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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Michigan State has had one of the nation's top defenses in recent seasons, and no team has moved the ball better against it than Nebraska.
The 19th-ranked Cornhuskers (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) hope the trend continues Saturday night when they meet the No. 10 Spartans (3-1) in East Lansing, Michigan.
"We've had some success, but they've had some success, too," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said Monday. "I don't worry a lot about what's happened in the past or anything like that. It's about what's going to happen Saturday night and how two football teams are going to play Saturday night."
In 2012, the Huskers ran for 313 yards in a 28-24 victory, with Ameer Abdullah going for 110. Nebraska's 473 total yards were 90 more than any other team gained against the Spartans.
In 2013, Nebraska totaled 392 yards against what would end up as the nation's No. 2 defense. Abdullah had 123 of the Huskers' 182 rushing yards. Only Ohio State ran for more against Michigan State. Problem last year was that the Huskers committed five turnovers and the Spartans won 41-28.
If Nebraska can win in its first true test of the season, it would be undefeated through six games for the first time since 2001.
"I think our guys are hungry," Pelini said. "We have a really good opponent, and our guys are looking forward to playing a good opponent. We have a lot of respect for Michigan State, trust me. And we know we're going to have to play well to beat them. I bet if you talk to those guys on their side, they probably feel the same way."
Unlike lots of Nebraska fans, Pelini has made peace with last year's turnover-filled loss in Lincoln. He prefers to look at it as a learning experience.
"It's going to be hard to win a football game when you turn over the ball five times," Pelini said. "We need to play better and cleaner to give ourselves a chance of winning."
The Spartans converted four of the five turnovers — three of which came inside the Huskers' 22-yard line — into 24 points. Michigan State went on to win the Big Ten and Rose Bowl, leaving Big Red fans to wonder what could have been if the Huskers had been able to hold onto the ball.
"What happened happened," Pelini said. "You can look at it two ways. You can look at it that we gave it to them; you could look at it from their standpoint that they took it. I don't want to say, 'Hey, we should have won the football game.' That's kind of a cop-out to a certain extent. That's not giving Michigan State credit. They won the football game, we lost, no matter how it happened."
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