Penn State-Nebraska Preview
Amid the Jerry Sandusky scandal that has rocked the Penn State community, there will still be a football game on Saturday. No. 12 Penn State (8-1, 5-0 Big Ten) takes on Nebraska (7-2, 3-2 Big Ten) at Beaver Stadium at noon. Tom Bradley’s first game as head coach comes against a tough Cornhusker squad that was upset by 4-5 Northwestern last week.
Team: Nebraska Cornhuskers
Conference: Big Ten
Head Coach: Bo Pelini (37-14 in four seasons)
Series History: Penn State leads, 7-6
Players to look for: QB Taylor Martinez, RB Rex Burkhead, LB Lavonte David
Prediction: Nebraska wins, 20-17
“Surreal” seems to be the word that best encapsulates the Sandusky scandal at Penn State. The situation surprised nearly everyone, and Joe Paterno’s firing caused mass anger and rioting in downtown State College. While both local and national media have been transfixed with this scandal, the Penn State football team has had to deal with the loss of its coach and the tarnishing of its program.
However, Tom Bradley and all the players have said that the game against Nebraska on Saturday will be business as usual. It is senior day, and 20 Penn State players will be playing their final game at Beaver Stadium. Emotions on the field and in the stands will surely be running high. With that being said, like the players who are now focusing on Nebraska, let us take a look at the team we will be facing on Saturday.
The Cornhuskers are led by quarterback Taylor Martinez. He is a dual threat, having amassed 1,545 passing yards and 712 rushing yards. However, his seven interceptions have plagued Nebraska, especially in its first loss of the season to Wisconsin. Martinez and Nebraska rebounded well, winning three straight after that loss, only to be surprised last week by Northwestern.
Running back Rex Burkhead is Nebraska’s best option out of the backfield, having gained 951 yards on 187 carries this season. He is also the team’s leading scorer with 13 touchdowns. Burkhead and Martinez have made the Cornhuskers the 13th-best rushing team in the nation.
The Nittany Lions will have a chance to win this game, but only if they are able to focus on the game at hand. Nebraska is too good a team for Penn State to beat if it makes mental mistakes, which considering how emotionally exhausting the past week has been for everyone, is a very real possibility. Nebraska is averaging 34.7 points per game this season, meaning the Penn State defense will have to play well to win.
Win or lose, this game will certainly be unlike any other Penn State game in the history of the program. For 20 seniors, it will be the first and only home game sans Paterno. For everyone else on the team, it will be the start of a new direction for this football program. For the fans, the game may provide a chance to forget the Sandusky issue, at least for three or so hours.
I think the Cornhuskers will win, 20-17, but if the Nittany Lions are able to rally around each other, the seniors, and Joe Paterno, they may just be able to pull out a victory that will put them one step closer to the Big Ten Championship Game.