Indiana will continue its road trip from one end of the conference to the other as they come fresh off a win in College Park against a previously ranked Maryland team. Now, IU heads to Lincoln to play the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Nebraska was also ranked early in the season, and many predicted them to finish in first in the Big Ten West. Now, for the second time in two weeks, Indiana enters the game with a strong chance at winning and looks to punch its ticket to a bowl game and a 6-2 record.
How to Watch: Indiana Hoosiers versus Nebraska Cornhuskers
|Who||Week 9: Indiana Hoosiers versus Nebraska Cornhuskers|
|When||3:30 PM ET / Saturday, October 26, 2019|
|Where||Memorial Stadium – Lincoln, Neb.|
|Tickets||Find the Lowest Ticket Prices on SeatGeek|
|Watch||Big Ten Network|
|Listen||IU Radio Network|
|Spread||Indiana +2 / Over-Under 54.0|
Getting to know Nebraska Football
Ranked 9th in our Week 9 Power Rankings, Nebraska has oscillated between pulling off victories against inferior opponents, such as South Alabama, NIU, and Northwestern, and suffering resounding losses against teams such as Minnesota and Ohio State. They have never really found their footing this season, which started with very high hopes and a preseason top 25 ranking. Each game is basically a must-win for Nebraska through the rest of the season. They still have to play Big Ten heavyweights such as Wisconsin and Iowa, while facing tough road tests against Purdue and Maryland.
Get to Know the Cornhuskers
Key Offensive Players
Nebraska is another team on the list of many in the Big Ten that have been facing quarterback difficulties. Adrian Martinez, the starting QB, may not see action again this week after having a left knee injury back in week 6. He entered the season as one of the Heisman Trophy frontrunners and has not lived to expectations thus far, due to inconsistent play from himself and his receivers.
Current QB Noah Vedral, a sophomore, has played in Martinez’s absence and struggled to find his rhythm in limited play. In two games, against Northwestern and Minnesota, he has gone 19-33 with 0 TDs, 0 INTs, and a QBR of 56.2. Cornhusker Nation will hope that Martinez returns to the field against IU, and some signs have pointed to that being the case, as he was seen in pads during practice this week.
RB Dedrick Mills and Martinez have split the Cornhusker rushing attack with around 350 yards apiece on the season off approximately 160 rushing attempts. Additionally, RB Maurice Washington, who had nearly 300 yards on 50 attempts, is not listed on the team roster against Indiana, but this is not related to a pending felony court case he has in California. Coach Scott Frost stated that he has not lived up to the standards set forth by the team. By himself, Mills can be just as productive, but with Martinez back in the lineup, Indiana will need to defend the dual threat that creates more rushing opportunities.
Additionally, leading Nebraska WR Wan’Dale Robinson left the game against Minnesota with a lower left leg injury in the second quarter. It is not known whether he is expected to play this weekend. He has been involved in practice but not confirmed to be full contact.
Key Defensive Players
Nebraska has a history of having a strong defense, and this season started off appearing that way. Since, they have not lived up to Nebraska “Blackshirts” expectations. Despite this recent lack of production, they have the ability to turn the tide of a game and disrupt opposing offenses.
LB Mohamed Barry, the team’s leader in tackles with 60 over 7 games, captains the defense and was named last year’s defensive team MVP. He has started every game since the start of the 2018 season and was a 2018 Third Team All-Big Ten selection. His defensive prowess has led him to be named one of the 20 quarterfinalists for the Lott Trophy, which recognizes a player who made the biggest impact for his team both on and off the field.
Another defensive stalwart, CB Lamar Jackson has been an impact player for the Cornhuskers all season with his ability to disrupt plays. He has 11 PDs on the season thus far and use his insight to diagnose various plays. A senior, Jackson is a three-year starter, with two INTs this season and two last season.
CB Cam Taylor-Britt is not an easier target to go after either. He has just as many INTs as Jackson and 4 FFs on the season (the rest of the team combined has 5).
Week 9: What to watch for against the Cornhuskers
1. The return of Penix and/or Martinez?
Two of the Big Ten’s most electrifying and game-changing QBs could be on the sidelines this upcoming weekend. As noted earlier, Martinez was on various Heisman watch lists at the beginning of the year. He offers a dual threat approach to the game that the Hoosiers do not have and gives Nebraska a solid rushing attack that Mills likely cannot provide by himself.
Penix has been battling new injuries and was sidelined for the second time this season. He may be back on the field this weekend. Deemed a “game-time decision” by coach Tom Allen, Penix is viewed as the second- best QB in the Big Ten currently (behind Justin Fields).
The Hoosiers have a vastly better backup QB than the Cornhuskers. Peyton Ramsey and Penix have seen similar play time on the field due to Penix’s injuries, and Ramsey boasts a QBR of 154.8 to Penix’s 157.6. Either option give the Hoosiers a real chance at victory, while Nebraska may be more reliant on the return of Martinez.
2. Which Hoosier defense will we see?
Nebraska has numerous key players either confirmed or rumored to be out against Indiana, and these will likely have a large role in the eventual outcome of the game. Potential absences of Martinez, Robinson, and kicker Barret Pickering make it potentially easier for the Hoosiers, but will make preparation for the matchup more difficult.
Indiana struggled against Maryland last week in the first half, surrendering 21 points early in the game, and the Terps kept it close as a result of some big plays and mishaps by the Hoosier defense. Co-DC Kane Wommack recalibrated the defense the second half, only allowing 7 points and giving the Hoosiers a great victory.
Huskers OC (and former Colts WR) Troy Walters has admitted that the Hoosiers’ defensive line is one of the most stout and formidable the Cornhuskers have played this season, and they share the same aggressiveness as Tom Allen.
3. The elephant in the Hoosiers’ locker room
As many have been observant to note, the Hoosiers are one game away from a six-win season and a bowl berth. This has been a benchmark for the Hoosiers over this century, and Indiana has rarely reached this level. In fact, they have only reached a bowl game three times since 1993.
The pressure likely is building around the players and coaching staff to succeed and to not only get 6 wins, but 7, 8, 9…10 wins on the season. The chance that Indiana wins out is slim to none, but the chance of them not making a bowl game is even less. Miracles do happen, and with each win the Hoosiers will see more of a spotlight on their shoulders and pressure to build on this team. The first and most important hurdle is to reach that 6-win mark.
4. The last true “coin flip” for the Hoosiers
Indiana has a chance to win against Nebraska in the Hoosiers’ first meeting in Lincoln since the 70s. IU has not beaten the Huskers since 1959. Nebraska offers that last chance to turn some heads throughout the nation without having an upset or presumed uphill battle for Indiana. Due to this, the ‘Huskers will be looking to get their crowd and fans excited and into the game with their season still potentially salvageable.
The crowd will play a big role this game as playing at Nebraska is a much different animal than playing at Maryland. Nebraska will be playing in all-black uniforms and will come off a bye week. Despite all of these obstacles, the Hoosiers have a great chance at pulling off a statement win against the Huskers.
5. The Nebraska turnover game
As a unit, the Cornhusker defense started the season strong with a Big Ten-best 9 takeaways in three non-conference games. Five of those came against South Alabama in the season opener. The ‘Huskers are now in last in takeaways with just two in conference play.
Nebraska has acknowledged that this is not good enough for a team with high standards to succeed on both sides of the ball. Part of the reason is that Nebraska has not been able to put teams in tough third down situations; instead, opposing teams keep the ball on the ground and do not get forced into risky plays.
Nebraska CB Lamar Jackson is a great cover corner and bringing extra men to pressure the QB may not be the best use of the strengths of the Nebraska defense. As a result, new solutions to the pass rushing attack need to be found for them to pressure Penix or Ramsey.
Week 9: Indiana Hoosiers versus Nebraska Cornhusker Predictions
Indiana 38 – Nebraska 31. Even with Adrian Martinez back for the Huskers, Indiana’s offense is too much for a younger Nebraska defense to handle. The win does not come without drama through out four quarters. Look out for Whop to have another big game after being “quiet” in College Park.Rob Jiang
Indiana 31-28. Indiana pulls off the close game in Lincoln to reach the 6 game landmark on the season. The game is incredibly close throughout the entirety and Indiana pulls the victory in late game score to take the lead for good.Dakota Thompson
Indiana 33- Nebraska 28. Adrian Martinez tears apart the Indiana defense in the first half. In the second half the defense plays itself best half of football all year. Hoosiers offense runs all over a less than stellar Nebraska defense and the Hoosiers leave Lincoln, NE with bowl eligibility in tow.Matt Lukens
Nebraska 30 Indiana 24. The Hoosiers lose a close one in Lincoln and have to wait another week for a chance at bowl eligibility. The team plays well but the defense gives up big plays late and it leads to Nebraska taking advantage when it matters most. Indiana comes down to Earth after this loss and re-evaluate themselves as they prepare for the four remaining regular season games.Andrew Rude
Nebraska 42, Indiana 24. Assuming Adrian Martinez plays and Michael Penix doesn’t, Nebraska comes off their bye fired up and find plenty of openings in the IU defense. IU comes out flat after the emotional win last week. Robinson and Mills cause problems for IU as well.Nithin Krishnan
Featured Photo: Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications