Fans across Big Ten country have had an interesting week hyping up the matchup in Lincoln, Nebraska featuring the Michigan State Spartans and the Nebraska Cornhuskers, with each discussion eventually concluding with a general agreement that the Huskers will fall at the hands of the Spartans.
The truth is that there is hardly a valid comparison of the two teams; but contrary to what many believe, there is a conceivable way that the Cornhuskers will win this football game.
Ideally, the Huskers advantage in this football game might have rested on the experienced shoulders of senior quarterback Taylor Martinez. Unfortunately, as he’s out of the game, the Huskers will have to get creative and find a way to get the ball in the hands of big-play players who possess the same game-changing speed that Martinez does.
Ameer Abdullah is the top running back in the Big Ten this season, but he was also a very effective punt returner in the past who displayed his speed to the delight of Huskers fans when given the opportunity. Also, wide receiver Kenny Bell has some high-end speed. For the Huskers to win this football game, they need to get the ball in the hands of their players with speed.
Big Plays can beat the Spartans. The Spartans have been allowing less than 12 points per game. Two big plays would exceed the that average.
How do the Huskers become the team that can create big plays against the Spartans? Nebraska needs to take risks while taking care of the ball. It sounds difficult, but not if their risks are calculated. The Huskers will not find the edge and get around the Spartans’ defensive containment with jet sweeps — it is too simple and the Spartans’ defensive push gets upfield too quickly.
The biggest risk that the Huskers will have to take is allowing their young quarterback to become a sacrificial punching bag for the Spartans.
The Spartans’ defenders will be looking to put fear in the mind of freshman quarterback Tommy Armstrong. Armstrong proved that he is not easily rattled with his performance last week. If he is able to hold on to that football to the last second on his option runs, he will be giving his I-back Abdullah a much greater chance of getting a big play in the run game.
The Huskers need to resurrect game film of Scott Frost running the option. Frost nearly perfected the art of pitching the ball only when he was nearly planted in the ground by a defender. Armstrong will be key for the Huskers to win this game. He has the confidence, and if he can control the ball and put it in the hands of some very talented offensive players, the Huskers stand a much better chance than many have predicted.