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Nebraska Gameday Preview - Lions Travel to Memorial Stadium

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Nebraska Week Gameday Central

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions (6-3, 4-1) head back on the road for the second-straight week, taking on Nebraska (7-2, 4-1) at Memorial Stadium (3:30 p.m. on ABC/ESPN) in a matchup between two traditional college football powers.

Following a 34-9 rout at Purdue, Penn State brings an undefeated Big Ten road record into the final road game of the season.  Last week, the Lions limited the Boilers to a season-low nine points.  Offensively, Matt McGloin threw for 321 yards and Zach Zwinak rushed for a career-best 134 yards to help lead the Nittany Lions to 506 offensive yards.

Nebraska erased a 10-point deficit to knock off Michigan State in the final seconds last week to remain tied in the Legends Division title race.  With three games to play, the Huskers are knotted up with Michigan for the division lead in the quest for a spot in the Big Ten title game on Dec. 1.

It's Penn State and Nebraska in sold out Memorial Stadium.  Welcome to the gameday preview for the 10th game on the 2012 schedule.

8286044.jpegPregame Reading:
What to Watch For - Penn State
1.  Senior quarterback Matt McGloin leads the Big Ten in passing yards per game (270.7).  As a team, the Nittany Lions rank second in the Big Ten in passing offense.  Additionally, sophomore wide receiver Allen Robinson ranks first in receptions (57) and second in receiving yards per game (76.6).  The numbers speak for themselves, but Saturday's collision with Nebraska will be the group's biggest test in 2012.  The Cornhuskers rank second in the conference in passing defense (156.0 ypg), and they lead the nation in completion percentage defense (46.0).  Robinson, Brandon Moseby Felder and the receiving corps will need to play a physical football game against a superb secondary.  Getting off the line of scrimmage cleanly and making contested catches will play a big role in the success of the Nittany Lion passing offense.

2.  On the defensive side of the ball, Saturday's game is shaping up to be an intriguing matchup between conference's best offense and one of the Big Ten's top defenses.  The Nittany Lion defensive gameplan begins with slowing down the Nebraska running game, which leads the conference at 269.6 yards per game.  Junior quarterback Taylor Martinez is the catalyst of the explosive Husker offense that is averaging 38.0 points per game.  Penn State's ability to limit his production will play a big role in deciding the outcome.  Martinez and running back Ameer Abdullah, who leads Nebraska in rushing (826 yards), both average more than 5.5 yards per carry.  Penn State's front seven will need to play consistent and tackle well against a team that plays up-tempo for 60 minutes.

3.  If there is one chink in the armor of the Big Ten's top offense it is the number of turnovers it has committed in 2012.  Nebraska has lost 14 fumbles and nine interceptions this season.  As a result, the Cornhuskers rank last in turnover margin in the Big Ten (-1.0).  On the flipside, the Nittany Lions lead the conference in turnover margin (+1.0).  Saturday's game has the making of being close into the fourth quarter with a turnover potentially deciding the outcome.  Keep an eye on the turnover battle for both teams.

What to Watch For - Nebraska
1.  Martinez's ability to change games with his speed and quickness is well documented, but he much improved passer (63 percent) from last season.  Martinez is tied with McGloin for the lead in passing touchdowns in the Big Ten (18).  Through nine games, Nebraska's offense has tallied 57 plays of 20 or more yards on first down (6.3 per game).  The Huskers want to play fast and create explosive plays, both in the running game with Abdullah and Martinez and throwing the ball.  Kenny Bell leads the Huskers with 33 receptions for 622 yards.

2.  Nebraska used a fourth quarter comeback to defeat Michigan State on the road last week, similar to what the Huskers did in a dramatic victory at Northwestern earlier this season.  Martinez deserves a lot of credit for his playmaking ability in the clutch, but a quick start is something Nebraska wants from its offense on Saturday.  Penn State has been dominant in the first quarter (76-3).  Nebraska has scored 104 points in the first quarter this season, setting up another dimension in the matchup between the two traditional powers. 

3.  The Nebraska secondary is the strength of its defense.  The defensive backfield is filled with big, athletic, physical players that excel in man-to-man coverage.  Led senior safeties Daimion Stafford and P.J. Smith, the secondary will be looking to play physical with the Nittany Lion receivers and tight ends.  Putting pressure on McGloin and strong man-to-man coverage will be a big part of the Nebraska gameplan, in hopes of disrupting the timing of the Penn State passing game.

Gameday Rundown
Kickoff: 2:30 p.m. CT
TV: ABC/ESPN2 - Sean McDonough (PBP), Chris Spielman (Analyst), Quint Kessenich (Sideline)
Radio: Penn State Sports Network - Steve Jones (PBP), Jack Ham (Analyst), Loren Crispell (Sidelines)
Stadium: Memorial Stadium (81,091) - FieldTurf
Coaches: Bill O'Brien - 6-3, 1st season
Bo Pelini - 48-16 at Nebraska, 5th season overall (5th at Nebraska)
The Series: 15th meeting

The Final Word:
Bill O'Brien and the Nittany Lions call every game on the schedule a bowl game.  With it being the final road trip for the seniors, this week's trip to Nebraska carries a little extra weight.  As a player, you could not ask for much more in the final road game of the season than Saturday's contest.  Penn State and Nebraska are among the top college football programs of all time.  The game will be played in front of an energetic, loud, passionate sea of red-clad fans.  Saturday will also be Nebraska's 324th consecutive sellout.  The atmosphere will be electric inside Memorial Stadium.  On the field, the matchup is the most intriguing contest in 2012 to date.  When both teams have the ball, it will be strength vs. strength.  Penn State's stout defensive unit will look to slow down Nebraska's high powered offense, and the Nebraska secondary will faceoff with the Big Ten's top passer.  With that being said, the game will come down to execution.  Limiting big plays from Martinez is essential for the Nittany Lions.  A strong day from the special teams unit is also a must.  The weather forecasts are predicting a warm afternoon for what has the potential to be an entertaining college football game.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

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