LAS VEGAS — In late August, Nebraska coach Scott Frost appeared to be stuck in a hopeless situation. His job was in jeopardy and his team was tossed into the trash after a mistake-riddled loss at Illinois in the season opener.
The Cornhuskers are not exactly back from the dead — a blowout victory over Northwestern does not quite qualify as a bold statement — but they have rediscovered hope and have an opportunity to change the storyline Saturday against No. 9 Michigan.
Nebraska’s season started to take an optimistic turn in late September after narrow losses to Oklahoma and Michigan State. The Cornhuskers (3-3) took each ranked opponent to the wire on the road as their defense and quarterback Adrian Martinez showed obvious improvement. Martinez has totaled 1,875 yards (1,463 passing, 412 rushing) and 15 touchdowns.
The Wolverines (5-0) are riding high after a statement-making 38-17 win at Wisconsin last week. In a big game for coach Jim Harbaugh, Michigan’s defense dominated a bad Badgers offense and forced three turnovers. Still, questions remain about the power of Harbaugh’s offense.
This is a better spot for the Cornhuskers, who are finally clicking on both sides of the ball and can feed off the crowd’s energy in a night game in Lincoln. It’s a tougher spot for the Wolverines, who are playing back-to-back Big Ten road games and still have much to prove. This is a Frost-bite warning.
The pick: Nebraska + 3
Texas (+ 3) over Oklahoma: The Sooners went 0-4 against the spread in tight games against Tulane, Nebraska, West Virginia and Kansas State, and quarterback Spencer Rattler’s fall from Heisman Trophy favorite has been swift. Oklahoma’s offense is out of sync.
This duel in Dallas will be determined in large part by the Oklahoma defense, which ranks seventh in the nation against the run by allowing 83.6 yards per game. The Longhorns are led by Bijan Robinson, one of the nation’s most talented running backs. Robinson rushed for 216 yards on 35 carries against TCU last week. In three games with Casey Thompson at quarterback, Texas has averaged 558 yards and 53.3 points.
Oklahoma is favored against Texas for the 13th straight year, yet the Longhorns are 7-2 ATS with three wins in the past nine meetings and look like live dogs for first-year coach Steve Sarkisian.
New Mexico State (+ 31) over NEVADA: It’s never easy to back an ugly dog like the Aggies, but their offense is showing some life. Jonah Johnson passed for 300 yards last week as New Mexico State (+ 25) covered in a 37-31 loss at San Jose State.
This should be a flat spot for the Wolf Pack, who just upset Boise State on the road and will want to rest star quarterback Carson Strong and some other starters in the second half.
Last week: 1-3
Wisconsin (L), Notre Dame (L), Stanford (W), Arkansas (L)