The Big Ten Legends division leading Nebraska Cornhuskers (7-2, 4-1) host the Leaders division leading Penn State Nittany Lions (6-3, 4-1) in Lincoln on Saturday afternoon.
Penn State is still capable of winning the Big Ten Leaders division despite being banned from the Big Ten Championship game or a bowl appearance. But it is not likely because they have fallen behind Ohio State and have a loss against the Buckeyes as well.
You couldn’t have guessed that at this time last year, the Big Ten Championship would be decided in an early November game between these two teams.
Still, there’s something fitting about Matt McGloin and his teammates' refusal to go quietly in the night in the wake of the tremendous amount of adversity stacked against them.
Nebraska may not have undergone the same type of off-field devastation that the Nittany Lions have, but they’ve certainly worked through adversity during the season.
They’ve bounced back after losing running back Rex Burkhead for the past two weeks, getting stomped by Ohio State by an embarrassing 63-38 margin and by nearly blowing their season against Michigan State last week.
When: Saturday, Nov. 10 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.
Live Stream: ESPN3
Radio: Free Football Radio
Betting Line (via Covers)
Over/Under: 53.5, Spread: Nebraska (-7.5)
It’s hard to imagine these two teams going over 53 points, but that’s going to happen with each team pulling out all the stops due to the huge implications of this game. Nebraska is a good offense team, especially on the ground, and it will test the stout front-seven of the Nittany Lions like no one since the Buckeyes a couple of weeks ago.
Still, they aren’t defensively capable of shutting down Penn State’s improved offense. Quarterback Matt McGloin is having the best year of his college career and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the wounded Nittany Lions. He’s posted a 138 passer rating with 18 touchdowns to just three interceptions.
It will be a much closer and higher scoring game than most people think.
Injury Report (via USA Today)
TE Kyle Carter, Ankle, Questionable
T Curtis Dukes, Concussion, Questionable
DL Jordan Hill, Knee, Questionable
G Mark Arcidiacono, Foot, Questionable
LB Nyeem Wartman, Knee, Out
RB Braylon Heard, Groin, Questionable
RB Rex Burkhead, Knee, Questionable
FB Mike Marrow, Knee, Out
BCS/Top 25 Implications
The BCS is a very real possibility for the Nebsraka Cornhuskers. While they sit currently ranked at No. 16 in the BCS, there is still plenty of football that could shift the power structure ahead of them, including divisional championship games.
For the Cornhuskers, this week’s game against Penn State could be a preview of what is to come in the Big Ten Championship game. However, they can’t get there unless they keep winning. They’re currently tied with the Michigan Wolverines but hold the tiebreaker over the team after defeating them two weeks ago.
Penn State is a bubble Top 25 BCS team but is not eligible due to NCAA sanctions against the school.
Penn State Player to Watch: Michael Mauti, LB
“Linebacker U” is still alive and kicking despite the wide sweeping changes that have happened in Happy Valley since last season. Mauti and teammate Gerald Hodges are both pegged as Top Five at their position and are destined to play on Sundays for an NFL franchise.
Mauti brings an incredible work ethic and attitude to the game that goes unmatched across the conference, maybe even the nation. He’s also the leader and foundation for the imposing Nittany Lions defense. If Mauti can have a great game, it will make things very difficult for the Cornhuskers’ offense to run the ball at all on Saturday.
Nebraska Player to Watch: Taylor Martinez, QB
Taylor Martinez is a true dual-threat quarterback. He has both the legs and the arm to make opposing defenses cringe when watching tape on him and the Cornhuskers offense.
Last week he had a very up and down game but led a come-from-behind victory over Michigan State to keep his team’s BCS hopes alive. He finished the game with four total touchdowns and over 350 yards through the air and on the ground.
Prediction: Nebraska 30, Penn State 27
Nebraska has too much to lose in this one and will be too much for the visiting Nittany Lions. Although Penn State’s much improved from earlier in the season and is boasting a confident and effective defense, Nebraska is just too talented and too capable of moving the football.
It’ll be a lot closer than most people think, though. Dramatic is a word I’ll use to predict how this one is going to unfold. Whether its overtime or a final-minute finish, expect a hard-fought game by both teams that ultimately ends in favor of the home team.