LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska lost its first Big Ten game at Minnesota last week, but remains in control of its destiny in the Legends Division.
Northwestern has dropped four straight after a 4-0 start and bowl eligibility hangs in the balance.
Interestingly, more positive vibes were coming out of the Wildcats' camp than Nebraska's in advance of their game Saturday.
"In our place, the sky hasn't fallen. It's sunny out," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "We've got a third of the season left. You just keep grinding, man."
The Huskers have had a tough week. They went through a physical practice 24 hours after their loss in Minneapolis, faced questions about their poor run defense and hot-and-cold offense and tried to duck verbal darts thrown by upset fans.
"They deserve a better product than we put out there sometimes," linebacker Michael Rose said. "We just have to make sure we take care of our business, and if we do I think Husker Nation will be pleased."
Nebraska (5-2, 2-1) and Northwestern (4-4, 0-4) have split their past two meetings. Two years ago, the Wildcats had lost five in a row before they beat Indiana and pulled a 28-25 upset of then-No. 9 Nebraska in Lincoln. Last year Nebraska won 29-28 in Evanston after scoring the go-ahead touchdown with 2:08 left.
The Wildcats, who lost in overtime at Iowa last week, need two more wins to become bowl eligible. After Nebraska, they play Michigan and Michigan State at home and finish the regular season at Illinois.
"They're playing for everything right now," Nebraska offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles said. "They're coming in here wanting to knock us off after what we did to them last year. They're hungry for their first win in the Big Ten this year, but they're going to have to come in and match our intensity. We need to come out with a sense of urgency."
The Huskers still need a win to become bowl eligible, but they have higher goals. A loss to Northwestern would leave them needing help to make it back to the Big Ten championship game. They still have trips to Michigan and Penn State and home games with division-leading Michigan State and Iowa remaining.