Five burning questions heading into Michigan State week
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Five burning questions heading into Michigan State week

Here are five of the biggest questions still facing Nebraska as it gets ready for its road game at Michigan State this week...

After giving up five sacks to Oklahoma, can Nebraska's offensive line protect Adrian Martinez better?
After giving up five sacks to Oklahoma, can Nebraska's offensive line protect Adrian Martinez better? (Getty Images)

1. Can Nebraska play two quality games in a row?

Nebraska surprised many people with how well it held up against No. 3 Oklahoma in Saturday's 23-16 loss in Norman.

Now, the Huskers find themselves going into another season-defining game this week at Michigan State.

At 3-0 with impressive wins over Northwestern and Miami, the Spartans suddenly seem like a much more formidable challenge than initially thought going into the year.

Since head coach Scott Frost took over at NU, the concern has been the Huskers' inability to play two straight weeks of good football.

Nebraska better find a way to bring the same fight, energy, and execution it had against the Sooners to East Lansing. If they don't, they'll be 2-3 and winless in the Big Ten.

2. Will the offensive line get any better?

On Saturday, Nebraska's offense had a different feel to it with the near-full complement of its top skill players for the first time this season.

But for that unit to ever reach its potential, the offensive line has to be significantly better.

It wasn't even the overall blocking that was the main issue at Oklahoma, and even that was mediocre at best.

The real problem was that not only did NU again struggle to run the football and protect Adrian Martinez, but the o-line also committed six of the team's eight penalties.

There were two false starts before the Huskers even took their first offensive snap, and center Cam Jurgens was flagged for 30 yards of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on his own.

In all, all five starters on the offensive line committed at least one penalty in the loss.

Until the Huskers clean things up on the offensive line, they will continue to be at a significant disadvantage every week.

Can Nebraska's defense keep up its impressive play against another tough challenge at Michigan State?
Can Nebraska's defense keep up its impressive play against another tough challenge at Michigan State? (USA Today)

3. What will NU do with Connor Culp?

Of all of Nebraska's problems this season, the most stunning has to be the sudden fall of kicker Connor Culp.

The only first-team All-Big Ten selection of the Frost era, Culp has been downright bad all season.

A player who made 33 of his 35 total kicks last season, the sixth-year senior has now missed seven tries (five field goals and two extra points) through the first four games of 2021.

Frost said part of Culp's issues could stem from an injury that forced him to miss much of fall camp. But the more concerning issue is the toll that all of these misses seem to be taking on him.

When Frost decided to replace Culp with Kelen Meyer for a third-quarter extra point (which was blocked), he said it wasn't necessarily because he had just missed two field goals but more due to how he reacted to those misses on the sideline.

It's one thing to deal with an injury, but especially with a kicker, it's a much larger issue when the issue is between the ears.

4. Is Gabe Ervin out for the season?

Not only did Nebraska lose the game, but it might also have lost one of its top running backs for the season.

Gabe Ervin took a handoff in the third quarter, made a cut off his right leg, and immediately crumbled to the turf and clutched his knee.

Video replay suggested a significant injury, and Frost said they would re-evaluate Ervin's knee when the team got back to Lincoln.

But even Frost was preparing himself for the worst, adding: “it looks like he’s going to miss a little bit of time.”

Ervin is currently NU's third-leading rusher with 37 carries for 124 yards and two touchdowns.

5. Can the Blackshirts slow down Kenneth Walker III?

Nebraska's defense has been as good as anyone could have expected so far this season, and Saturday's performance against Oklahoma's high-powered offense was the best it's been yet.

But the Blackshirts will face another challenge this week in Michigan State, which has suddenly found a potent offense of its own.

The Spartans are 3-0 for the first time since 2015 and have scored at least 38 points in every game this season. Running back Kenneth Walker III has been the driving force for MSU, racking up 610 total yards and six touchdowns already.

Walker has been as productive as anyone in the country on the ground, already putting up nation-leading 493 yards and six touchdowns on 57 carries for a whopping 164.3 yards per game.

He just ran it 27 carries for 172 yards with a touchdown catch in MSU's upset over Miami on Saturday.

Nebraska has many issues to address in all three phases this week, but keeping Walker in check has to be near the top of the defense's priority list this week.