MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — These teams Nebraska has taken to the Big Ten since joining the conference two years ago have been far from the best of this proud, powerful program.
Four-loss seasons are substandard for the Cornhuskers and their fans.
They're in favorable position, though, for a second straight Legends Division title if they can stay on track during the second half of their schedule. Starting Saturday at Minnesota, the 25th-ranked Huskers (5-1, 2-0) begin a busy 35-day stretch with six games that will tell a lot about coach Bo Pelini and his team's standing in the Big Ten.
The conference threw them a curveball with bye weeks on Sept. 28 and Oct. 19, which sandwiched convincing victories over Illinois and Purdue, so the time for breaks is over. But they're 10-point favorites on the road against the Gophers (5-2, 1-2). Then they host fading Northwestern. The trip to Michigan is always tough, but that's followed by a home game against the only other team left in the division without a Big Ten loss, Michigan State.
To finish, they play at Penn State and host Iowa.
"Everything is pretty wide open. That's just the nature of college football," Pelini said. "In my opinion, you can throw 40 teams in a hat and go week to week, and the teams that are going to execute that given week are the teams that are going to win football games. It's not just the Legends Division. It's across college football."
Nebraska has beaten Minnesota by a combined 79-28 margin in two matchups since they became conference rivals in 2011 and is averaging more than 42 points per game this season. The Gophers, though, will bring some added confidence after winning at Northwestern last week.
"I think they believe in what they are doing," Pelini said. "I shouldn't say I'm glad it happened. Hopefully it caught our guys' attention."
Here are five things to know about the game between the Huskers and the Gophers:
MARTINEZ MENDING: After missing the last three games due to a turf toe injury on his left foot, Taylor Martinez, the man who holds most of the school's career passing records and is a fine runner as well, is expected to return to the field. Whether he starts will be a game-time decision.
Cut pounds of stomach fat every week by using this 1 weird old tip.