EVANSTON, Ill. - Northwestern and Nebraska may only be separated by two wins through five games, but the gap between the Big Ten West division rivals could not be much larger than it has at any point since they began playing each other annually in 2011. Coming off an impressive win on the road against a ranked opponent, the Wildcats seek their 10th conference victory in 11 tries Saturday when they host the winless Cornhuskers.
TV: Noon ET, ABC. LINE: Northwestern -3.5.
The only thing keeping Northwestern from sharing the division lead with Wisconsin has been an inability to finish, as the Wildcats blew an 18-point second-half advantage in a 39-34 home loss to Akron and coughed up an early 17-point edge in a 20-17 setback against No. 13 Michigan two weeks later. Northwestern again flirted with danger last weekend, giving up 16 unanswered points after racing out to an early double-digit lead before rallying for a 29-19 triumph at Michigan State. Nebraska continued its undisciplined ways and extended a dubious program record by losing its ninth straight game, committing 10 penalties for 100 yards, in a 41-24 defeat at No. 10 Wisconsin last weekend. The Cornhuskers have drawn at least 10 flags in every game during the first 0-5 start in school history and lead FBS with 97.4 penalty yards per game.
ABOUT NEBRASKA (0-5, 0-3 Big Ten)
The Cornhuskers were able to take some positives away from their most recent loss, as sophomore JD Spielman caught nine passes for a school-record 209 yards and a touchdown to break his own school record. Fellow receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. tied his personal best with eight catches to run his career total to 144, passing former Heisman Trophy winner and Hall of Famer Johnny Rodgers (143) for fourth place on the school's all-time list. Adrian Martinez, who accounted for 441 yards of total offense against Wisconsin to set a Nebraska freshman record, has topped 400 yards of total offense in each of the past two weeks and ranks second nationally among freshmen in total offense (292.3 yards).
ABOUT NORTHWESTERN (2-3, 2-1)
Clayton Thorson, who has taken every snap over the last two games after splitting time over the first three contests while finishing his recovery from offseason surgery, is the only quarterback in the Big Ten with two games of 350-plus passing yards this season. Flynn Nagel is one of two Big Ten players with multiple 10-catch games in 2018 and ranks second in the conference with 36 receptions; he has recorded at least one catch in 23 straight games - good for the second-longest active streak in the league. Sophomore linebacker Blake Gallagher has tallied at least 11 tackles in two straight games and is one of two players in the conference (Mohamed Barry, Nebraska) with three such games this season.
1. Five of the seven meetings between the schools since Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011 have been decided by three or fewer points or gone into overtime.
2. The Cornhuskers, who have won three straight in Evanston, have produced 500 total yards in back-to-back conference games for the first time since 2007.
3. Three of the Wildcats' four touchdown drives last week took less than a minute, marking the first time they registered three such possessions in a game in 10 years.
PREDICTION: Northwestern 34, Nebraska 31
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