Nebraska Preview

What to watch on offense

Bo Pelini is in his 7th year at Nebraska and the natives are growing restless. Despite bringing a level of stability to the Huskers, Pelini has lost at least 4 games in each of his 6 seasons at the helm. Off Coor. Tim Beck enters his 3rd year after serving as the RB coach at Nebraska the period 3 years. Thanks to the presence of Taylor Martinez, Nebraska has mainly employed pistol based spread attacBPelini - ES k offensively. Injuries to Martinez have allowed the Huskers to experiment with pro-style schemes and plays that were previously unavailable.

Taylor Martinez has been the face of the Nebraska offense for going on 4 seasons. By virtue of sheer number of starts Martinez was already Nebraska’s career leader in passing yards heading into the season. Martinez has experienced an injury plagued season, missing 4 of the team’s 9 games so far. Redshirt freshmen Tommy Armstrong has done an admirable job filling in, going 4-0 as a starter but does have more interceptions than TDs.

Ameer Abdullah rushed for 1,100 yards a year ago and returns to lead a rushing attacked that is ranked in the top 15 in the country. The Huskers lost longtime stud Rex Burkhead but haven’t lost a beat with Abdullah and the powerful Imani Cross. At 6’1 225 cross brings an added power dimension to an offense that is built on moving the pile and between the tackle runs.

The Huskers return their top two receivers in Kenny Bell and Quincy Enuwa, both of whom are now upperclassmen. Bell led the team in receptions, yards, and TDs a year ago though Enunwa has emerged as the go to WR so far this season. Redshirt freshmen Jordan Westerkamp is average 13yds per reception this season, though he only has 14 catches on the year.

Nebraska has made its reputation based on the play of its offensive line and takes great pride in the unit. The Huskers lose LG Seung Hoon Choi and center Justin Jackson but return as many as 8 players with game experience. Tackle Jeremiah Sirles was 2nd time All-Big 10 a year ago and returns to lead a unit that is while plagued with injuries, has been very effective so far this season.

Best Offensive Player

Ameer Abdullah- Abdullah is the player that makes the Husker offense go. While not the biggest player at 5’9 190, Abdullah is adept at finding holes and has surprising inside running power to go along with his outside and break away speed. Abdullah has already gone over the 1,000yd mark and is on pace to finish with well over 1,500yds.

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Mark Dantonio Press Conference Notes

Notes from Mark Dantonio Tuesday Press Conference (10/29)

Opening statement: “In this state you either grow up green or you grow up blue … Its a game we point timageo every year. Great rivalry game … They have a great football team, this game, the stakes get higher, has a meaning with bowl implications. Will be a great football game. A hard hitting game with a lot of emotion.”

On the toughness: “I’m going to worry about our football team. That game in 2011 was a tough game with a lot of emotion. Things spun out of control a little bit. We are going to play tough and within the rules and the refs have to control the game.”

On Devin Gardner: “I think that our feelings are that Devin Gardner can make a lot of plays in space and run though a  lot of tackles.  They do a lot of things that didn’t do with Denard. They run more of a power game now than prior to. A key component game will be controlling his running game and throwing to Gallon and Funchess.”

On Gardner vs. Robinson: “They are both excellent players, can’t refute what Denard Robinson was able to do in his career.”

Respect for Brady Hoke: “Just because you like someone in the family, doesn’t mean you like the entire family. I have great respect for Brady and his coaching abilities.”

On having Michigan in-state: “We’ve got great programs throughout he Midwest. We compete with Michigan every single day whether recruiting or for funding. I’ve never really thought about it like that. It is what it is. Based on my count, we’re up.”

On match-up problems Funchess creates: “A big body receiver down the field. A mismatch Tight end that can be moved around and they do. Has great hands with power. I think he’s a big part of their offense. Big time plays.”

On the four wins in a row making it a rivalry: “For it truly to a be rivalry. It can’t be one sided. When its more competitive, things take on a new meaning. Need to back up words.”

On Michigan paying for skywriting: “I did see that they had paid for it. What can you say. Why get me started. You guys know the drill.”

Anything positive from losing last year: “When you look at 2012, in all of the football games we played, they were so close. We just ran out of time. We took one on the chin vs. them and credit U of M for that. I was very proud of our team, but we came up short. I thought it was a great, tough, hard-nosed football game.”

Gold symbols on jerseys in practice: “An opportunity to look at different jerseys for next year. That was for Nike.”

On Connor Cook: “I think he is resilient. I have a lot of confidence in him. How high can he go. It will be exciting for him and he’ll have a lot of anxiety. After the first snap, you have to get down to playing the game.”

Does Michigan have an identity: “Winning. They find a way to win. Their defense flies around. They give up 90 yards a game running. A well coached team. They want to run power football. That’s toughness, they will go at you, they are right on. Football is a physical game. If you have two opponents putting on their best performances, physicality is involved.”

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Big Ten Players of the Week

Following Big Ten football games on Oct. 19, the offensive, defensive and special teams players of the week and freshman of the week in the Big Ten were announced this morning. Below are this week’s honorees:

Offensive Player of the Week

Jeremy Gallon, Michigan

Sr., WR, Apopka, Fla./Apopka

· Established a Big Ten record with 369 receiving yards, the second-most in Football Bowl Subdivision history, in Michigan’s victory over Indiana

· Broke the Big Ten’s previous mark of 301 yards set by Purdue’s Chris Daniels in 1999

· Caught a career-high 14 passes for an average of 26.4 yards per catch, scoring two touchdowns as the Wolverines posted a school-record 751 yards of total offense

· Scored on touchdown catches of 21 and 50 yards, two of his six plays that went for more than 20 yards on the day

· Records his second career weekly honor and second this season

· Last Michigan Offensive Player of the Week: Jeremy Gallon (Sept. 9, 2013)

Defensive Player of the Week

Max Bullough, Michigan State

Sr., LB, Traverse City, Mich./St. Francis

· Recorded 10 tackles, including two for loss and a sack, and forced a fumble in Michigan State’s shutout against Purdue, the Spartans’ first shutout of a conference foe since 1999

· Had a hand in the Spartans’ first score of the game, recording a sack and a forced fumble in the second quarter, resulting in a 45-yard Denicos Allen touchdown return

· Posted double-digit tackles for the seventh time in his career as the Spartan defense allowed just 226 total yards

· Claims his first career Defensive Player of the Week honor

· Last Michigan State Defensive Player of the Week: Darqueze Dennard (Oct. 6, 2013)

Special Teams Player of the Week

Mitch Ewald, Indiana

Sr., K, Naperville, Ill./Waubonsie Valley

· Chipped in 11 points as Indiana scored 40 or more points for the fourth time this season, finishing with 47 on the road against Michigan

· Closed out the first half with a 50-yard field goal, becoming the first Hoosier to convert a 50-yarder since 2002

· Also converted from 23 yards out and was successful on all five extra point attempts

· Claims his second career Special Teams Player of the Week honor and first since his freshman season

· Last Indiana Special Teams Player of the Week: Mitch Ewald (Nov. 29, 2010)

Freshman of the Week

Desmond King, Iowa

DB, Detroit, Mich./East English Village

· Totaled a career-best 12 tackles, including 10 solo stops, in the Hawkeyes road contest against Ohio State

· Was part of an Iowa defense that held the Buckeyes to more than 12 points below their season average

· Ranks second among all Big Ten freshmen in tackles, averaging nearly six stops per contest

· Wins his first career weekly award

· Last Iowa Freshman of the Week: N/A

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Penn State Game Prediction

While nobody in Fort Schembechler will ever apologize for a 5-0 start, few outside it will concede that their record has been indicative of their play.

Look no further than Vegas opening the line in Saturday’s game with Michigan as a one point favorite in Happy Valley against a Penn State team with even more youth than Michigan, and depth issues due to their NCAA restrictions.

Michigan did themselves no favors with poor efforts in games against Akron and UConn, and while last week’s game against Minnesota was an improvement, there are still several issues to work on.

In the 2+ year stint of Brady Hoke, Michigan is a .500 team, going 6-6 in the 12 games away from Michigan stadium.

Penn State licks it’s wounds after its routing at the hands of a potent Indiana Offense which put up 44 on them last week.

All these things factor into many thinking this game will be much closer than it probably should be.

There are other factors that lead me to believe it won’t be that close, however. First, the changing up along the offensive line proved to be effective, in spite of still having great room for improvement. Chris Bryant looked good at times, lost at others, but undoubtedly is talented, and big, and has a nasty streak.

Secondly, moving Funchess to WR was a great move. With Jake Butt needing reps and AJ Williams having the injury bug, they had no choice but to keep him at TE.  But with Funchess out wide, putting bracket coverage on Gallon, and putting 8 in the box like teams have shown won’t work, without giving a 6’5, 235 pound super athlete in single coverage. It should prove to not only open things up for Gallon and the run game, but also should give Devin Gardner more time in the backfield.

On defense, Jake Ryan has been cleared to play, and expect him to take some snaps this week and next, utilize the bye week before MSU to get into total game shape, and be ready for the Spartans.

One comes back, and one leaves, with Soph NT Ondre Pipkins being out for the year with an ACL injury sustained in the Minnesota game. A loss of course, but I expect Quintin Washington to take more of the starter snaps, and Willie Henry to continue to get snaps.

Having experienced Happy Valley first hand for the 2006 UM game, it can be electric. But they also are very similar to Michigan Stadium. When things aren’t going as planned, a pin drop can be heard in spite of 100,000+ people being there.  Take care of the ball, keep the playbook simple, and pound the rock. On defense, we won’t like watching the bend but don’t break, but making a freshman quarterback beat you is just what makes Greg Mattison happy. Expecting him to nickel and dime you without making any mistakes is unlikely and I like Michigan’s chances to keep PSU in check for the most part.

Michigan, 34, PSU 23

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