An early spin through MSU’s football season: Spartans try for better luck at Nebraska on Nov. 16

This is the 10th in a 12-day series looking at Michigan State’s opponents this football season and their chances against the Spartans.

Week 10: Nebraska
Time and Date: TBD, Nov. 16
Venue: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.

Cornhuskers at a glance
Coach: Bo Pelini (sixth season, 49-20)
Last season: 10-4 overall; 7-1 Big Ten (1st Legends)
Returning starters: 11 (seven offense, four defense)

Preseason magazine predictions
Athlon: 9-3 overall; 2nd, Big Ten Legends Division; Ranked No. 21
Lindy’s: 3rd, Legends Division; Ranked No. 21
Sporting News: 2nd, Legends Division

Why they’ll beat the Spartans
Taylor Martinez. The Cornhuskers’ QB practically did so on his own in a controversial game last season at Spartan Stadium, showing, perhaps more than ever, that he’s not a one-dimensional player. Martinez is back for his 12th season (kidding, his senior season), with all of his top wideouts and 1,100-yard rusher Ameer Abdullah behind him. Up front, Nebraska returns three starters, critical for the run-first, run-second philosophy.

Nebraska’s other advantage in this matchup is that it’s home, and Memorial Stadium is a ferocious home-field advantage. Not only has MSU never beaten Nebraska, it’s had dreadful results in its only two modern-day appearances in Lincoln, mostly recently losing 24-3 during an 11-win season two years ago.

Why they won’t
Nebraska’s rush defense ranked near the bottom of the Big Ten a year ago — making the Spartans’ disjointed offense seem almost fluid in last year’s 28-24 Huskers win — and might be even less staunch this fall. It’ll certainly be less experienced up front and at linebacker. Both programs are coming off what’ll likely be high-profile games against Michigan, but MSU gets a bye before this trip, time to refocus and heal late in the season. The Spartans’ other edge could be the matchup of philosophies and strengths. Nebraska would prefer the forward pass didn’t exist. MSU’s defense is difficult to beat without multiple facets. Martinez was surprisingly brilliant passing the football late in the game against MSU last season. He’s not always that way.

Final analysis
Forecasting November football in July is fairly ridiculous. The yet-to-be-seen rigors and story lines of the season will have so much to do with this game. But there are certain moments in sports that are difficult to picture. MSU winning in Lincoln is one of them. There is simply no frame of reference.

New regime rows WMU into Spartan Stadium for Aug. 30 opener
Rebuilding South Florida visits on Sept. 7
Youngstown State, on Sept. 14, offers final tuneup before season gets real

Notre Dame, perhaps a mirror image, awaits on Sept. 21
Big Ten road begins Oct. 5 against iffy Iowa squad
Offensive-minded and improving Hoosier visit for homecoming, Oct. 12
Boilermakers’ unrelenting schedule stops in East Lansing Oct. 19
Illini have new-look offense, not much left on ‘D’ as Spartans visit Oct. 26
Spartans look to make it 5 of 6 against Wolverines on Nov. 2

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17 Responses to An early spin through MSU’s football season: Spartans try for better luck at Nebraska on Nov. 16

  1. avatar Ghost of Biggie says:

    Now you’ve done it. Picked against MSU. Eliana is angry. Beware.


  2. avatar Paul Rea says:

    Well analyzed. Hopefully Big Red will rebuild the Blackshirts and it will be a good game. Good luck in all your other games Spartans and on 11/16 may the best team win!

  3. avatar Herbie says:

    “Up front, Nebraska returns three starters, critical for the run-first, run-second philosophy.”

    Graham…um…you *do* realize this is 2013 Nebraska, and not 1995 Nebraska, right? Nebraska hasn’t been “run-first, run-second” since Solich was in town–they’re rather balanced on offense right now (2012 stats: 3547 Rushing Yards/33 TDs compared to 2904 Passing Yards/24 Passing TDs). And considering the running game had a problem with putting the ball on the ground last season (35 *oops* moments) but not with INTs (13 total), it’s safe to assume that the passing game will be as prominent in 2013 as the running game…if not moreso.

    Plus, you glossed over Kenny Bell, who is perhaps *the* best complete receiver in the B1G. Yes, tOSU has a receiver with great hands…but Kenny not only has great hands, but we saw last year he can throw a fundamentally sound, yet mean (and clean) block in run support.

    • avatar Graham Couch says:

      Fair points. I’ve seen enough Division I quarterbacking and enough of Taylor Martinez to know you don’t recruit that kid without a run-first, run-second philosophy. He’s improved, but there have been some brutal throws over the years. If the forward pass didn’t exist — and other QBs couldn’t use it either — the Huskers would be a top-5 team.

      Not saying they aren’t capable of passing, simply was referencing preference. But I also know you and your fan base know your team, more than any fan base in the Big Ten understands its team.

    • avatar Mr Football says:

      35 Fumbles….a ton were from the passing game, back in the “safe” pocket. So yes, passing is more turnover prone than rushing, once again, everso.

  4. avatar thee shot says:

    Where have you been the 2 years the Huskers have been in the Big Ten???
    To say the Huskers prefer the forward pass didn’t exist can only be written by someone who never watched their games the past two years

  5. avatar jeremy says:

    I dont think this guy has ever watch a nebraska game in the BIG. They are a 55/45 offense and this year want to throw the ball more. Please do more research before you write something you have no idea about.

  6. avatar jeremy says:

    And pretty sure we passed more than MSU last year as well

  7. avatar GoodLife says:

    For crying out loud, last year’s game winning TD in East Lansing came by a Taylor pass… after reading “run-first, run-second philosophy” you lost all credibility.

  8. avatar Marcus says:

    Nebraska wishes the forward pass didn’t exist? I really doubt that considering how Beck’s offense has been and that Nebraska has one of the best receiver corps in the nation this year.

    I’m doing my best as a ‘skers fan to not drink the Kool Aid this year. Pelini is always good for winning one he shouldn’t and losing one he shouldn’t every season. Given the controversy & how we barely won in East Lansing last year, and how Sparty gets a week off to heal, gameplan, etc… I’m thinking MSU gets their first win over Nebraska this season.

  9. avatar dwest870 says:

    Nebraska’s offensive aspirations under Pelini have always been to be “multiple.” While still in the Big 12, the leftover OC from the Callahan era suffered the same problems. Offensively we would put up huge numbers, but when big games came along it simply vanished. It took a few years to get the defense up to snuff, but then we switched conferences. Needless to say the “basketball-on-grass” offenses of the Big 12 were completely different than the North and South offenses in the Big 10. I think that being in the Big 10 for two seasons now, while being more familiar with each of the division teams, it will take a season or two more (through recruiting) to get the right pieces on the board to better match-up with teams like Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, etc. My best assessment of the defense last season is inconsistancy. We would do great, but then implode. Ohio State, Wisconsin, then finally Georgia. I am optimistic that we will have a better grasp on how to defend teams this year, but still think we’ll need a bit more time to get the right atheletes in and up to speed on defense. I’m hopeful, but realistic.

    This game is a toss-up. I think the edge goes to the home team, plus Taylor’s still working with his QB guru and should be be free of all the bad habits he picked up while playing injured. Good luck this season! See you in November!

  10. avatar HuskerHeathen says:

    It appears the Huskers have a very potent offense this coming season, but everything has to do with Taylor reading the Defenses correctly on an given Saturday. He seems to fall apart once he starts making mistakes. So the offense is only as good as Taylor’s quick decision making and composure, unless the Backup QB is the 2nd coming of Christ.

    The DL & LB corp are starting over this year so they are identified as the huge weakness overall. The are very inexperienced but apparently very athletic.

    I believe the Huskers are tough to gauge. If Martinez can think more like Peyton Manning thinks and the DL/LB corp learns fast then watch out; otherwise they could easily finish in the middle of their Division.

  11. avatar Scott says:

    Nebraska’s passing stats from 2013:
    2904 yds, 61.6% completions, 24 TD’s, 13 Int., Pass rating of 140.3

    MSU’s passing stats from 2013:
    2729 yd’s, 52.5% completions, 14 TD’s, 10 Int, Pass rating of 107.4

    Uh… which team did you say it was that wishes that the forward pass didn’t exist??? It looks like Michigan St. would benefit more from scrapping the pass!

    • avatar Dave says:

      Good stats Scott. Another stat for the readers. Nebraska has the best record in the Big 10 the last 2 seasons against Big 10 teams (and yes, that includes Ohio’s undefeated season last year.)

  12. avatar Mr Football says:

    Relax people…N is run first, but it’s only been pass 2nd under T Martinez in 2012 and now 2013. His first two seasons N offense was certainly run 1st and run 2nd. No doubt. Just one year off.

  13. avatar Mr Football says:

    T Martinez did lead the BIG in passing efficiency. And that wasn’t due to low attempts either.

    He isn’t going to sit in the pocket and make 3 reads….ever. But he can throw, hit targets and look at 2 reads, before taking a sack or running.

  14. avatar Don Cornholious says:

    I have a lot of respect for MSU, which is a hard nosed team. I do think Graham was off the mark in run first, run second. Tim Beck is not a sought after coaching prospect because he is one dimensional. The guy is very creative in designing the attack. On the flip side, unfortunately this is not 1995 Nebraska, and that is evident on the lines and especially defense. We as fans are pinning our hopes on an explosive multiple offense, but defense wins championships. GBR!

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