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Opponent Q&A, Nebraska: Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald

Our opponent Q&A series continues with Lee Barfknecht, who covers Nebraska and other college sports for the Omaha World-Herald. He covers Big Ten football and basketball, as well as Nebraska basketball. From his bio, he has won "nine national writing awards from four separate organizations" and is "a 12-time winner of Nebraska's sportswriter of the year award." Visit his blog page on the World-Herald site to read more from him.

Every year we hear that Taylor Martinez has progressed during the offseason. Is that progression finally showing on the field this year?

Somewhat. His statistics are better. But he remains turnover prone, and has made shaky decisions under duress against better opponents.

How does Nebraska maximize the use of Rex Burkhead and Ameer Abdullah, and which one do you see being more effective against Northwestern?

Both will play about the same amount. Rex is the ultimate solid runner. Ameer is a breakaway guy. Both can catch the ball, too.

What is more of the reason for Nebraska's defensive struggles this year: the loss of DC Carl Pelini, a lack of talent in a rebuilding year or both?

Make no mistake: this is Bo Pelini's defense, regardless of who has the title of d-coordinator. The talent isn't bad, but it doesn't always appear to fit the scheme. Players act confused. People who know way more football than me say players are asked to do things on defense that don't play to their strengths.

Given Nebraska's struggle against mobile quarterbacks this year — Braxton Miller and Brett Hundley — would Northwestern be better suited to give Kain Colter a majority of the snaps?

Nebraska has struggled against mobile QBs since Pelini arrived five years ago, and the one year he was d-coordinator at Nebraska in 2003. I would have Kain Colter snap the ball to himself if need be.

Has the first half of this year been a letdown for the Huskers? Would this year be a disappointment without a Legends Division title?

Pelini made a big deal before the season that this was his fifth year and he has all his own recruits and that progress was being made with greater attention to detail. But Nebraska has lost twice in embarrassing fashion to two first-year coaches who took over teams that had losing records a year ago (UCLA, Ohio State).

How hot is Bo Pelini's seat?

Not hot this year. But with a new athletic director on board in January, the football program will draw heavy internal scrutiny.

What is your prediction for the game?

Oops. I just dropped my crystal ball. Sorry.