LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nebraska is playing so far like this is a must-win game, which it is. Michigan State needs to find the energy that helped it notch three straight important victories.
The first quarter went as well as the Huskers could have reasonably expected, as they hold a 10-0 lead. They've done it by sticking to the ground game, slowing down the Spartans' blitz and confusing the defense with pitches, option keepers and a couple of reverses. Taylor Martinez has yet to complete a pass, but it doesn't matter.
Michigan State has a different problem. It is running the ball effectively, but can't get any balance. Kirk Cousins is just 2-of-8 passing for 8 yards and has twice thrown into double coverage. He was also intercepted early by Lance Thorell, which led to the game's only touchdown. Nebraska is blanketing B.J. Cunningham and daring the Spartans to go somewhere else with the ball.
Bottom line is that Michigan State is just not sharp, and that extends to its normally reliable special teams. The Spartans have shanked a field goal attempt (granted it was a 52-yarder) and squirted out a 27-yard punt. The only thing that has gone right was a nice goal-line stand after the Huskers had first down at the 2-yard line. Or else it would be 14-0.
Long way to go, but Nebraska looks like the better -- and more energized team -- so far.