Nebraska journeys out from the friendly confines of Memorial Stadium for the first time this season on Saturday to play at Purdue. Here’s what we’ll be watching:
On the road again: It’s not Camp Randall or the Horseshoe -- the sites of Nebraska’s first two Big Ten road openers -- but don’t underestimate the unknown factor as the Huskers visit West Lafayette for the first time since 1958. This game marks the deepest into a season Nebraska has gone before leaving home since 2005. Purdue, despite its 1-4 record, pushed Notre Dame into the fourth quarter last month.
Another start for Armstrong: Redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong Jr. gets the call for the third straight game in place of injured four-year starter Taylor Martinez. Armstrong fared well against South Dakota State and Illinois. And while the Boilermakers are no defensive juggernaut, their secondary figures to give the rookie a better look than the Huskers’ past two foes. It'll be interesting to see how much Nebraska uses senior backup Ron Kellogg III this week.
Musical chairs at linebacker: It’s been a different plan nearly every week for Nebraska in the heart of its defensive structure. The Huskers have used numerous combinations, last week pairing redshirt freshmen Michael Rose and Jared Afalava as first-time starters. Sophomore David Santos has apparently re-emerged after early-season trouble. Junior Zaire Anderson might offer a big boost in his return from injury after showing well last month in limited time.
Run the ball: Expect no surprises from the Huskers with the offensive game plan -- not with a freshman QB starting on the road for the first time against a defense that allows 4.82 yards per rush, 98th nationally. The Huskers’ ground game will get lots of work a week after junior I-back Ameer Abdullah rushed for a career-best 225 yards behind an offensive line that has started to hit its stride. The Huskers average 291.6 yards rushing per game. Anything less than 300 on Saturday would rate as a disappointment.
Defensive pressure: Nebraska dialed up the pass rush last week against Illinois’ Nathan Scheelhaase. Expect more of the same against Purdue’s true freshman starter, Danny Etling, who presents little threat as a runner. Defensive end Jason Ankrah played one of the best games of his career against the Illini. Fellow bookend Randy Gregory continues to emerge as a star, and Nebraska has received bonus pressures from linebackers and cornerback Ciante Evans on blitzes.