Two two-win teams are striving for their third in a year of a pandemic pausing play and contributing to rocky performances. Without knowing next week's to-be-determined conference opponent, this could be the best chance to deal with the devil each knows.
THREE BIG STORY LINES
Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said earlier this week his team would miss more than 20 players from just COVID-19 positive tests alone. That combined with injuries could make for a very depth-tested lineup.
Star receiver Rashod Bateman opted out shortly after the Gophers paused team activities with an outbreak that would mount to 49 cases throughout the past two weeks. Without him, quarterback Tanner Morgan and No. 2 receiver Chris Autman-Bell will have to prove their connection, with young receivers such as Daniel Jackson and Mike Brown-Stephens also contributing.
Martinez a maybe
Nebraska has cycled through two quarterbacks, with starter Adrian Martinez losing his spot early on, and Luke McCaffrey taking his place. Martinez seems to have reclaimed his throne, though it's not out of the realm of possibility to see both taking snaps against the Gophers.
TWO KEY MATCHUPS
Wan'Dale Robinson vs. the Gophers defense
Robinson is a dynamic threat as a receiver and rusher. He has 341 receiving yards on 39 catches plus 167 rushing yards on 31 carries through six games. He had his best receiving game so far this past weekend against Purdue, totaling 114 yards on nine catches. And with Martinez possibly back in form, the porous Gophers defense could be in for a challenge.
Mohamed Ibrahim and Chris Autman-Bell vs. JoJo Domann
Nebraska's outside linebacker, Domann leads his team with 49 tackles, including 5-1/2 for a loss, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery while also breaking up three passes. He can disrupt the Gophers on the ground and in the air. Either leading Big Ten rusher Ibrahim or heir-apparent receiver Autman-Bell will need to overpower Domann to keep the Gophers offense running.
ONE STAT THAT MATTERS
106 Where the Gophers rank in total defense of 127 FBS teams this year. They allow more than 456 yards per game, including nearly eight yards per play.
THE Gophers WILL WIN IF …
they come out of a two-week shutdown reinvigorated. The team has struggled with its pacing so far this season, either starting slow and being unable to catch up or dwindling in the latter half. If being away from the game has the team raring to go instead of lulled to sleep, the Gophers could end the season on a better note.
The CORNHUSKERS WILL WIN IF …
they take some notes from Maryland. That game against the Gophers, when the Terrapins won 45-44 in overtime, proved what a dual-threat quarterback like Taulia Tagovailoa can do to this precarious Gophers defense. He scrambled and broke out for explosive plays multiple times, strengths for both Martinez and McCaffrey.
Prediction: Nebraska 35, Gophers 28.