- Mitch Sherman, ESPN Staff Writer
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The time is over for Nebraska to revel in last week’s Hail Mary win. As the Huskers visit Michigan on Saturday, here’s what we’ll be watching:
Road woes: We all remember what happened the last time the Huskers left home. They lost to Minnesota for the first time since 1960. Nebraska’s last loss to Michigan came way back in 2011 in the Huskers’ most recent trip to the Big House. The Wolverines won 45-17, part of their FBS-best 19-game home winning streak. The Huskers, over that same time, are 7-8 away from Lincoln.
The QB situation: Tommy Armstrong Jr. will start for the fifth time this year, but look for Ron Kellogg III to spell him early if the redshirt freshman plays like you’d expect a rookie to play in the Big House. Armstrong has thrown three interceptions in each of his past two starts. Kellogg, of course, delivered the big throws in the Huskers’ potentially season-changing, comeback win over Northwestern. Nebraska likely must rely on others around Armstrong -- notably I-back Ameer Adbullah -- to carry a heavy load.
Still hurting: Injuries have hit the Huskers hard, especially on the offensive side. Receiver Jamal Turner will sit again, but Kenny Bell is back at the position. Tight end Jake Long is also set to return. Left guard Jake Cotton, who went down last week, remains out, forcing Andrew Rodriguez inside. The line is a patchwork group, with Mike Moudy in for Spencer Long, who’s out for the year. Center Cole Pensick has spent time at guard, too. Nebraska has surrendered eight sacks in two games, and pass protection is still a top concern.
Defensive momentum: Nebraska started poorly last week, a continuation of its showing from the Minnesota game. But the change to a simplified scheme midway through the first half provided good results against Northwestern. Nebraska stopped the injury-hampered Wildcats on 11 straight possessions, then produced a defensive stand in the final minutes to force a field goal and enable Kellogg’s game-winning march. Was it an anomaly or a sign of things to come? Answers arrive on Saturday.
The first of many?: If Nebraska escapes Ann Arbor, another big moment is set for next week as Michigan State visits Lincoln. That game won’t mean much to the Legends Division race if Michigan dispatches the Huskers. And if the Huskers manage to beat Michigan and Michigan State for a second straight year, the high-wire act continues at Penn State. We're getting way down the road, but you get the point. The margin for error is slim in November -- Saturday included.
2dBrian Bennett and Mitch Sherman