Both Nebraska and Purdue had high expectations that they could be sleeper teams in the Big Ten West Division once the abbreviated season began.
However, with recent losing streaks and championship contention dashed for both, the Cornhuskers and Boilermakers will be playing for pride and to tryingand establish late-season momentum going into next year when they meet on Saturday in West Lafayette, Ind.
Nebraska (1-4, 1-4 Big Ten) is on a two-game losing streak following a 41-23 home loss to Illinois and a 26-20 loss at Iowa.
The defeat against the red-hot Hawkeyes, in which Nebraska drove inside Iowa territory late in the game with a chance to win before a turnover ended its hopes, was better optics-wise than the blowout loss on home turf to the Fighting Illini.
But still, Nebraska was expecting to be better than 1-4 after the fifth game of the season.
"These guys want to get this right," Nebraska head coach Scott Frost said. "They are going to give us everything they have to get it right. We hope we still have three games and three opportunities. We need it as a football team. We're young in a lot of places. We didn't get bowl practices last year and we didn't get spring ball. We need opportunities to practice and opportunities to play games to really get the improvement we need."
Nebraska has struggled on offense all season, ranking 13th in the 14-team Big Ten at 20.6 points per game.
The Cornhuskers have played two quarterbacks extensively this season, Adrian Martinez and Luke McCaffrey, with Martinez getting the bulk of the action last week and performing well.
Martinez completed 18 of 20 passes for 174 yards and also had a rushing touchdown, a performance that Nebraska hopes he can build on against Purdue.
On the other side, the Boilermakers (2-3, 2-3) had hopes they would be in the mix in the division following a 2-0 start with wins over Iowa and Illinois.
However, after a game at Wisconsin was canceled due to COVID-19 issues with the Badgers on Nov. 7, the Boilermakers have lost three straight -- at home to Northwestern, at Minnesota and at home against Rutgers.
Purdue fell to the Golden Gophers and the Scarlet Knights despite the return of its best player, wideout Rondale Moore, who missed the first three games with an injury.
Moore has collected 22 receptions for 192 yards total in the two games since his return.
Purdue has also played its last two games without starting quarterback Aidan O'Connell, who has been out with an injury. Backup Jack Plummer has performed well, going 55 of 77 (71.4 percent) for 604 yards with five touchdown passes and two interceptions in the two games.
"We understand there is a lot of work to be done," Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm said. "Losing is not fun and it shouldn't be fun. I think all of our coaches know that we have to do our part. Our players have to get back to work and try to correct some of the mistakes made in the past game."
--Field Level Media