Nebraska vs Michigan State
Date: Saturday, Nov. 7
Game Time: 6:00 pm
Venue: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, NE
LINCOLN, Neb. – After one of the worst losses in program history, Nebraska (3-6, 1-4) returns to Lincoln on Saturday to take on an undefeated Michigan State (8-0, 4-0) squad, looking to keep pace with defending national champions Ohio State on the east side of the Big Ten Conference.
Nebraska is struggling, but the Huskers’ average margin of loss is just 3.8 points per game.
During his days with Oregon State, first-year Nebraska head coach Mike Riley defeated five top-10 squads.
"Well I think to win those games...if you learn to practice week to week, then you have a chance to focus on that week... that's why I think that you live in vacuum." Riley said. "If you want to win a game like this and maybe you're not the favorite in the game then you have had to have set a precedent for how to practice and how to get ready."
Nebraska needs a win on Saturday to keep their slim bowl chances alive, but even more importantly create some confidence for a squad that has lost four of their last five.
"I really try to go through the season kind of in a vacuum week to week,” said Riley. “I think that it's very important that a team learns that every game is really, really important. I think it’s really important the coaching staff sets that tone."
Last time the Spartans came to Nebraska in 2013, Michigan State walked out of Lincoln with a 41-28 win, holding Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong to just 9-of-21 passing. It was also the first win at Nebraska in program history for the Spartans.
“I think our players will be very excited to go out there,” said Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio. “I think it's a great place to play, fan base, environment, everything that's there for us from an opportunity standpoint. So our players will be focused.
“I have a great respect for what they do and what their fans bring and how they do it at the University of Nebraska.”
THE SERIES: Nebraska leads the overall series 7-2, dropping the last two contests to a ranked Sparty. Since joining the Big Ten, the Huskers are 2-2 against Michigan State. In Lincoln, the Huskers are 4-1 against the Spartans.
WHAT A WIN MEANS FOR NEBRASKA: Nebraska is in a rebuild/transition year with Riley, but that doesn’t mean 3-6 is acceptable. Lincoln is a noisy place, especially when the wins aren’t happening, and a win over a top ten team for the first-year head coach would silent some - at least for a week. It would also keep Nebraska’s slim bowl chances alive.
WHAT A WIN MEANS FOR MICHIGAN STATE: Sparty ranks No. 7 in the first college football playoff rankings and with five undefeated in front of them, plus three power-five schools undefeated behind them, they can’t afford to slip up. With LSU playing Alabama this weekend, it’s very possible a win at least puts them in the top six next week.
NEBRASKA INJURY LIST:
QB.) Tommy Armstrong (foot) - probable. He's practiced all week and Riley said he's looked "quick and fast." Doesn't look like there will be mobility issues.
CB.) Daniel Davie - he's going to be wearing a cast and will be limited. Chris Jones getting the start opposite of Josh Kalu. Jonathan Rose as the backup.
DT.) Kevin Williams (thumb) - Probable. He will play this week, but it will be in a limited role. Expect his reps to go up next week if things go well this week.
LB.) Michael Rose (groin) - Questionable. But it looks like he will be able to give them some reps. Don’t expect more than 20.
LB.) Chris Weber (neck) - Probable. Practiced all week. Will be Josh Banderas’ backup.
WR.) Brandon Reilly (foot) - Questionable, but looks like he will play in a limited role after practicing on Thursday.
RB.) Terrell Newby (ankle) - Questionable. We would almost expect to not see him play this week. Hasn't done anything this week. Going to try to get some work in on Friday.
WR.) Alonzo Moore - Questionable. Riley hopes he can play. We think it happens.
WHO TO WATCH ON OFFENSE AND DEFENSE:
RG.) Zach Sterup – The senior has started the last three contests at right tackle, but is moving to guard after Nick Gates’ return. Sterup will be registering his first game snaps inside and be taking the place of Chongo Kondolo.
CB.) Chris Jones – The sophomore is getting the start in place of Davie, who will have limited reps due to a cast on his hand. Jones is facing one of the toughest quarterbacks in the country in Michigan State’s Connor Cook and will likely be tested early.
REASONS TO BE CONCERNED: Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong appears to be okay after sitting out last week with a foot injury, but will his mobility be affected at all against the Spartans? The last two years, a healthy Armstrong only ran for 16 yards on 16 carries against Michigan State.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “Obviously, when there is change, you start to redevelop your program. When there is change, you're always going to step back before you step forward. There is always going to be that, I don't think without question. That's going to happen. So we went through our problems as we move forward, and it's always going to be challenging.” - Mark Dantonio , Michigan State head coach
JOSH HARVEY’S PREDICTION: I went back and fourth on this prediction all week, after picking Purdue in the upset last week. I really like Nebraska in this one, but ultimately I’m going to go with my head and pick Cook against a struggling Husker secondary. Nebraska has played everyone fairly close this year. Michigan State has struggled to put teams away. I think Nebraska gives most Huskers fans a reason to stick around. These two usually have played each other fairly close the last few years. Michigan State: 34 Nebraska: 27
OTHER NEBRASKA PREDICTIONS:
Matt Svoboda, BRR contributor: Michigan State 37 Nebraska 20
Joe Quinn, AM 590: Michigan State 45 Nebraska 24
Brett Edwards, KLKN-TV: Michigan State 37 Nebraska 17
Andrew Ward, KLKN-TV: Michigan State 35 Nebraska 21
Peter Terpstra, KLKN-TV: Michigan State 37 Nebraska 24
HuskerMo, BRR board member: Nebraska 24 Michigan State 21
OTHER BIG TEN GAMES OF NOTE:(Penn State at Northwestern / Illinois at Purdue / Iowa at Indiana)
Harvey (17-5 overall): Northwestern, Purdue, Iowa
Svobdoa (13-9 overall): Northwestern, Purdue, Iowa
Quinn (15-7 overall): Penn State, Purdue, Iowa
Edwards (13-9 overall): Northwestern, Purdue, Iowa
Ward (14-8 overall): Penn State, Purdue, Iowa
Terpstra (13-9 overall): Northwestern, Illinois, Indiana
HuskerMo (13-9 overall): Northwestern, Illinois, Iowa
*** Overall record includes all Nebraska games and Big Ten picks since conference