- Josh Moyer, ESPN Staff Writer
Every week, NittanyNation takes a look at five storylines that stand out: What should fans keep an eye on? What's the bigger picture? What might be on display Saturday?
Here are NittanyNation's Week 11 storylines:
1. Matt McGloin vs. Taylor Martinez. They're the best pocket-passers in the Big Ten. Martinez boasts 18 touchdown passes, and so does McGloin. McGloin is completing 62.1 percent of his passes, Martinez is at 62.9 percent. McGloin combines for 271 passing and rushing yards a game, Martinez for 290. These quarterbacks will have a big say in whether their teams win, and all eyes will be on how these two play. If McGloin -- who has fewer interceptions -- can outplay Martinez, he might just play himself onto the All-Big Ten team. But that won't be an easy task; Nebraska has the No. 5 pass defense in the nation.
2. Injuries to key contributors. Neither team is immune here. Nebraska tailback Rex Burkhead has missed time in seven games this season, and his status remains uncertain this week. He helped balance the Huskers' attack last season with 121 yards against Penn State but could ride the bench this time around in favor of sophomore Ameer Abdullah, who's 25 pounds lighter. PSU defensive tackle Jordan Hill looks very doubtful and did not practice in contact drills Wednesday; tight end Kyle Carter's status is "day-to-day" although he was able to take part in practice.
3. Will Bill Belton return? Belton did not earn one carry last week, and Bill O'Brien hinted that was due to a lackluster week of practice. O'Brien yelled at Belton earlier this season for practicing a little slow, and it's unknown what kind of impact the speedy tailback will have from here on out. O'Brien said in the preseason he saw Belton carrying the ball 20-25 times a game, but it looks more and more as if Zach Zwinak is filling that role. If Belton can't earn a share of the workload here, it could say a lot about the future of PSU's running game. Both Belton and Zwinak have sophomore eligibility.
4. Playing for a spot in the Big Ten title game vs. playing for ... a win. There's a lot on the line here for Nebraska. It's tied with Michigan for the lead in the Legends Division, so a win is crucial in keeping its conference title hopes alive. Penn State, on the other hand, has no postseason to aim for. Nebraska is obviously motivated here, and there's some question of how PSU can respond. PSU's players insisted this game was no less important to them -- but that should be easier to decipher Saturday. "It's one of our bowl games this season," McGloin said.
5. Special teams. Both field-goal kickers are having a bit of a down year. Sam Ficken remains one of the least-accurate kickers in college football, converting attempts at the rate of a coin flip, while Nebraska's Brett Maher -- a preseason All-American (second team) -- has gone just 12 of 18. Still, both kickers seem to be improving. Maher is 7 of his last 8, while Ficken is 4 of his last 5. PSU has also struggled with other units of its special teams, however, and Nebraska boasts one of the Big Ten's top returners in Abdullah. This game obviously has the potential to be close, and it would surprise no one if it came down to special teams.
13dMitch Sherman and Brian Bennett