Daily Breakdown: Gophers vs. Nebraska

Minnesota looks for revenge after getting beat handily by Nebraska last year.

by John Miller

Off to a 5-0 start for the first time in 15 years, the Gophers look to reverse the fortune of last year’s game against Nebraska when they lost 53-28 in Lincoln.

The Gophers face a Cornhusker team that is 4-2 and coming off a low-scoring 13-10 win over Northwestern.

After a hot start, the Gophers haven’t seen recognition from the AP Poll, sitting right outside the top-25. However, the Gophers are ranked 25th in the AP Coaches Poll. A win over Nebraska and a 6-0 start should help the Gophers continue to move up the ranks. 

When Minnesota runs the ball:

Minnesota is coming off a game where they had an amazing amount of success rushing the ball. Against Illinois last week, the Gophers averaged 6.4 yards per carry on 52 rushes for 332 yards.

With Shannon Brooks back in the fold after missing most of last season with an injury, he shook off the rust in his second game back this season. He had 16 carries for 111 yards and a touchdown. Starting running back Rodney Smith regained the form we have seen throughout his six years as a Gopher. He finished with 24 carries for 211 yards, averaging 8.8 yards per rush. 

Despite the display on the ground last week, the Gophers are still averaging under 4 yards per carry on the ground. 

They will get an extra boost as last year’s star running back Mohamed Ibrahim is expected to return this week from injury for the Gophers.

Nebraska’s run defense currently ranks 82nd in the country. On the year, they are allowing 4.05 yards per carry and 165.3 yards rushing per game.

Matchup to watch: linebacker Mohamed Barry vs. running back Rodney Smith

Advantage: Gophers

When Nebraska runs the ball:

The Cornhuskers have had a lot of success when running the ball. Currently, Nebraska’s rushing game ranks No. 42 in the country. They are averaging 4.43 yards per carry and 196.3 yards per game.

Nebraska’s running attack starts with dual-threat quarterback Adrian Martinez. Martinez is the No. 8 ranked rusher in the Big Ten. Behind him is junior running back Dedrick Mills, who is averaging 4.8 yards per carry on the year and has six rushing touchdowns, as well as sophomore Maurice Washington who is averaging 6.3 yards per carry on the ground.

Minnesota is tied for the No. 33 ranked rushing defense. Despite that, opponents’ starting running backs have had success on the Gophers, averaging over four yards per carry.

Matchup to watch: linebacker Kamal Martin vs. running back Dedrick Mills.

Advantage: Nebraska

When Minnesota passes the ball:

Minnesota has had lots of success through the air. However, Minnesota’s offense is coming off of a game against Illinois where they struggled. Gopher receivers accounted for six drops last week.

Tanner Morgan has had a blistering start to the season. On the year his completion percentage is 70.3%, 17th best in the country. He is ranked fourth in the NCAA for passing efficiency with a rating of 198.10, only behind Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, LSU’s Joe Burrow and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa. 

Morgan has a bevy of weapons on the outside with Tyler Johnson, Rashod Bateman and Chris Autman-Bell. Bateman is amidst a breakout campaign. He is currently in the top 10 for receiving yards per game. 

Nebraska’s defense is susceptible in the passing game. They are the 60th ranked pass defense in the country, allowing 218 yards per game. 

Matchup to watch: Wide receiver Rashod Bateman vs. cornerback Lamar Jackson. 

Advantage: Minnesota

When Nebraska passes the ball:

Nebraska not only has the 60th ranked pass defense, their pass offense ranks 84th in the country as well.

Don’t be fooled however, the low ranking is due to quarterback Adrian Martinez being able to get yards with his legs. Nebraska is averaging 219.3 yards per game through the air.

An Eden Prairie native, junior wide receiver J.D. Spielman is a rising star for the Cornhuskers. He is tied for the 36th ranked wide receiver in receiving yards.

Minnesota’s pass defense ranks 41st in the country, allowing 200.8 yards per game. Last week Minnesota defense shut down Illinois. Illini Backup quarterback Matt Robinson only threw for 125 yards

Matchup to watch: J.D. Spielman vs. cornerback Coney Durr.

Advantage: Nebraska

Prediction: Gophers win 45-31

Everything else you need to know: 

Starting time: 6:30 p.m. CST, Saturday, Oct. 12

TV Network: FS1

Radio: KFAN 100.3 FM

Line: Minnesota by 7.5