When is it possible for a 3-3 team on a 3-game losing streak to have all the momentum coming into a conference game?
Why, when it’s playing an 0-6 team of course.
Before the season began, I predicted that it would take Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Scott Frost “Frost some time (and luck) to forge a Tom Osbourne-style swagger in Lincoln. But the natural upper of a brand new star HC with a Nebraska pedigree should be enough to lift NU over a non-conference schedule of Akron, Colorado and Troy. The Cornhuskers can play .500 football in the Big Ten and still win money for gamblers on the over total-wins.”
Ha. Ah heh. Heh heh. Ugh.
Minnesota might not be the best team or the most talented team, but they’re a program that works hard under P.J. Fleck…and they might be playing one of the worst teams in the Power-5 on Saturday.
Still, Las Vegas odds-makers and the betting public seem to agree that this is the week Nebraska will snap its awful losing streak and produce the first win under Frost.
Who: Minnesota Golden Gophers at Nebraska Cornhuskers
When: Saturday, October 20th, 3:30 PM EST
Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, NE
Lines: Minnesota (+3.5) at Nebraska (-3.5) / O/U Total: (56)
The positive vibe around the Golden Gophers is undeniable. Their recent 3 losses were against 3 of the better teams in the Big Ten, games that they were expected to lose. The school’s wins against Fresno State and Miami (OH) were impressive within limits, and the brave performance in last week’s loss to Ohio State is also noteworthy.
The Gophers were able to out-gain the Buckeyes on a per-play-basis but turned the ball over 3 times in that game. True freshman QB Zack Annexstad continues to have moments of success, but has 7 interceptions in only 6 games. He will need to do a better job of protecting the football this weekend in order to capture his first conference win.
Annexstad has the luxury of relying on an improving Gopher defense, a unit led by upperclassman linebacking duo Carter Coughlin and Blake Cashman. Those 2 have tallied an impressive 18 tackles-for-loss and should continue to create havoc this weekend against a leaky Husker offensive line.
On the bright side for Nebraska, the Cornhuskers are tied dead last in the country committing 10.2 penalties per game and 120th in the nation in turnover margin. I say “bright side” since some fans are actually using those stats to claim that the team isn’t so bad after all.
Frost will have a difficult time keeping this team’s morale up as they enter the 2nd-half of their schedule. Especially after a heart-breaking overtime defeat a week ago to Northwestern. How many times can Frost rally the troops after they continue to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?
More on the Northwestern debacle:
With Nebraska leading 28-21, it felt like Tre Neal made a potentially game-sealing play when he intercepted Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson. That interception set up a field goal that extended Nebraska’s lead to 31-21 with 5:41 to play. Aside from a 61-yard Thorson touchdown pass to Flynn Nagel, Northwestern’s offense hadn’t done much in the second half. But on the ensuing possession, the Wildcats were able to move the ball. That drive eventually stalled, but it did allow the Wildcats to cut Nebraska’s lead to 31-24 with a field goal with 2:27 remaining.
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald curiously called for an onside kick. It failed, giving the Huskers the ball near midfield. The Wildcats forced a stop and used all three of their timeouts to keep time on the clock, but Nebraska punter Isaac Armstrong pinned the Wildcats at the 1-yard line with a brilliant punt. Despite the awful field position, the Northwestern offense quickly marched down the field. A dumb roughing the passer penalty on Nebraska’s Carlos Davis certainly helped matters. Thorson picked apart the Huskers’ secondary, completing six straight passes. His last three were the biggest. First he found Flynn Nagel for 32 yards to move the team into Nebraska territory. Next he hit Bennett Skowronek for 27 yards all the way down to the Nebraska 5 with 17 seconds to play. After stopping the clock with a spike, Thorson forced overtime by connecting with JJ Jefferson for a five-yard touchdown. From there, all Northwestern needed was a score of any kind for the win. The Wildcats kept it conservative and walked away with a win when Drew Luckenbaugh drilled a game-winning 37-yard field goal. The clutch kick delivered a brutal loss to the Huskers and put Northwestern back at .500 with a 3-3 record.
Husker QB Adrian Martinez has played well but will face another tough challenge this weekend. The Gophers have a tough secondary and a worthy pass rush. Martinez can try to lean on senior RB Divine Ozigbo, who is somehow averaging 6.14 yards per carry for a winless team.
It’s insane to give the Huskers the nod to cover any spread until they prove that the losing streak isn’t a psychological devil as opposed to merely an athletic one.
Take the Gophers to cover (+3.5).