The city of Lincoln will play host to the biggest game so far in the Big Ten this season. Coach Mark Dantonio will bring his Michigan State Spartans and their top-rated defense into Memorial Stadium for an encounter with the red-hot Nebraska Cornhusker football team and their secret weapon, the Sea of Red.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers will undoubtedly miss the talents and leadership of their senior quarterback Taylor Martinez in this matchup. The unfortunate circumstance has led to offensive coordinator Tim Beck to expedite the development of freshman quarterback Tommy Armstrong.
Martinez’s injury has certainly had an impact on Armstrong’s career, but the laundry list of injuries that the Huskers’ offensive line has been forced to deal with this season will have much more say on Armstrong’s day against the Spartans.
Nebraska offensive line coach Barney Cotton has had to sew together a patchwork offensive line that has only one starter remaining at his original starting position. This is a line without Spencer Long, a preseason All-American and a member of the watchlist for this season’s Outland trophy awarded to the country’s best lineman. It’s an award a Huskers player has won nine times since its origin.
Armstrong had what was arguably his best performance in an upset victory in Ann Arbor last week. The freshman signal-caller led his team on a scoring drive to win the game in the Big House in front of 112,000 fans dressed in maize and blue. The victory over the Michigan Wolverines was a big one, but the Wolverines are not the team to beat from the Great Lake State this season. The Spartans are clearly the class of Michigan football.
The Spartans will be coming after the young quarterback from every spot on the field. The Huskers may have one of the top running backs in the country this season in Ameer Abdullah, but with a beat up receiving corps, the Spartans will surely be keying on the junior I-back. The Spartans do not want to blemish their season average of holding opponents to less than two yards per carry.
So what can Armstrong expect? Do not expect to see the Huskers to find success running the option as they have the last two weeks. The Spartans will attempt to establish the edge against the Huskers by forcing everything inside to their senior linebacker Max Bullough, who was a member of nearly every watchlist for defensive awards.
When the Huskers do get outside, the secondary for the Spartans will not be afraid to come off of a receiver if they have a clear shot at the quarterback. This may be a game where fans see a personal foul early in the game as the Spartans will look set a physical tone for the game.
The fact that the Huskers have kept senior quarterback Ron Kellogg III warm this season may prove beneficial in this week’s game. Armstrong is a tough young quarterback, but there is a difference between just tough and the toughness it takes to stand in against the Spartans.