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.
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