Week 12 – Minnesota at Nebraska

Posted Nov 15, 2012

Week 12 Fearless Prediction – Minnesota at Nebraska

Minnesota (6-4) at Nebraska (8-2) Nov. 17, 3:30, BTN

Here's The Deal: The two should be geographic rivals, but can the two Legends brothers create an interesting matchup on the field? The two programs have played more than 50 times, but Nebraska has won the last 15 matchups going back to a 26-14 Minnesota victory in 1960. It hasn't been pretty, with the lowlight coming in an 84-13 Husker win in 1983 with the infamous quarter-by-quarter box score next to Nebraska of 21-21-21-21. Last year, Nebraska won 41-14.

This season, the game matters even more for a Husker team trying to hold off Michigan for the Legends title and a shot to go play Wisconsin for the Big Ten title. Winners of four in a row since the blowout loss to Ohio State, Nebraska has managed to win games in stunningly dramatic fashion starting with a tremendous comeback over the Badgers the week before getting thumped by the Buckeyes, and with last-second victories over Northwestern, Michigan State and Penn State to follow. The team is finding ways to get the job done, even if things have been a tad rocky at times.

For the Gophers, it's gravy time. A resounding win over Illinois meant a sixth victory and a bowl bid to come, but it would be nice to have a more impressive victory on the résumé than Syracuse. The offense might not be anything impressive, and the defense has been hit-or-miss, but head coach Jerry Kill has his team playing hard and tough; it's not going to roll over against a Husker team that has had a hard time closing.

Why Minnesota Might Win: So why are the Huskers having so many problems for 50 minutes – give or take a few here and there? Why can't the team simply step up and put teams away? The running game is rolling and the passing game is solid enough, but overall, there have been a big, big problem with turnovers. Nebraska has given it away at least twice in every game but the opener against Southern Miss, losing two fumbles last week against Penn State and giving away three picks two weeks ago against Michigan State. Minnesota doesn't force a ton of takeaways, but the offense isn't giving it up with just one turnover in the last three games and a mere three lost fumbles in the last seven outings. As long as the Gophers can be +2 in turnover margin, they'll have a shot.

Why Nebraska Might Win: Minnesota just doesn't have enough on the defensive front to stop what the Huskers are doing on the ground. Stuffing Illinois wasn't a problem, and getting ripped up by Wisconsin was expected, but Purdue, Iowa, and Western Michigan were among those with mediocre ground attacks that had some success. Taylor Martinez and Ameer Abdullah have been terrific with Rex Burkhead trying to get past a knee injury, and now the ground game is humming. The pass protection hasn't been great, but the run blocking has been stellar, giving the stars just enough time and room to get the creases they need. That shouldn't be a problem against the Gopher defensive front that's good, but not great.

What To Watch Out For: Minnesota RB Donnell Kirkwood was supposed to be a big part of the mix right away two years ago, but he suffered a leg injury and was knocked out after running for 107 yards. He got in a little bit of work last year, but he didn't exactly set the world on fire. This season he has turned into a key part of the Gophers' resurgence running for 819 yards and five scores with two 100-yard games in the last three including 152 yards and two scores in the win over Illinois. At 5-10 and 216 pounds he has good size, and nice base, and the ability and potential to be a workhorse to revolve the ground game around, and this week he's going to have to carry the load to give Minnesota any shot at pulling off the upset.

What Will Happen: It's Nebraska, so it's going to end up being interesting in some way. Minnesota doesn't have the horses to keep up for a full four quarters and won't be able to fight back when down late. Martinez and Abdullah will each run for 100 yards.

CFN Prediction: Nebraska 31 … Minnesota 13
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Nebraska -19.5 O/U: 53.5
Must Watch Rating (5 – Killing Them Softly, 1 – The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2): 3