Daily Breakdown: Minnesota should bounce back against Nebraska

The Gophers are favored by 2.5 points.

Benched Gophers watch a replay on the big screen during the game against Michigan on Saturday, Nov. 4 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Gophers lost to the Wolverines 33-10. 

Ellen Schmidt

Benched Gophers watch a replay on the big screen during the game against Michigan on Saturday, Nov. 4 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Gophers lost to the Wolverines 33-10. 

Drew Cove

Minnesota’s rivalry with Nebraska was renewed when the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten In 2011, but the results haven’t gone the Gophers’ way since then.

The Cornhuskers beat Minnesota 24-17 in Nebraska last season. Minnesota (4-5, 1-5 Big Ten) has lost two consecutive Big Ten games, while Nebraska (4-5, 3-3 Big Ten) is 1-3 in its last four games.

When Minnesota runs the ball:

The Gophers have 14 rushing touchdowns on the season, while they only have nine through the air. Minnesota also has more than 200 more yards on the ground than in the passing game this season.

Minnesota’s only touchdown against Michigan last week came on the ground, against a solid Wolverines’ defense.

Running back Shannon Brooks missed two of the last three games, and was injured in the third quarter against Iowa. Running back Rodney Smith is the only main back for the Gophers not to be injured this season, and he has 665 yards on the ground this season.

Matchup to watch: RB Rodney Smith vs. LB Chris Weber

Advantage: Minnesota

When Nebraska runs the ball:

Nebraska hasn’t had a rusher over 100 yards in a game since Oct. 7, when running back Devine Ozigbo had 112 yards. Since then, he hasn’t broke 72 yards in a game.

The Cornhuskers tend to spread out some of the rushing yards, with running backs Jaylin Bradley, Tre Bryant, and Mikale Wilbon beyond Ozigbo.

Minnesota’s rushing defense is coming off their worst showing of the season, allowing 371 yards in the game against Michigan. The 371 yards is over 100 rushing yards more than the Gophers had allowed in any other game this season.

Matchup to watch: RB Devine Ozigbo vs. LB Thomas Barber

Advantage: Minnesota

When Minnesota passes the ball:

The Gophers passing game has struggled since quarterback Demry Croft began starting games. In his three games since becoming the starter, Croft has passed for 260 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions.

Minnesota’s wide receivers have had trouble getting open, and only two receivers generated space against Michigan, Tyler Johnson and Phillip Howard.

The Gophers’ bread and butter is the run-game, but head coach P.J. Fleck has continued to say that Croft needs to fail to grow, and if that is true, he will begin to have more confidence passing the ball.

Matchup to watch: WR Phillip Howard vs. DB Aaron Williams

Advantage: Nebraska

When Nebraska passes the ball:

Nebraska’s quarterback, Tanner Lee, has been the No. 1 guy for the Cornhuskers, and has shown in his nine games why they favor the passing game.

Lee has started every game, and thrown 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. His completion percentage is above 56 percent, and he averages almost 263 yards per game.

Like the rushing game, Nebraska spreads out the receiving yards. Four players have 264 yards or more receiving on the season, with wide reveivers JD Spielman and Stanley Morgan Jr. leading the way with 593 and 690 yards respectively.

Minnesota’s secondary is still largely affected by injury, but allowed only 56 yards through the air against Michigan.

Matchup to watch: CB Kunle Ayinde vs. WR Stanley Morgan Jr.

Advantage: Nebraska

Prediction:

Minnesota 23, Nebraska 21

The Gophers’ defense will rebound from its performance against Michigan’s running backs. Minnesota’s offense has another week of experience, and the passing game should improve against a defense that doesn’t have the same pedigree as Michigan.

Daily prediction record: 8-1

What else you need to know:

Start time: 11:00 a.m. CST, Saturday Nov. 11

Location: TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minnesota

TV: Fox Sports 1

Radio: KFAN 100.3 FM

Point spread: Minnesota by 2.5