I guess it's hard to find truly strange weather just two weeks after an actual hurricane hit New York City. But this game in Lincoln will have its own strange circumstances.
Saturday in Nebraska has a forecast of high of about 76 and a low around 33. From kickoff to final whistle at Memorial Stadium, the temperature could drop as much as 20 degrees. Now fans are being cautioned that a severe storm could hit the area toward the end of the game.
Of course, it would take a lot more than some lightning to match the circumstances of last year's meeting. But I think enough has *probably* been written on that subject already.
Regardless of when (if) the rain actually hits Lincoln, the much bigger concern for both teams are the high winds in the forecast. For a team that has relied on the pass as much as Penn State, a gusty afternoon could greatly affect the gameplan.
As a point of fact, Braxton Miller will be on the All-Big Ten team at quarterback, likely voted first-team by both the coaches and media. Could this game decide who ends up joining him in all-conference honors at the position? Taylor Martinez is the flashier name and probably has the inside track. He has dramatically improved as a passer and is also on pace for about 800-some yards rushing while leading the Huskers to three double-digit comeback wins. Matt McGloin, however, is the league's best dropback passer and has been particularly impressive on the road, where he has yet to throw an interception in four games. McGloin, because of his low profile coming into the season, has some ground to make up in this race, perhaps unfairly so. But the senior from Scranton certainly has a chance to make an impression on voters for those upcoming postseason awards. Both players are critically important to their respective teams' success. EDGE: PSU
Nebraska announced yesterday that senior I-back Rex Burkhead is doubtful to play Saturday as a nagging knee injury will apparently keep him out of yet another contest. Burkhead, a true workhorse in the Nebraska tradition, has had little chance to make an impact this season, but the Huskers have managed just fine without him, owning a top-10 rushing attack for much of the year. On top of Taylor Martinez's solid production and decision-making on option plays, top backup Ameer Abdullah has played very well in Burkhead's absence, and will very likely have a 1,000-yard season while also providing value as a receiver and a return man. As for Penn State, there's no advance signals of who will get the bulk of the work in any given week. Bill Belton has gone quiet since his big game at Iowa, opening the door for Zach Zwinak last week to rack up a career-best 134 yards. A poor week of practice cost Belton snaps last week -- it will be interesting to see if the coaches look at him more this week. EDGE: UNL
Reports out of State College on Wednesday stemming from the 20 minutes of practice open to the media were positive for tight end Kyle Carter. After missing last week's game with an ankle injury, Carter was in full pads on Wednesday and participated fully during the brief open session. Bill O'Brien said after the Purdue game that Carter was pretty close to returning. Even still, the Lions managed fine without Carter last week, albeit against a wholly disinterested Purdue team. Jesse James had a nice game taking more snaps at the F-TE spot, leading O'Brien to praise him this past Tuesday by saying the freshman has unlimited potential. And Brandon Moseby-Felder is starting to give the Lions that dependable target opposite Allen Robinson who can take advantage of all of the attention defenses pay to Robinson. Nebraska's passing game is utilized much differently, but the Huskers do still have some considerable talent at wideout, led by Kenny Bell. EDGE: PSU
A very nice rebound for the Lions' line last week against Kawann Short and Co. McGloin had plenty of time to throw and Zwinak had plenty of holes to barge through. Other than Matt Stankiewitch inadvertantly taking a pigskin to the head courtesy of his quarterback, things went fairly smoothly. Even Donovan Smith's broken hand has improved enough to shed the club-for-a-cast he was sporting for a few weeks. The big issue this week will be conquering the issues from the Ohio State game -- namely improving communication in front of a noisy crowd and in some wacky weather. Nebraska has no stars up front this year, no one gy who really stands out on film. But it's hard to argue with the results. No matter who has been in the backfield for the Huskers, the back has had room to run in forging that No. 6 rushing game in the country. Pass protection has not been stellar, but some of that is a function of Martinez extending plays with his legs and being reluctant to just throw the ball away. EDGE: UNL
One of the scariest on-field moments of the season for Penn State came in the second quarter last week when Jordan Hill twisted backward as his left was rolled up on, sending the big senior tumbling to the turf. Guys like Michael Mauti and Pete Massaro, both of whom have been through two ACL surgeries apiece, immediately showed concern at Hill's reaction. But he was fortunate, and it was only a sprain with no ligament damage after all. Hill was understandably limited in practice this week, but the D-line leader has made the trip out to Lincoln at the very least. So that right there is a sign that he might give it a go in the game, but it's hard to imagine him playing much (if at all) in this one. Nebraska doesn't have the sheer talent that Ohio State used to torment Penn State two weeks ago but the inside-outside tandem of Baker Steinkuhler and Eric Martin will pose some problems here. EDGE: UNL
At this point in the season, we're about out of superlatives for Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges. So here's a chance to throw some praise for junior middle backer Glenn Carson. His numbers are obviously not in the same league as his senior teammates, but he has made some big stops and is rarely out of position or standing out in a negative way. Carson made a particularly nice fourth-down tackle short of the sticks in the second half last week, essentially snuffing out Purdue's slim comeback hopes. Carson also hasn't made a scene about losing snaps to sophomore Mike Hull, who typically takes his place on obvious passing downs. Hull and Carson will have to pick up the Linebacker U mantle next season with Mauti and Hodges both NFL-bound. With Lavonte David gone, Nebraska has a surprisingly underwhelming group at linebacker this year. The Huskers don't have a top-10 tackler in the league through nine games, with Will Compton leading the way. EDGE: PSU
It's the same story at most positions for the Huskers this year. None of these guys in the defensive backfield are All-America candidates, but the results are excellent. Allowing just 156 yards per game through the air, the Huskers are 5th in the country against the pass. And while there's a case to be made that teams have just focused more on running against Nebraska -- particularly in a Big Ten that isn't teeming with accomplished passers -- it doesn't tell the whole story. Opponents are completing an FBS-worst 46 percent of its throws against the Huskers, and that's impressive no matter what the context is. Penn State, it must be said, is improving here, not giving up any deep balls last week to some speedy Purdue receivers all while tackling very well on the Boilers' endless string of bubble screens. Bill O'Brien said that safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong has been one of the team's most improved players since the spring. EDGE: UNL
There's typically a good deal of snark involved with a comment like this, but no -- Penn State is legitimately pleased that Sam Ficken has improved to hit 50 percent success rate on field goals this season. Dragged down by a nightmare of a game at Virginia, Ficken has suddenly hit five of his last six kicks. Granted, his long for the season is a ho-hum 34-yarder, but the Lions just need him to hit a short one every now and then to keep the team from losing much momentum. A week after Bill O'Brien called the kick return unit terrible, the Lions didn't have a chance to show much last week -- the Boilers only kicked off twice in the entire game. Ameer Abdullah ran back a punt for a score earlier this year for the Huskers. Senior Brett Maher handles both punting and kicking duties, though his field goal numbers are a disappointing 12-for-18. EDGE: UNL
This one will be a telling test for the Lions coaching staff. Many of the same challenges that were too much to handle against Ohio State will return against Nebraska, especially facing an athletic quarterback who is capable of taking a game over by himself. Braxton Miller pulled that off two weeks ago and the Lions have to try to stop Taylor Martinez from doing the same here. Martinez will have the game in his hands as usual, but he has been known to dig some deep holes for his team. Shockingly Nebraska is 7-2 despite being far, far on the negative side of the turnover margin. Only a few teams in the country have turned the ball over more than Nebraska, which has a whopping 23 giveaways. The Huskers are minus-9 on the season compared to plus-9 for Penn State. If the Lions are going to pull off the upset, it's probably going to take a plus-2 edge in turnovers at the least to make it happen. This will be by far the toughest road venue of the season for Penn State and throwing in the weather concerns, it's going to be very difficult for the Lions to get into the rhythm on offense they need to win. EDGE: UNL
PREDICTION: NEBRASKA 24, PENN STATE 21