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Northwestern gameday study guide: Nebraska

Of the four games remaining on Northwestern’s schedule, the Wildcats need to win two to become bowl eligible. For the purposes of this argument, let’s go ahead and pencil in the regular season finale at Illinois – currently undefeated in the Big Ten and providing just as many reasons to be pessimistic about its trajectory as it did to be optimistic over the first few weeks of the season – as a Northwestern win. That leaves three games: at Nebraska, and home against the two Michigan schools (who face off this weekend).

The Wolverines and Spartans may seem like more vulnerable opponents right now, but they also, unlike Nebraska, appear to be improving as they hit the stretch run of conference play. The Huskers, meanwhile, have all kinds of problems, especially on defense – to say nothing of the large contingent of angry Big Red fans fed up with coach Bo Pelini's inability to push his team into the national title picture. If Nebraska loses this game, the clamors for Pelini’s ouster will get even louder. The Huskers should win (Vegas likes them by six), but if they don’t – if Northwestern transforms the “upset win in Lincoln in 2011” to the “two-game winning streak at Nebraska dating to 2011” – would it be that much of a shock? For reasons detailed in some of the links provided below, no. And if Northwestern does win, it would feel a lot better about its bowl chances heading into the Michigan-Michigan State pairing.

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All but one member of this week's picks panel likes Northwestern.

Replacing Venric Mark in the starting lineup is not easy. Stephen Buckley did a pretty good job last week at Iowa, and Mark is giving Buckley a few pointers about how the redshirt freshman can continue to excel in Northwestern’s offense.

Nebraska may be favored by seven points, but the Wildcats appear – at least from our vantage point – to match up well against the Huskers.

Here are three things you need to focus on Saturday.

The number of players listed on Northwestern’s injury report is an indication of just how beat up this team is as it enters the most important stretch of its season.

We tend to analyze games by looking at the three phases: offense, defense and special teams. Find out in which phase (s) Northwestern should have an edge over Nebraska.

Whether Northwestern wins or loses, Saturday’s game should be exciting. We decided to explain how either outcome could happen.

There’s a possibility that Mark, a senior who has sat out six of Northwestern’s eight games this season, will apply for a medical redshirt that, if granted, would allow him to play one more season.

The Huskers are still feeling their way around the Big Ten. They haven't been here too long, so you may not know very much about them. The links should help you get caught up on everything there is to know about Bo Pelini's team.

There were some important things to note about this week’s depth chart.

How is Northwestern trying to become more consistent?

An update on Northwestern football and basketball ticket sales.

Some practice and press conference notes from this week: Monday press conference notes, Tuesday Big Ten teleconference notes, Wednesday practice notes.