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October 24, 2011

Husker Buzz: A must win

Not much even really has to be said about the significance of Saturday's Michigan State vs. Nebraska game in Lincoln this week.

Plain in simple if the Huskers win they will continue to be in the hunt for Legends Division title over the final four weeks of the season. If they lose, all those Nebraska fans that bought up luxury suites and tickets for the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis will be dumping their tickets and NU will be playing for a trip to the Outback Bowl over the final four weeks of the season.

MSU's win over Wisconsin this past Saturday night was huge for several different reasons, mainly because if the Spartans win in Lincoln that means they went undefeated in a four game stretch that included trips to Columbus and Lincoln and home victories over Wisconsin and Michigan. The only possible road block game for Michigan State after Nebraska appears to be Iowa.

"The first step to getting to Indianapolis would be beating Michigan State this week, because it's do or die," redshirt freshman wide receiver Kenny Bell said on Monday. "Michigan State's a tremendous football team. I've got nothing but respect for them.

"If we don't get this one on Saturday, Michigan State's not going to lose the rest of the games on their schedule. We've got to get this one to win the Legends Division, absolutely."

You could even sense by the tone of head coach Bo Pelini on Monday that he knows what's at stake this week. Pelini was very dialed in for his weekly press conference and most of his answers were short and to the point.

Typically Pelini talks for around 20 to 25 minutes on Monday's, but this week he spoke for just over 14 minutes before things wrapped up.

"Our guys understand what is at stake," Pelini said. "Every game is a must win, that's how we look at it. If you win all of your games, you control your own destiny. If you don't, then you lose control. It's pretty obvious. Our guys understand what is at stake."

However, even if the Huskers can pull out a win over the Spartans it still will be a tough road to get to Indianapolis with Sparty's win over Wisconsin.

A win will give them the tie breaker over Michigan State, but NU still would most likely have to win out to make it to Indy.

"We've got to win out," Senior wide receiver Brandon Kinnie said. "That's the attitude ever since Wisconsin. Knowing that we could go to the Big Ten Championship and see Wisconsin again after we lost to them helps us out as well."

Martinez will continue to wear gloves

Sophomore quarterback Taylor Martinez wore gloves in Saturday's win over Minnesota and he said on Monday he'll continue to wear them over the final five weeks of the regular season.

"I think I did pretty well with the gloves," Martinez said. "Hopefully, every game from here on out, I should be wearing gloves. It just depends on the weather situation."

In a lot of ways it makes sense, because if Martinez continues to run zone read and option his hands are going to take a beating in colder weather.

The one good sign on Saturday was you didn't see any fumbles or ball handling mistakes with the gloves on.

Getting back to the old school

It pays to run the football…at least that's what the stats say.

Nebraska currently is averaging 261 rushing yards per game, which is the highest number the Huskers have averaged on the ground since 2002.

Meanwhile the Nebraska offense is currently averaging 37.6 points per game, which is the most NU has averaged since the 90's.

You have to give it to offensive coordinator Tim Beck. His system is not only putting up yards, but it's putting up points and we haven't come close to seeing the Huskers at their best yet. The scary thing you have to ask is how much better can they realistically get?

In a fairly limited game plan NU ranked up 515 yards on 79 plays this past Saturday against Minnesota, after putting up 187 yards on 26 plays against Ohio State in the fourth quarter. That's over 700 yards of offense in five quarters.

For the stat geek

***Michigan State currently ranks last in the Big Ten in rushing at 138 yards per game, despite the fact the Spartans returned the league's leading rusher in Edwin Baker. Meanwhile Nebraska currently leads the Big Ten in rushing at 261 yards per game.

***MSU not only leads the Big Ten in passing defense and rushing defense, teams have also completed a league low 49.5 percent of their passes against them. Their numbers on defense almost remind you of Nebraska in 2009 and 2010 with how dominant they look on paper right now.

***Another impressive stat about Michigan State and their ball control offense is they lead the Big Ten in time of possession at 33:11 per game, despite the ground game struggles they have had at times this season.

***Junior running back Rex Burkhead is right in the thick of things for the Big Ten's rushing title. Burkead is averaging 107.4 yards per game, while Wisconsin's Montee Ball leads the way at 109.7 yards per game.

Around the state

***Kansas offered Cambridge offensive lineman Mike Shoff this past week, while Blair linebacker Jake Schany committed to Ohio. I'm told that the Bobcats are also close to offering Omaha Skutt tight end Matt Miller.

***Grand Island quarterback Ryker Fyfe completed 24-of-34 passes for 264 yards and four touchdowns in a 28-27 loss to Lincoln Southeast on Friday night. Fyfe finished the regulars season with 1,665 passing yards and 19 touchdowns.

***Lincoln Southwest linebacker Josh Banderas had a 57 yard touchdown run in the Silver Hawks 45-7 win over Norfolk on Friday.

***Lincoln North Star running back Michael Minter finished his season with 131 carries for 1,176 yards and 15 touchdowns in nine games.


Sean Callahan can be reached at sean@huskeronline.com and he can be heard each day at 6:50 am and 4:50 pm on Big Red Radio 1110 KFAB in Omaha during the football season. He can also be seen on KETV Channel 7 TV in Omaha during the fall and each week he appears on NET's Big Red Wrap Tuesday's at 7 pm.


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