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Nebraska is halfway through its season, and there are still a lot of unknowns.

Who are the starting linebackers?

When is Taylor Martinez going to return from his turf toe?

Is this Nebraska defense really making strides, or is it just feasting on anemic offenses?

What happens when Nebraska needs a late field goal to win an all-important conference matchup? No more Alex Henery or Brett Maher to ease the masses.

In the end, only time will reveal the answers to these questions, so lets take a look at some things we do know.

Quarterback situation

Nebraska doesn't have a quarterback controversy. Tommy Armstrong Jr. has loads of talent, especially when running the traditional option and in the passing game, but he didn't jump out and seize the job from Martinez in his absence. After impressing against South Dakota State and Illinois, Armstrong showed his youth against Purdue, but that should only pay him dividends in the future.

It looks like Martinez is Nebraska's best option under center as it enters a tough six-game stretch to end the regular season.

Rushing Attack

Nebraska has the No. 10 rushing offense in the country and the second best in the Big Ten. Averaging 285 yards per game on the ground, Nebraska has leaned on Ameer Abdullah. The junior has eclipsed 100 yards in five of Nebraska's six games this season and exploded for 225 against Illinois.

Nebraska is loaded with talent at I-back, as Imani Cross and Terrell Newby have combined for 629 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns on the year.

Nebraska will have to get by the rest of the year without its best offensive lineman in Spencer Long, who is out for the rest of the year with a knee injury. The former walk-on was the heart and soul of this NU offensive line, and his loss can't be overstated.

Defensive improvement

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Nebraska has taken a step forward defensively. After a disastrous beginning to the season with a close call against Wyoming, a meltdown against the Bruins, and allowing a 200-yard rusher against FCS South Dakota State, Nebraska has shows flashes of serious potential. NU leads the Big Ten in sacks per game (2.8) and is second in interceptions (11).

However, it's bye weeks that may have helped this young defense the most. The pair of weekends off in October should pay dividends in November.

Coming off its first bye, Nebraska put up two of its best defensive performances against Illinois and Purdue. The Huskers held Illinois to 19 points (including a safety and a garbage-time touchdown) before stifling Purdue 44-7. NU held the Boilermakers to just 216 yards of total offense with just 32 yards on the ground.

Sophomore defensive end Randy Gregory was especially disruptive against Purdue, as he notched two sacks and a safety while having a third sack wiped out due to a penalty.

After another bye week, Nebraska looks primed to shut down a lackluster Minnesota offense Saturday.

Season outlook

There's no question the meat of Nebraska's schedule still lies ahead, but that road isn't as difficult as many think.

Minnesota shouldn't pose a problem for Nebraska -- despite its upset win over Northwestern. And speaking of the Wildcats, Nebraska's opponent after Minnesota, they're licking their wounds after losing three straight conference contests right out of the gate.

And that road trip to Ann Arbor to face Michigan doesn't look as daunting now as it did a month ago. Then comes Michigan State at home. The Spartans might have the country's best defense, but it's offense is horrid. Kind of reminds me of the 2009 Huskers.

Penn State has proven to be a tough out, and Iowa looks much improved from last year, but neither have the level of athletes as Nebraska.

I find it hard to believe NU will make it through that stretch undefeated, but 5-1 is a very real possibility. Nebraska should take a 10-2 record into a conference title tilt with the Buckeyes.

And who better to put an end to Urban Meyer's reign in the Big Ten?

Dylan Guenther is the sports editor for The Columbus Telegram. Contact him at dguenther@columbustelegram.com with questions, comments and story ideas. Or follow the Telegram Sports Staff on Twitter at CTelegramSports.

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