Date: Saturday, October 17
Game Time: 2:30 p.m. CT
Network: ESPN 2
LINCOLN, Neb. – After another tough loss, losing in the final minute or overtime for the fourth time this season, Nebraska is 2-4 on the season. The last time that happened, head coach Mike Riley was just six-years old.
Riley is 62.
You can do the math.
Just two games into Big Ten Conference play, Nebraska is out of the Big Ten West division title race.
A trip to a decent bowl game? That will be a tough task.
Still, the first-year head coach is maintaining a positive attitude for his team.
“So I’m going to, at this juncture right now, remain positive,” said head coach Mike Riley. “We’re obviously in a box that it’s just a game. A chance to win. A chance to really prove what we can do. You know, without having to think about big ramifications or standings. We’re out of that right now. We’re just into a box of a game. And that’s a good way to live anyway. Winning, and especially right now, where we are with our record, so let’s just… I just have faith that they will come (and) be ready to go. We’ll start practicing. We’ll get ready to win.”
A win will have to come against a Minnesota defense known for their stinginess.
“Minnesota’s a really disciplined team, especially their defense. They don’t make mistakes very often and when they do, you have to be able to capitalize on that,” said wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp. “They have some really great players, some good DB’s. They’re a physical team just like every Big Ten team. We’ll get a good game plan going and we’ll be ready to go.”
The series: It’s not very often a team has a series lead over Nebraska, but the Gophers do in this case, with a 31-22-2 record over the Huskers. Nebraska had won 16 straight from 1963 to 2012, but Minnesota has taken the last two games in close contests. Both times Nebraska was a favorite in the game.
What a win means for Nebraska: Last week Nebraska not only played themselves out of the Big Ten West Division title, but they also made making a bowl game pretty difficult down the stretch. If the Huskers fall to 2-5 on the season, they would have to win four or five straight, including three games against Top 25 opponents. Not many coaches have had to ever deal with needing a win to approach getting to .500 at Nebraska on the season.
What a win means for Wisconsin: Minnesota is going to have to get at least two more wins here with tough schedule remaining as you mention. This week at home against Nebraska is arguably one of their best chances on the schedule, especially with Michigan, @Ohio State and @Iowa immediately after the bye. Gopher fans know that there are some toss up games like Iowa and Wisconsin with the rivalry game aspect. With the Huskers reeling a little bit after a few tough losses in a row, the Gophers know that it's not going to be an easy game with all the pent up rage the Huskers must have right now. This game is extremely important for Minnesota to keep their bowl chances alive and well. – Ryan Burns, GopherDigest.com
Injury list: Starting linebacker Josh Banderas, who has only played in two games with a groin injury, practiced both Monday and Tuesday and the staff is expecting him to play this weekend. The same can be said for senior corner Daniel Davie, who is also battling a groin.
Banderas’ replacement Chris Weber, experienced a stinger against Wisconsin and sat out of practice on Monday and Tuesday. He is questionable for the game. Outside linebacker Michael Rose (groin) also sat out of practice.
Defensive tackle Kevin Williams (thumb), was back at practice this week as well, although his status remains questionable for this week.
Offensive guard Chongo Kondolo sat out of practice on Tuesday, but is probable for the contest.
Guys who have already been ruled out for Saturday are offensive tackle Nick Gates (high-ankle) and defensive end Freedom Akinmoladun (knee scope).
This injury list will be updated on Thursday night after head coach Mike Riley speaks with the media for the final time.
Who to watch on offense and defense:
Reasons to be concerned: Minnesota has won 10 of its past 13 homes games, with all three losses coming to nationally ranked opponents. Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill has found a way to give the Gophers a pretty strong home-field advantage.
Quote to note: “I can kind of go on what I see and what I see is, most importantly, how they engaged in everything that they’re supposed to do. Which is the stuff they have on Sunday, the weight-lifting. Are they fading away in school? Is there a disengagement here? What’s the energy level for practice? What’s the attention? Those are all tell-tale signs, right? I’ve been in it long enough to have seen all of that. So those things are addressed, and we actually had a record number of guys that volunteered and lifted yesterday. Most everybody took care of their business and so those are good things. I’m not going to be overly dramatic about it until I see a real issue there because they’ve answered the bell every Monday to me.” – Mike Riley on his level of concern about the team’s unity and cohesion
Josh Harvey’s prediction: Even though Nebraska has lost the last two games against Minnesota, I think the Huskers have more talent. It's a must win game for these guys. I'm going....Prediction: 27-21, Nebraska.