Mike Wilson: When taking the Huskers, it seems all things begin and end with Ameer Abdullah. What is it that makes him such a special running back?
Josh Harvey: I think Nebraska fans want that to be the case, but there has been various times this season offensive coordinator Tim Beck has probably gotten away from the run too much. For instance, Abdullah didn’t have many touches in the second half of McNeese State, which Husker fans saw as a problem. I can say over the last few games teams have seen a heavy dose of Ameer. I would even go out on a limb and say that teams are starting to adjust their defense to him, which is creating a lot of opportunities for the receivers and Tommy Armstrong to run the football.
I have covered a lot of college football players and many have a chip on their shoulder, but I think that is one thing that drives him. In high school he had a lot of SEC schools tell him they wanted him, but he wasn’t good enough to be a back. It’s stuck with him. In addition, he’s a pretty hard worker – it’s evident by the weight room numbers he puts up. He comes from a family of nine children. All of them have degrees and I think at a young age it was engrained in him that he needed to work hard to achieve his goals.
Wilson: Along the same lines, Nebraska has been Michigan State's kryptonite it seems over the past couple seasons. What do the Huskers as a whole offensively do that puts so much pressure on the MSU defense?
Harvey: Well I think first you have to credit Ameer Abdullah, because he’s a special running back. He’s been able to break off a few big runs here and there, which the Spartans usually do a pretty good job of keeping in check. Much like Nebraska, their defense is a proud one. They won’t be a group that changes because a little adversity.
Wilson: On the defensive side, everyone knows about Randy Gregory, but who else should the Spartans be wary of? Also, assuming he does not play, how much of an impact does not having David Santos in the line up make?
Harvey: I think we have seen quite a steady improvement from the interior defensive tackles this season, after starting a somewhat surprising slow start. During fall camp, the pair of Vincent Valentine and Maliek Collins looked great, but it might have gone to their head. Their first few games were not what fans were expecting after the preseason reports. Since, they have started to plug holes and get a good pressure in the middle.
As far as Santos, I don’t expect Nebraska to play much base defense, which he finds himself in most. It’s never good to be down a starting linebacker, but I think they will be able to manage just fine.
Wilson: I know both of us wrote stories this week about Tommy Armstrong and the different player he is this season, but what is it that makes him more prepared for this game than last season other than experience?
Harvey: You sort of handcuffed me, because experience is the number one factor, but there are a few other things as well. A.) The ability to go through a whole spring and fall with the number one team. Even last year when he was thrown into the fire, he was splitting practice and game reps with senior Ron Kellogg III. Now he’s just the guy. B.) I think Beck has been able to tailor the offense a little more to his skill set, which is hard to do in the middle of the season. C.) The team chemistry is higher because the injury bug hasn’t hit as hard yet on offense. People don’t realize this enough, but Nebraska’s offensive line was a tied together by a few shoestrings and bubble gum last season. In addition, he wasn’t always throwing to first-team or even second-team wide receivers.
Wilson: What is your prediction for how the game unfolds and what makes the difference for whichever team you believe will win?
Harvey: I really believe this is a toss up game and Vegas is getting closer to the notion as the line keeps falling. Ultimately when it’s a toss up game, I have to look at the home team. I wouldn’t be surprised if either team won, I seriously wouldn’t. I think ultimately Nebraska will play a much better game offensively than they did a year ago when they committed five turnovers, but it’s hard to say a turnover just won’t happen at all. Michigan State just doesn’t seem to beat itself very often. I’m saying a really close game. Michigan State 38-34 over Nebraska. Both offenses get going. With all that said, weather can be a complete game-changer.