Nebraska-Minnesota Preview: Cornhuskers Must Take Golden Gophers Seriously

Kraig LundbergAnalyst IIIMarch 29, 2017

LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 8: Quarterback Taylor Martinez #3 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers throws downfield against the Ohio State defense during their game at Memorial Stadium October 8, 2011 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska Defeated Ohio State 34-27. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images

Fresh off a bye week after the biggest comeback in school history, the Nebraska Cornhuskers must be feeling pretty good as they prepare to take on the 1-5 Minnesota Golden Gophers in Minneapolis on Saturday.

The Huskers' wild 34-27 win over the Ohio State Buckeyes, who led 27-6 almost halfway through the third quarter, seemed to provide a spark to Husker Nation after a few weeks of uneasiness and dissatisfaction.

With a fresh new vibe permeating the program and the lowly Gophers on the horizon, it would be very easy for Nebraska to look a week ahead to the monumental matchup with Michigan State. However, doing such a thing could prove to be disastrous.

Contrary to popular belief, Minnesota is a dangerous team.

Yes, I know how ridiculous it sounds. This is the same squad whose lone win came over Miami of Ohio and has dropped games to bottom dweller New Mexico State (28-21) and FCS member North Dakota State (37-24) while being pounded by Michigan (58-0) and Purdue (45-17).

The only game that Minnesota has been mildly impressive in was a 19-17 loss to the USC Trojans, which, in all reality, was an anomaly of a game.

However, Husker fans have reason to be concerned if the Huskers come out flat this weekend.

One of Minnesota's biggest advantages this weekend will be Marqueis Gray, the talented dual threat quarterback who leads the team in both rushing and passing. Gray's abilities as a runner could conceivably be problematic for a defense that has been very leaky against athletic signal callers in recent games.

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 03:  Quarterback MarQueis Gray #5 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers rolls out with the ball against the USC Trojans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 3, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. USC won 19-17.  (Photo by S
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

In a interview, the creator of commented that outside of Gray, the Gophers don't have many weapons. However, he failed to mention Da'Jon McKnight, one of the top receivers in the Big Ten.

McKnight has caught just 25 passes for 316 yards and a touchdown so far this season, but he proved to be a big play weapon last season with 750 yards and 10 touchdowns through the air. Standout cornerback Alfonzo Dennard will be charged with covering McKnight, but if Minnesota's coaches get smart and try to work him opposite Dennard's side, he would be matched up with a very inexperienced defender one way or another.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Huskers have still been struggling with consistency despite their late-game heroics in the big win over the Buckeyes, who, just one week later, invaded Champaign, Ill. and upset the previously-undefeated Illini.

Taylor Martinez and the offense still have a lot to prove as far as preventing turnovers and consistency, and they must make another jump this week to continue to gain confidence in themselves. If they are able to execute and do the little things right, as head coach Bo Pelini likes to say, Martinez and company will be able to move the ball at will.

When looking at the numbers, the talent level and the depth, Nebraska should take down the Gophers without much trouble.

But the key word there is "should."

As Husker fans, we need only look back a year to the South Dakota State game to tell us that Nebraska cannot afford to take the day off against Minnesota.

Fortunately, throughout this week, players have been commenting on Minnesota's strengths and haven't given the indication they are thinking about anything else. It seems as though Pelini has the players dialed in, and I don't see a letdown this time around.

All the Huskers have to do is show up to play, and I think they will.


Nebraska 48, Minnesota 10