LINCOLN, Neb. - Despite managing only two wins in nine tries and coming off yet another loss, Nebraska believes it has shown enough over the last six games to be confident the program is ready to compete with anyone. Following a hard-fought defeat at No. 7 Ohio State last weekend, the Cornhuskers attempt to notch their third win in four contests Saturday when they host Illinois.
TV: Noon ET, Big Ten Network. LINE: Nebraska -16.5.
Nebraska took a five-point lead into halftime at Columbus and enjoyed a plus-two advantage in the turnover battle, proving to itself it could hang with the big boys in spite of a 36-31 loss to Ohio State. "A lot of things had to happen to get a team that would go toe-to-toe with a top-10 team. Six weeks ago, we went to (Michigan) and played a team like that and we had no chance. …Now the guys are banding together and fighting and going blow-for-blow with a team like (Ohio State)," coach Scott Frost told reporters after the game. The Fighting Illini moved within two wins of bowl eligibility last weekend following a 55-31 rout of Minnesota for the program's second-largest margin of victory in two-plus seasons under coach Lovie Smith. Junior running back Reggie Corbin ran for 213 yards and two touchdowns in the win and has rushed for at least 100 yards in four of his last five outings.
ABOUT ILLINOIS (4-5, 2-4 Big Ten)
Corbin, who ranks third in the conference in rushing (952 yards) and boasts a league-high 9.1 yards per carry, was named co-Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week after becoming the first Illini to run for two 70-yard-plus touchdowns in the same game since 1944. Corbin's effort was the eighth-best rushing performance in school history and the first 200-yard rushing game since Mikel Leshoure ran for 330 in 2010. Senior quarterback AJ Bush Jr. helped Illinois pile up 430 yards on the ground - the most by the Illini since a program-record 519 in 2010 - and gave his team a second 100-yard rusher with 127 yards and two scores while tying a career high with 216 yards passing.
ABOUT NEBRASKA (2-7, 1-5)
True freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez posted at least 300 yards of total offense for the fifth time in eight games and needs only one more such effort to match the single-season program record. Senior Stanley Morgan Jr., who enters this contest 11 catches shy of tying the school mark for career receptions (Kenny Bell, 181), ranks fifth in the Big Ten with 725 receiving yards and needs only 32 more to become just the second Cornhusker to reach 2,500 career receiving yards. Devine Ozigbo, who has scored at least once and rushed for at least 86 yards in five of his last six games, is 90 yards shy of becoming the 30th player in Nebraska history to run for at least 2,000 yards in his career.
1. Nebraska has amassed 450 yards of total offense in six straight games - tying the school record for the longest such streak.
2. Last weekend, Illinois became the first FBS program since 2008 to produce four offensive touchdowns in one game that covered at least 65 yards.
3. The Illini (plus-143.8) and Cornhuskers (plus-109.1) boast the country's most improved running games from last season.
PREDICTION: Nebraska 41, Illinois 27
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