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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 2, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Memorial Stadium (87,091) -- Lincoln, Nebraska. Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: Northwestern 3-2, Nebraska 4-1. Away Record: Northwestern 1-2, Nebraska 1-1. Neutral Record: Northwestern 0-0, Nebraska 0-0. Conference Record: Northwestern 0-4, Nebraska 2-1. Series Record: Northwestern leads, 4-2.
GAME NOTES: The Northwestern Wildcats will attempt to halt their four-game losing streak on Saturday afternoon, as they visit Memorial Stadium in Lincoln for a Big Ten Conference clash with the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Northwestern started the season as one of the nation's hottest teams, winning each of its first four games to climb all the way to No. 16 in the AP poll. Since beginning Big Ten play, however, the Wildcats have gone downhill in a hurry, going winless in the month of October (0-4). They most recently dropped an overtime contest at Iowa last Saturday, 17-10.
Nebraska had been winners of three straight heading into last weekend's bout at Minnesota, but suffered a 34-23 setback for its first loss since falling to nationally-ranked UCLA on Sept. 14 (41-21). The Cornhuskers are 5-2 overall and are tied for second place in the Big Ten's Legends Division at 2-1.
The Wildcats hold a 4-2 advantage in the all-time series, although the Cornhuskers escaped with a 29-28 victory in Evanston last season.
Northwestern has had a respectable offense this season with 28.5 ppg and 408.5 ypg, although both numbers rank in the bottom half of the Big Ten. The unit is fresh off one of its most sluggish performances of the season in a 329-yard, 10-point effort against Iowa.
After missing the Oct. 19 game with an ankle injury, Kain Colter returned last week to throw for 104 yards and a touchdown on 11-of-14 passing. Colter replaced Trevor Siemian as the starter a few weeks back, and on the season he has completed an astounding 81.8 percent of his passes for 500 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions while also making a difference on the ground (323 yards, four TDs).
Spearheading an impressive rushing attack is Treyvon Green, who has tallied 462 yards and five touchdowns on 75 carries. Mike Trumpy (270 yards, two TDs) and Stephen Buckley (258 yards, TD) are also worked into the mix.
The Wildcats have an impressive stable of receivers, with Tony Jones (38 receptions, 492 yards, four TDs) and Christian Jones (29 receptions, 381 yards, two TDs) both ranking in the top-10 in the conference in catches, while Dan Vitale (270 yards, two TDs) and Rashad Lawrence (296 yards) are also capable of getting loose for a big play from time to time.
Despite allowing just 17 points a week ago, Northwestern still has one of the Big Ten's worst defenses, ranking seventh in points allowed (25.9) and 10th in yards allowed (411.1) per game, although it is sometimes able to mask those deficiencies with opportunistic play (18 turnovers).
Chi Chi Ariguzo is one of the more well-rounded linebackers in the country. Not only does he lead the team in tackles with 72, but he also has three interceptions, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a sack. Ibraheim Campbell (46 tackles, four INTs) is a game-changer in the secondary, as is Collin Ellis (two INTs) and Dean Lowry (two INTs, two FF). Tyler Scott leads the pass rush with 8.0 TFL and 5.0 sacks.
Nebraska has had little problem generating offense this season, as it averages 39.9 ppg and 467.0 ypg, but it could once again be without its starting quarterback this week.
Taylor Martinez (667 passing yards, 117 rushing yards, 10 TDs, two INTs) had missed three games with a foot injury before returning last week only to suffer a hip pointer. With Martinez questionable, Tommy Armstrong, Jr. (347 yards, three TDs, three INTs) and Ron Kellogg III (352 yards, two TDs) could be in line for more work.
Regardless of who's under center, the Cornhuskers will lean heavily on the Big Ten's second-leading rusher, Ameer Abdullah, who has turned 133 carries into 981 yards and six touchdowns. Abdullah is far from the only weapon in a rushing offense that goes for 271.1 ypg, however. Imani Cross (334 yards) is crucial in the red zone with nine touchdowns, and Terrell Newby (290 yards) averages nearly six yards per carry.
Quincy Enunwa has had success at receiver regardless of who has been throwing him the ball, catching 28 passes for 400 yards and seven touchdowns. Kenny Bell (27 receptions, 329 yards, three TDs) has also had a nice season.
The Cornhuskers have just the ninth-best defense in the league, allowing 410.4 ypg, but they have a bend-don't-break style that has resulted in an average yield of 24.0 ppg.
Stanley Jean-Baptiste (four INTs) and Ciante Evans (three INTs, FF) are high- impact players in the secondary. Other defensive leaders include David Santos (49 tackles), Randy Gregory (31 tackles, 9.0 TFL, 3.5 sacks) and Avery Moss (23 tackles, 6.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks).
After such a hot start, it's surprising to see Northwestern not being able to get out of its own way in recent weeks, and it'll have another difficult task on tap in this one. Even if Martinez is unable to go, the Cornhuskers have been more impressive than the Wildcats in pretty much every phase of the game, and should be able to take care of business at home.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nebraska 31, Northwestern 23
10/30 10:38:05 ET
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