Nebraska has shot up the BCS standings since beating Michigan in Week 9, going on to defeat Michigan State and Penn State in Big Ten play.
The No. 14 Cornhuskers were unranked before their 23-9 victory over the Wolverines, but have risen dramatically, currently in position to capture the Big Ten championship and earn a place in the Rose Bowl.
Minnesota has gone 6-4 this season, but all four of the Golden Gophers' losses have come in Big Ten play (Iowa, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Michigan).
Here's a look at the Big Ten clash as the regular season winds down.
Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, NE
When: Saturday, Nov. 17 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Watch: Big Ten Network
Live Stream: BTN2Go
Betting Line: Nebraska -19.5, Over/Under 53.5 (via ScoresAndOdds.com)
What's At Stake?
Nebraska (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten) is playing for the Legends division and the Big Ten title. With just two games to go against Minnesota and Iowa, Taylor Martinez and the Cornhuskers can almost taste it.
But an upset in any one of those games opens the door for Michigan (7-3, 5-1 Big Ten) to capture the Legends division.
Nebraska is in the driver's seat but isn't out of the woods yet.
The Cornhuskers haven't captured a conference championship since winning the Big 12 in 1999.
Injury Report (via USA Today)
OL John Cristenson - Ankle - Questionable
WR A.J. Barker - Ankle - Questionable
WR Derrick Engel - Hamstring - Questionable
OL Ed Olson - Foot - Questionable
RB Rex Burkhead - Knee - Questionable
What They're Saying
Nebraska senior running back Rex Burkhead, who sprained his left knee in the season opener and has since aggravated it twice, is hoping that he can be on the field for his last home game in Lincoln on Saturday.
He said he is "pretty close" to returning, via ESPN.
Burkhead rushed for 1,357 yards and 15 touchdowns as a junior last season.
While Minnesota has lost four of six Big Ten games this season, the 17-3 victory over Illinois last week denoted progress, especially because it ensured the Golden Gophers would be going bowling in coach Jerry Kill's second year with the team.
Kill spoke of the Minnesota seniors after the victory, via the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
Guys who are older, some of them have been through four, five, six coaches, positionwise. For them to go through that, and have a coach come in and say he wants to build a program brick by brick, that's not really what they want to hear. They want to do it right now. It was very emotional for those guys, and it was good to see a smile on their faces.
Minnesota is hoping the smiles continue through the postseason and beyond.
Minnesota Player to Watch: Donnell Kirkwood, RB
Donnell Kirkwood has been key in Minnesota's six victories this season.
The sophomore rushed for 152 yards and two touchdowns against Illinois and has totaled 819 yards and five touchdowns on the ground this season for the Golden Gophers.
His two touchdown runs against the Fighting Illini in the second half put the game away for good.
Nebraska Player to Watch: Taylor Martinez, QB
Taylor Martinez has been one of the most improved players in the Big Ten this season.
The dual-threat quarterback has averaged 8.0 yards per pass attempt while tossing 19 touchdowns to eight interceptions. He has also rushed for 770 yards and eight touchdowns, including a combined 309 yards against Penn State and Michigan State the past two weeks.
With Rex Burkhead struggling to stay healthy this season, Martinez has been a big part of Nebraska's surge.
Key Matchup: Minnesota Run Defense vs. Nebraska Running Game
Minnesota has played very well against the pass this season, but the run defense has generally been shaky.
The Golden Gophers have allowed 4.63 yards per carry (88th in the nation, per CFBStats.com) and 18 rushing touchdowns this season.
That includes allowing a combined 492 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground in the losses to Michigan and Wisconsin.
Nebraska has averaged 5.78 yards per carry this season (third in the nation) and hasn't missed a beat with sophomore Ameer Abdullah taking over for the injured Rex Burkhead.
Prediction: Nebraska 30, Minnesota 17
To put it plainly, any team that has trouble stopping the run, or stopping a dual-threat quarterback, will have trouble stopping Nebraska this season.
We've seen plenty of teams fall against the rushing attack of Nebraska and I don't see Minnesota being any different.
I will say the the 19.5-point spread in favor of Nebraska may be a bit of an exaggeration.
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