matchup. Sound simple right? Nothing for the Huskers has been simple so far in 2013 and like everything else coach Bo Pelini’s squad has been forced to withstand this game will be tan equivalent to some of the most storied upsets in program history.

For the Huskers to defeat the mighty Spartan’s and their top-ranked defense, the battle will need to be at least competitive up front. That starts with the oft injured offensive line. It is hard to imagine a situation where the Huskers will be able to come in and out right win the battle up front against the best defense in college football. Here is a scenario that may have made the contest a bit more competitive. Here's a look at what was expected to be the starting lineup for the Nebraska offensive line in 2013 and who is still remaining.

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Left Tackle

Left Tackle
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Jeremiah Sirles started his 36th game as a Husker against the Michigan Wolverines only to be knocked out of the game with a knee injury. Senior Brent Qvale will be making only his second start in place of Sirles against the Spartans.

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Left Gaurd

Left Gaurd
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Jake Cotton got his first start against Wyoming this season only to be injured in the Huskers home victory over Northwestern. Starting in his place will be Mike Moudy, but the Huskers have played moved center Cole Pensick to guard at times.

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Center

Center
Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

Center here may be the Huskers best shot at an offensive lineman who started the season and may finish the season healthy. In fact, the Huskers two-deep depth chart at the beginning of the year was Cole Pensick-1 and Mark Pelini-2 and it remains the same today. For this reason, Pelini may get playing time at center while Pensick is used at guard.

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Right Gaurd

Right Gaurd
Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Right Guard was hoped to be one of the Huskers strong points this season. Spencer Long, the senior from Elkhorn, Neb., was a preseason All-American and on the Outland Trophy watch list. Winning the Outland Trophy at Nebraska is almost a bigger deal than winning a Heisman Trophy. Huskers have won the award nine times, the most of any school in college football. With Long out, senior Andrew Rodriguez has some big shoes to fill. Rodriguez was originally scheduled to play right tackle, but was forced inside when Long was hurt.

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Right Tackle

Right Tackle
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Rodriquez was the opening day starter and played well for the huskers, but has since been moved to guard. Now in his place is Zach Sterup, a sophomore from Hastings, Neb. Sterup will undoubtedly have the biggest challenge helping the Huskers reach the edge running the option against the Spartans.

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Tight End

Tight End
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Jake Long is back. That’s right, the brother of Spencer Long has been out because of an injury as well. The senior may not be a team captain like his brother, but Jake will bring some much-needed leadership to a team that needs experience and toughness up front. The tight end has worked very hard to get back for this game and he may be what the Huskers need to help on the edge of the offensive line. If Cotton is unable to play, there are three inexperienced freshman who will be asked to fill his shoes.