While the Big Ten may not be appealing to the average college football fan this season, a matchup between Nebraska and Michigan State may in fact be worth keeping an eye on. The Cornhuskers enter the meeting as a Top-25 team in the BCS rankings and Michigan State is looking to build on its success after upsetting Wisconsin last week.
This will be the first road trip for Nebraska to Michigan State in 17 years, but the Spartans have yet to win a game against the Cornhuskers in their four overall meetings. A victory for the Blackshirts will move the team closer to locking up the Legends Division, while a win for Michigan State will show that the team still has life, despite getting off to a slow start.
You can expect a close game in this matchup. Here are five players that will likely have the biggest impact in the outcome.
Season Stats: 32 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks
Head coach Bo Pelini is a defensive-minded coach that is tough to impress, but he must have enjoyed the defensive performance that Nebraska showed last week against Michigan.
The best lineman this team has at the moment is Eric Martin, who leads the squad in sacks and tackles for loss.
While Michigan State has a solid offensive line, it will be up to Martin to continue bullying his way through and making plays for his team.
The senior gets off the ball quickly and will need to play a factor in stopping the run as well.
Season Stats: 35 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and two sacks
William Gholston was supposed to have a monster season this year and position himself as a potential first-round draft pick.
The problem is, he got off to a slow start and has really become a forgotten player on the defensive line.
With that being said, in last week’s game against Wisconsin, Gholston had four tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and a pass batted down.
If he can become the beast that he was last week for Michigan State, Nebraska will have its hands full trying to block the junior defensive end.
If we learned anything from a year ago, he can certainly take over a game once he gets going.
Season Stats: 66 percent completion percentage, 1,781 passing yards, 16 passing touchdowns, 461 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns
Taylor Martinez has been a completely different quarterback this season. He is making better decisions with the football and has amazingly improved his completion percentage by a wide margin.
The Spartans have not had much success against dual-threat quarterbacks this season and Martinez has shown he can absolutely kill defenses that aren't disciplined.
The junior signal-caller has scored at least three touchdowns in five games this year and could have another big game against Michigan State if the defense doesn't proceed with caution.
Season Stats: 1,061 rushing yards, eight rushing touchdowns, 145 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown
There is only one running back in the entire country that has more than Bell's 247 carries. He is without a doubt the workhorse for this Michigan State offense and will receive the bulk of the work this Saturday as well.
With quarterback Andrew Maxwell still struggling to lead this team, Bell has received over 20 touches on six occasions this season, each of the last four games included.
Nebraska has been shaky at times at stopping the run this year. The team is allowing over four yards per carry and has allowed teams such as UCLA and Ohio State to crank out over 300 yards on the ground.
Bell will remain the focus for this Spartans offense in this game, as he tries to get his team back on track.
Season Stats: 41.97 punt average and 12-17 on field-goal attempts
Many points aren't expected in this contest, as both squads have defenses that are capable of holding ground. Special teams will likely be a key in this game, which certainly gives Nebraska an edge, as Brett Maher is one of the better punters and kickers that the Big Ten has to offer.
Along with his solid field-goal kicking and great punt average, he also drills over 50 percent of his kickoffs for touchbacks.
In a game that could come down to field position, Maher will play a key role in who ends up coming out of this game victorious.