Gophers vs. Nebraska, 11 a.m. Saturday, Huntington Bank Stadium, ESPN2, 100.3-FM. Line: Nebraska by 4
Back from their bye week, the Gophers will try to stretch their winning streak against Nebraska to three games, which would be the longest for Minnesota in the series since 1951-54. The Gophers need a victory to stay one game behind Iowa in the Big Ten West race and to bolster their bowl hopes.
Three big story lines
Backfield depth will be tested
Mohamed Ibrahim and Trey Potts are out for the season, so the Gophers rushing attack now features a committee of four, likely led by true freshman Mar'Keise "Bucky'' Irving. Minnesota runs the ball 71.7% of the time, so the new quartet must get up to speed quickly.
About that passing game
Quite simply, the Gophers need much more from their passing offense, which has averaged only seven completions and 140.5 yards over the past two games. Tanner Morgan hit on three big passes at Purdue, and he'll need more explosive plays to keep Nebraska's defense honest.
Nebraska's near misses
Over the past four weeks, the Cornhuskers have lost to Oklahoma by seven points, and to both Michigan State and Michigan by three. Those undefeated teams reside in the Associated Press top 10. With some luck, Nebraska could be 6-1 instead of 3-4.
Two key matchups
Nebraska QB Adrian Martinez vs. Gophers pass rush
Containing the shifty Martinez will be a big challenge for Minnesota's defense, which will need its line to keep the QB bottled up and limit his chances to improvise with the run. Martinez averages 64.3 rushing yards per game and has 10 rushing TDs.
Gophers receiver Chris Autman-Bell vs. Nebraska secondary
Led by safety Deontai Williams' three interceptions and cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt's six pass breakups, the Huskers are stout on the back end. Autman-Bell used the bye week to rehab his nagging ankle injury, and his return to form would be key for the Gophers.
One stat that matters
Plays of 30 yards or longer for Nebraska, tied for third nationally. The Huskers also have seven plays of 60-plus yards.
The Gophers will win if …
The running game doesn't miss a beat without Trey Potts and controls the game's tempo, the passing game surpasses 200 yards for the first time since the opener, the defense limits Nebraska's chunk plays, and punter Mark Crawford continues to pin opponents inside their 20-yard line.
The Huskers will in if …
Martinez breaks free for a couple of long runs and doesn't cough up the football, running back Rahmir Johnson provides an effective complement to Martinez, and the Blackshirts defense wins the battle up front against a veteran Gophers offensive line.
Nebraska 24, Gophers 20