It's still football season, and MSU travels to Nebraska for a game that could be the difference in the Legends division. The folks at Corn Nation were nice enough to answer some questions about the end of Taylor Martinez, Nebraska's defense and more.
1. So it looks like Taylor Martinez is done, and Tommy Armstrong has taken over. How does the offense change with him? Is it even more run-oriented than before? Martinez shredded the MSU defense last season.
Cheeseandcorn: The offense is a bit more run-oriented than before, but the main difference is that it's a different kind of run. Martinez was a one-cut-and-go runner who relied purely on his speed; Armstrong is a slower but shiftier runner who relies on patience and elusiveness. So the run offense with Martinez was built around the zone read, with a lot of no-gain type of plays and the occasional big play, while the run offense with Armstrong is built more around the old-fashioned option, with more 4, 5, 6-yard gains and fewer long runs.
COBBY: I HOPE THEY AREN'T DONE. MELISSA MARTINEZ AND DAVID ARMSTRONG JUST GOT MARRIED LIKE TWO WEEKS AGO. I MEAN, HAVEN'T PEOPLE LEARNED NOT TO PLAN A WEDDING ON HUSKER SATURDAYS?! ALL OF OUR FRIENDS ALWAYS WONDERED HOW RUN-ORIENTED DAVID WAS, BUT HE STILL SHOWED UP AT THE ALTER. I THINK MELISSA WOULD HAVE SHREDDED HIM HAD HE NOT BEEN THERE. I DID HAVE TO MENTION TO HIM THAT SHE PUT SOME STUPID PLATE ON THEIR REGISTRY THAT COST LIKE $200. REALLY? ARE WE STILL DOING THAT IN TODAYS WORLD? PEOPLE IN EAST LANSING CAN'T AFFORD THAT SHIT.
Aaron: Don't mind cobby, he tries to entertain us at Corn Nation. Tommy is still learning the system, but he's getting better every outing. His ceiling is higher than Taylor and he played a great game last week in Ann Arbor. He just needs to get more in-game reps in and not force any bad passess.
Jon Johnston: Tommy Armstrong JR. We call him TA2. Ron Kellogg III (RK3) will play at least a series or two against Michigan State. TA2 is a natural option quarterback while RK3 is a better passer. One thing that's missing with Martinez out is those plays he made up, basically sandlot ball. TA2 is a pretty decent scrambler with some shifty moves, while RK3 has more savvy. What does this mean for the offense? We'll be running more options for sure, probably early, to see how you defend them and we'll probably pass more than I want. We do have very good receivers - beware of them.
2. Nebraska's defense has not been very good this year, but they did shut down the Michigan offense, which still counts for something (for now). Has the defense gotten better as the season as gone along? What still worries you on that side of the ball?
Cheeseandcorn: Yes, they've gotten much better as the season has progressed. The defensive line in particular has improved, with Randy Gregory emerging as an all-conference-level player and Avery Moss, Greg McMullen, and Vincent Valentine playing strong supporting roles. All four of those guys had never played a college snap before this year, so it's not hard to see why they've improved so much, so quickly. The linebackers' progress has been much slower, and that's the position group that still worries me. David Santos, Josh Banderas, and Michael Rose have been a revolving door there.
COBBY: MY FIRST OFFENSE IN MICHIGAN LAST WEEKEND WAS A TICKET FOR DRIVING TOO SLOW ON HIGHWAY 12 OR SOMETHING. I COULD HAVE SWORN IT WAS SOME FAT ILLINOIS COP THAT JUST WASN'T VERY GOOD AT SEEING SIGNS THAT SAY "WELCOME TO MICHIGAN". IN MY DEFENSE, WHICH I THINK HAS GOTTEN BETTER THIS SEASON, WHEN YOU DRIVE IN NEBRASKA, YOU HAVE LIKE 10-15 MILES OF NOTHING BETWEEN EACH TOWN WHERE YOU CAN SPEED UP AND THEN SLOW DOWN FOR THE TOWN. ALONG THAT HIGHWAY IN MICHIGAN, IT'S ALL DEVELOPED, SO I KEPT THINKING I HAD TO SLOW DOWN FOR THE DAMN TOWN THAT NEVER SHOWED UP. OH WELL, I HOPE THAT ANSWER COUNTS FOR SOMETHING (AT LEAST FOR NOW).
Aaron: The defense is starting to gel a bit more. They went with an easier scheme in the second half of the Northwestern game and it has worked out well for them. The easiest comparison I can make to a Michigan State fan would be to compare them to your offense and the baby steps it has taken this season.
Jon: Injuries worry me. We don't have a lot of depth, or at least quality depth in the front seven, so an injury to one of the front foor Cheese mentions could have a huge impact on the game. The defense has gotten better because the coaches have stopped treating them like they're doing brain surgery every play, and success breeds more succcess and confidence and then you have fun and crush the other team.
3. This Nebraska team seems to be hanging on by a thread, but they still control their own destiny. Even if they win on Saturday, how confident would you feel that they can hang on and win the division?
Cheeseandcorn: I'm going to be the Debbie Downer here, but not particularly. I've learned to never expect or assume anything week-to-week with a Pelini team, and they're still due one more inexplicable collapse this year. I could very easily see that coming against Penn State or an underrated Iowa team. That said, I do think this team is a lot better than it was a month or two ago (though also a lot more banged-up), and it could be that they've actually turned a corner.
COBBY: THERE WAS THIS ONE TIME THAT I WAS HIRED AS A STUNT DOUBLE FOR ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER IN ONE OF HIS BLOW-EM UP MOVIES. I WAS TO HANG ON TO THIS HELICOPTER BY A THREAD AND RESCUE THIS CHICK FROM A LIMOUSINE THAT WAS GOING TO RUN OFF THE HIGHWAY OVER THE OCEAN IN FLORIDA. WELL, BEING AS RIPPED AS I AM, THAT'S EASIER SAID THAN DONE. THREADS ARE FOR SKINNY DUDES LIKE NORTHWESTERN ALUMNI. ANYWAY, IN ORDER TO CONTROL MY OWN DESTINY, AND NOT END UP AN ICKY RED SPOT ON THE PAVEMENT BELOW, I USED MY ENGINEERING AND METEOROLOGY DEGREES FROM UNL IN ORDER TO PULL THAT CHICK FROM THE CAR. N IS FOR NOWLEDGE RIGHT? HOWEVER, I WASN'T ABLE TO SAVE THE LIMO. I GUESS THAT MEANS THERE'S WORK TO DO FOR A MICHIGAN MAN IN DETROIT TO MAKE A NEW ONE. THEY MIGHT AS WELL BUILD CARS IN ANN ARBOR SINCE THEY CAN'T PLAY FOOTBALL. SEEMS TO BE THEIR DESTINY. ANYWAY, THAT'S THE STORY BEHIND THE NAMING OF THE LEGENDS DIVISION; ME HANGING ON TO THAT DAMN HELICOPTER.
Aaron: It will be tough. This year feels a lot like 2011 when we beat you guys but couldn't hang on to the division. We've seen signs of progress and hope the last couple weeks and if we can manage the win on Saturday, there's a decent chance they can hold onto the division this time around.
Jon: If we win Saturday we get Penn State and Iowa, so yeah, I'm pretty confident about that. I mean, what the hell. Penn State has fallen down, and Iowa - I don't care if we have a group of toddlers playing, I'm not going to admit EVER that we're going to lose to Iowa. Besides, the first guy says he's not sure, Cobby's a friggin' nutball that's done way too many Vodka/Red Bulls in his lifetime, and Aaron's being too nice. Honestly, one of the things I miss about being a regular fan and not running a web site is not having to think about the future all that much, and just let things happen.... as if I ever did that in my life. Crap. I wish I could just take it one game at a time. It'd be more enjoyable.
4. With Martinez's career likely over, how will he be remembered?
Cheeseandcorn: He should be remembered as one of the best, if not the best, Nebraska offensive player since Eric Crouch, and someone who took way more crap than he deserved. He probably will be remembered as one giant ball of controversy, the most polarizing Husker player since at least the mid-90s. On the whole, though, I think Husker fans will begin to appreciate him more as they get further removed from his tenure
COBBY: HE WILL BE REMEMBERED LIKE I AM. GREAT IN HIS PRIME, HILARIOUSLY FUNNY AND OUTGOING, AND ALWAYS FINDING THE RIGHT SPOTS ON THE PLAYING FIELD AT ALL THE ROAD GAMES. IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN. AS A SIDE NOTE, IT WAS NO COINCIDENCE THAT MARY SUE WHATS-HER-FACE AT MICHIGAN LAST WEEKEND SOUNDED DRUNK. I DO HAVE HIGH STANDARDS FOR MY BOOTY CALLS AFTER ALL.
5. Score prediction and why?
Cheeseandcorn: I'm not sure Nebraska fans appreciate just how good of a Michigan State defense they'll be up against this week - almost certainly the best Pelini's ever faced with the Huskers and possibly better than any he's fielded himself, too. I think the Huskers will do well just to slip into double digits, while MSU's offense takes advantage of a couple of key Husker mistakes. Michigan State 20, Nebraska 13.
COBBY: HMM. WHEN THE WEATHER GETS COLD, THE LADIES ARE MORE LIKELY TO CUDDLE UP CLOSE TO YOU SO I WOULD TAKE THE OVER THIS WEEKEND IF IT'S AROUND THREE.
Aaron: I want to see my Huskers win and make it to Indy again, but I would also love to see MSU's defense go up against Ohio State. I think you guys can take ‘em. My brain says MSU 24, UNL 6, but my heart says UNL 13, MSU 10.
Jon: This game will come down to turnovers and big plays, a nail biter to the end. It will be who can run the ball, and who can stop the run. There are no secrets here, so there must be tomfoolery afoot. It's in Lincoln, so no doubt you'll see a PI call late in the game that will go the home team's way because we are the new Michigan since they've faltered, and then we'll win. Nebraska 17, Michigan State 13
Thanks again to the guys and check out Corn Nation for everything Nebraska.