With No. 10 ranking, 'hungry' Huskers set for tough stretch
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) It only gets harder now for No. 10 Nebraska. A lot harder.
The Cornhuskers so far have played the 106th-toughest schedule, according to the NCAA, with four of their five wins against teams that now having losing records and are a combined 6-12. The remaining schedule ranks third-toughest, with the seven opponents a combined 23-9. All of them having winning records.
Coming off a bye, the Huskers (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) play at Indiana (3-2, 1-1) on Saturday. They'll arrive in Bloomington in the top 10 of The Associated Press poll for the first time since they were No. 9 the first week of November 2011.
''Everybody is patting everybody on the back at this time. I get that. We wouldn't trade it. We like where we are,'' coach Mike Riley said Monday. ''But we also have to stay hungry.''
The Huskers are starting a stretch of three road games in four weeks. They return home to play Purdue next week and then have back-to-back trips to No. 8 Wisconsin and No. 2 Ohio State.
''Definitely, this second half for us, having to play road games at Wisconsin, Ohio State and then turn around and go to Iowa. Those are three tough tests on the road, and going to Indiana as well. Those guys are ready for us,'' Armstrong said. ''We have to make sure if we want to get where we want to go, we have to win these tough games.''
The Hoosiers, who went to a bowl last year for the first time since 2007, continue to put up big offensive numbers with new quarterback Richard Lagow. The difference this season is that they are much improved on defense. After losing 52-26 to Michigan State last season, they beat the Spartans 24-21 in overtime two weeks ago. They played Ohio State tough last week, losing 38-17 .
Nebraska has been unable to put away any of its five opponents until the fourth quarter. Fumbles near the goal line kept the Sept. 24 game at Northwestern close, and turnovers on back-to-back possessions allowed scuffling Illinois take a six-point lead midway through the third quarter in Lincoln on Oct. 1. Missed tackles also were an issue against the Illini.
But the Huskers have done a lot right, too. Armstrong Jr., the fourth-year starter, and running back Terrell Newby have played the best football of their careers and cornerback Chris Jones has been the top player in a secondary that has intercepted nine passes and greatly cut down on the number of big pass plays allowed.
On the injury front, Armstrong (ankle) is out of his walking boot and practiced Sunday, as did receiver Alonzo Moore (shoulder). Riley said running back Devine Ozigbo (ankle), receiver Jordan Westerkamp (back) and tight end Cethan Carter (elbow) are doubtful for the Indiana game.
Armstrong said he sprained an ankle when brought down by a horse-collar tackle in the second half against Illinois. He said if the Huskers had a game this past weekend, he probably wouldn't have played. He said he got extra rest and spent a lot of time getting treatment on his ankle last week.
''I'm feeling good now and ready to go,'' Armstrong said. ''I practiced yesterday and got a chance to get out there with those guys and get to work. This past week I was taking mental notes as I helped out each player who got in there.''
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