Best guess at a record when the Gophers face Nebraska:
The Iowa game is the wrench in this, but let’s go with 4-3. Yes, that means the Gophers will be reeling from three straight Big Ten losses when Nebraska comes to Minneapolis to face off. The Gophers have one of the toughest schedules in the Big Ten in 2013 though, so wins will be few and far between in conference play.
The one player you simply must know:
It would be surprising if many hadn’t heard of this player already, but, if not, learn this name and remember it: Ra’Shede Hageman. The 6’6”, 312-pound senior defensive tackle is a freak. In fact, Bruce Feldman named him to his annual “Freaks List” for 2013 at #2, right behind South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney.
The numbers behind Hageman are downright impressive. He touts a 36-inch vertical, benches an impressive 465 pounds and has previously clocked an electronically timed 10-yard sprint in just 1.57 seconds. In 2012, Hageman had 35 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, one interception and two pass break-ups. Rumored to be more motivated than ever, Hageman will be a threat to any team he faces.
How’s the match-up for Nebraska?:
Nebraska could have easily shut out Minnesota in Lincoln in 2012 had it not been for the two touchdowns the Gophers snagged in the fourth quarter. Regardless, the Huskers hung an impressive 38-points on the Gophers, winning the matchup in a decisive manner. The upcoming 2013 match-up should be similar.
A major advantage for Nebraska is that Minnesota has lost their leading returner, Troy Stoudermire. Arguably one of the most prolific kickoff returners in FBS history, replacing Stoudermire will be a large challenge for Jerry Kill. Special teams will take a hit, an area the Huskers can focus on taking advantage of.
Huskers will also need to keep an eye on the Gophers’ offensive line and running back Donnell Kirkwood (925 yards rushing in 2012). Kirkwood will test Nebraska’s defense, while the Gopher’s offensive line, as long as they can stay healthy, will put pressure on the Husker defense. These will be two key areas Bo Pelini will need to get his crew focused on in preparation.
Beyond that, the matchup heavily favors the Huskers.
In 2012, Minnesota lost to Nebraska, Wisconsin and Michigan by a combined score of 111-40. Ouch. However, Kill’s team made it to a bowl game and that was genuinely all that mattered. In 2013, getting to a bowl game again is going to be much more difficult.
The Gophers will have just faced Northwestern the week before the Huskers. Home field advantage could give them a little boost, but ultimately this team will be somewhere between a rock and a hard place. Nebraska will be just the start of a long road to the end, with Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan State all looming. The Huskers won’t shutout the Gophers, but they’ll decisively take the win home to Lincoln.
Nebraska 34 Minnesota 10.