Credit: Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE

Why Nebraska Will Win the Legends Division

Two weeks ago the pulse of Husker Nation was coming to a halt. Ohio State had just rang up 63 points on Bo Pelini’s defense and people were starting to question if Pelini was the right guy for the job. Ohio State and Braxton Miller were the start of a 3 game period where Nebraska would face a mobile quarterback. Most people felt that the 63-38 loss in Columbus was a sign of past behaviors, and future mistakes.

Nebraska showed up to play Northwestern and it looked like the same story on a different day. Fast guys getting to the edge, and beating Nebraska defenders around the corner. Then something happened. Senior defensive end Cameron Meredith moved from defensive end to defensive tackle, and the Blackshirts started meeting Wildcats at the point of attack, and a 10 of 11 passing in the fourth quarter from redshirt junior Taylor Martinez pushed the Huskers past the Wildcats 29-28.

Saturday night rolled around, and that featured the Michigan Wolverines and senior quarterback, Denard Robinson. “Shoelace” rushed 23 times for 83 yards against the Huskers last season, while running back Fitz Toussaint rushed 29 times for 138 yards on the Huskers in Ann Arbor last season. Saturday night, Nebraska’s defense may have finally earned black practice jerseys.

Denard Robinson and Fitz Toussiant combined for 25 carries for 84 yards. The Huskers injured Robinson early in the 3rd quarter, preventing him from coming back in the game, but he was virtually a none factor in the first half anyway. Not playing in the 2nd half Robinson still led the Wolverines in rushing with, 46 yards.

Taylor Martinez and his receivers stole the show on Saturday night.  Martinez hooked up with 9 different targets against Michigan, none of which were more impressive than Kenny Bell. The redshirt sophomore grabbed two catches for 51 yards, and the only receiving touchdown of the game.

Sophomore Ameer Abdullah is ready to be the man in this offense next season. With senior Rex Burkhead out with a knee injury, and questionable to return this season, Abdullah put up 101 yards on 24 carries, and 1 rushing score in the biggest game of the season to date.

The 23-9 victory has given Nebraska control of their own destiny. Nebraska and Michigan are now the only two teams in the Legends Divisions  with just one loss in the Big 10. Nebraska finishes the 2012 season at Michigan State, Penn State, Minnesota, and at Iowa.

A trip to East Lansing is always tough. Nebraska will take on Michigan State at 2:30 on Saturday. Bo Pelini’s team is just 1-2 on the road this season, but the Nebraska defense is coming off the two best performance of the year. The Spartans sputtering offense doesn’t hurt to build the Blackshirts confidence either. Junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell has only completed 55% of his passes this season, and has thrown 9 touchdowns to 5 interceptions. Where Nebraska is going to have to be successful is in the pass rush. Maxwell has been sacked 14 times this season. For Nebraska to win the turnover battle they are going to have to get to Maxwell early and often on Saturday.

The following week Nebraska will host a Penn State team that has resurrected their season, and they have done so behind senior quarterback Matt McGloin. The Pensilvania native is completing 62% of his passes, and has thrown 16 touchdowns to just 2 interceptions. They are the strongest team left on Nebraska’s schedule, and is the biggest threat to Nebraska chances at getting to the Big 10 Championship game.

After Penn State Nebraska will host a struggling Minnesota team who is rying to rebuild their program. The Gophers are 5-3, but all 3 losses have come to Big 10 schools. They are not a threat to Nebraska’s run for a Division Championship, but could cause a speed bump in the way if senior the Gophers could put up another performance like they did against Purdue Saturday. Minnesota routed the Boilermakers 44-28.

Last on the schedule is the Iowa Hawkeyes and the 2nd ever Heroes Game. If Nebraska continues to play the way they have in the 2nd half against Northwestern and against Michigan, Nebraska should be on a 3-0 streak going into Iowa City. The Hawkeyes offense has been anything but impressive this season. Senior quarterback James Vandenberg has completed just 56.9% of his passes this season. His average pass is for 5.4 yards a completion, and he has been sacked 14 times. The most staggering stat is that Vandenberg has thrown only 3 touchdowns to 5 interceptions this season. Iowa is really banged up at running back. Sophomore fullback Mark Weisman has been filling in at I-back this season, and has had a lot of success, he left Iowa’s game against Northwestern in the 2nd quarter on Saturday with an undisclosed injury.

If Nebraska runs the table, they will make it to Indianapolis and take on Wisconsin. The Badgers have a 2 game lead in the Leaders Divisions on Indiana. With Ohio State and Penn State out of the equation due to NCAA sanctions, the Leaders Division is the Badgers to take. If Nebraska can keep at the pace they are at all signs lead to Nebraska playing in the Rose Bowl.

By Jimmie Allen

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Tags: Big 10 Leaders Divisions Legends Divisions Michigan Wolverines Nebraska Cornhuskers Rose Bowl

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