Last week, none of us were correct with our score prediction, but Justin finally picked up his first win of the season. And what a week to get it. He was 12 high on Michigan’s score but just three high on Michigan State’s. Sam correctly predicted that Michigan State would score 10, but he was way too confident in Michigan’s offense. This week, Michigan takes to the road for its first trip to Lincoln, Neb. in 101 years. It’s a nationally televised night game in a tough place to win, so it should be fun to watch. At least the World Series won’t interfere…oh, wait.
|M&GB PREDICTION SUMMARY
Justin: Michigan 42 – Nebraska 24
Chris: Michigan 28 - Nebraska 25
Josh: Michigan 31 – Nebraska 13
Sam: Michigan 34 – Nebraska 18
Katie: Michigan 31 – Nebraska 20
Matt: Michigan 52 – Nebraska 42
Average: Michigan 36 – Nebraska 24
Justin (1): Like Chris below, I pegged the trip to Nebraska as a loss prior to the season starting since Michigan would be coming off an emotional win over rival Michigan State. That’s exactly what could happen, but I just don’t think Nebraska has the defense to keep Michigan out of the end zone, while Michigan’s defense is good enough to slow down Nebraska’s high-powered offense.
Both teams will look to run the ball, so whichever defense is able to slow down the other’s run game will win the game. Offenses like Nebraska’s are the types of offenses Greg Mattison’s defense thrives on (see: Nebraska and Northwestern 2011, Illinois and Purdue 2012).
It will be closer than last year’s matchup for most of the game as Nebraska will put up some points. It’s too good of an offense not to. But I don’t see the ‘Huskers scoring at the level they have been all season. I attribute a lot of the gaudy numbers to a very weak out of conference schedule.
As I said in the game preview and this morning’s Friend vs Foe feature, Al Borges will employ the same gameplan he used against Illinois and Purdue: a run heavy attack with a few passes sprinkled in to keep the defense honest. Due to Nebraska’s good secondary, expect Borges to keep the passing game simple with high-percentage pass plays to keep Denard from making the mistakes he made against Alabama and Notre Dame.
Michigan should be able to run up 200-250 rushing yards and 100-150 passing yards with either Denard or Fitz Toussaint (or both) having a big game. And I expect Devin Funchess to lead the Wolverines in receiving. Michigan will pull away late to sieze the Legends division.
Michigan 42 – Nebraska 24
Chris (1): I have been going back and forth on this game all week. As I said in my preaseason preview, when I looked at the schedule before any of the games were played and the team was still in two-a-days, I thought this would be one of Michigan’s toughest games all season. At the time, my view on this game was that Michigan would be coming off an emotional win against MSU, and to go on the road the following week and play in a hostile environment in Lincoln, was going to be a tough test. Especially against a physical team like the Cornhuskers.
Michigan's ability to slow down Martinez will likely determine the outcome (photo by Charles Rex Arbogast, AP)
Well, that’s exactly where we are at. The Wolverines came away with a stunning last second win and now have to avoid the letdown on the road against a decent, but not great, Nebraska squad. It’s a Nebraska team which has been up and down all season. In their games against tougher competition, they haven’t put together two good halves of football yet this season. One half they might come out and score in bunches and the next they give away turnovers and points (see Wisconsin on Sept. 29).
The Nebraska offense can score behind the athletic Taylor Martinez at quarterback. Running back is an unknown for this game, as the starter Rex Burkhead re-injured his knee and may be out. But the offense doesn’t lose anything with backup Ameer Abdullah (5.9 ypc, 7 TD) filling in. They can also score a lot, as they are averaging just over 41 ppg and are the sixth-best rushing offense in the nation. Along with that, Martinez is having one of his most efficient years passing with 15 TD, 4 INT, 162.8 rating.
Statistically, the Michigan pass defense is one of the best in the nation. That may not be the case after last week when MSU found some holes in the coverage, however Michigan has been able to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks and cause a few turnovers. If they can do that again this week, and keep a ‘Spy’ on Martinez so he can’t run away from the rush, then he will throw bad passes like he did at Ohio State.
Aside from the offense turning the ball over frequently, the Nebraska defense has not been very good. They are the 71st-ranked scoring defense as they are giving up almost four touchdowns per game. I think this bodes well for the Michigan offense, especially after facing an MSU defense which was much better than what they will see on Saturday.
I have been convinced that Michigan was going to lose this game since day one. But after seeing Nebraska play a few times this year, and even though they are playing at home at night, I am changing my mind. I think Michigan wins the game behind a well-balanced attack on offense and by creating some turnovers on defense. The key will be to avoid thinking about last week’s win and not getting rattled by the Nebraska crowd early and having quality offensive possessions. They don’t need to score every time they have the ball early, but they need to show that they can move the ball. Defensively, the key is Martinez. If they can confuse him with pressure and different looks in coverage, then Michigan will be alright. Michigan wins a close one.
Michigan 28 – Nebraska 25
Josh (2): As mentioned in the game preview, this is a must win game for both teams. While Nebraska fans are hospitable and not complete jerks like some of our other foes’ fans, Lincoln will not be a friendly place to play come Saturday evening. Al Borges has pared down the play book and has taken a conservative approach that has worked quite well recently. Denard is not being asked to do things he cannot do and while Fitz hasn’t been the Fitz of 2011, he is still a threat that cannot be overlooked by opposing defenses.
Jake Ryan and the Michigan defense has a tall task at hand to slow down the Big Ten's top scoring offense (photo by Gregory Shamus, Getty Images)
Taylor Martinez has been a hot or cold player his whole career, he can go off for 340 yards passing with 4 TDs or he can throw 4 picks. I’m just not sold on him as a leader or a solid quarterback. Denard may not be a good passer but he is a great leader and no one can deny what he can do with his feet.
For me, this game’s key is Michigan’s defense. No one is talking about them, and I have no idea why. They are No. 10 in total yards allowed per game and No. 3 in passing yards allowed per game; since the Air Force game they’ve only given up an average of 10 points per game with no one scoring more than 13. Those are damn good numbers, but the beat down at the hands of Alabama has given the media the perception that this team is no good. Regardless, this Michigan defense is good and they do what needs to be done.
Nebraska has been running the ball very well this season and Rex Burkhead is the leader of that rushing attack. Burkhead is a beast but it looks like he won’t be available this weekend. With their top back most likely out the 6th ranked rush offense in the country will be lacking significant firepower. With more of the load to be shouldered by Taylor Martinez I think the pressure gets to him and he doesn’t produce like Husker nation hopes.
Wisconsin is Nebraska’s only win of note and their out of conference schedule was weak at best. They were destroyed by Ohio State lost to a decent UCLA team on the road and had to come from behind against Northwestern last week. Great academic school, not so great at football. Not to take anything away from what Pat Fitzgerald is doing in Evanston, but the Wildcats are not exactly a top tier team. Michigan has been tested by two top five teams (ND may be overrated but they still have a solid defense) and has dominated its conference schedule thus far.
Nebraska is a two point favorite, home field after all, and the over/under is a whopping 57.5 points. Odds makers obviously think this is going to be a shootout. I, however, do not. Nebraska gives up only three points less than Michigan scores, so it should be no problem for Michigan to put up some points on the Huskers. Michigan, as we all know, has not given up a lot of points to anyone other than Alabama (yes, AF scored 26 but they’re a wonky offense and that can be overlooked). I expect Greg Mattison’s defense to keep Martinez in check as they did last year and the offense should provide a heavy dose of Denard, Fitz and hopefully Thomas Rawls.
Brady Hoke said last year was not a success because they did not win a Big Ten title. They have made that their one goal and Hoke has said every week is championship week. They’ve been playing lights out since conference play started and I expect nothing less from our boys in Maize and Blue on Saturday night. They win and all but secure their spot in Indianapolis.
Michigan 31 – Nebraska 13
Matt (2): I remember being so nervous when we played Nebraska last year. The outcome ended up being a great one (if you are a Michigan fan anyway). Will we see the Wolverines beat the Cornhuskers again, in Nebraska this time? It’s definitely possible.
Michigan has been playing well. Their offense hasn’t looked bad, and their defense. Oh their defense! It’s incredible how much better our defense has gotten in the past couple of years. Honestly, I think I’m more impressed by our defense than our offense. Nuts to think how the last rushing touchdown we have given up was against Notre Dame.
Taylor Martinez is going to be looking to lead the Cornhuskers to their jest victory of the Wolverines since joining the Big Ten. And he will have Ameer Abdullah in the backfield. Ameer is a good running back, that has crushed why Fitz Toussaint has rushed for this year, but is also about 300 yards shy of Denard’s rushing yards this season.
I think the biggest story of this game is going to be either Taylor Martinez versus Denard Robinson, or Taylor Martinez vs the Michigan defense. If we can keep pressure, cause mistakes, and force some turnovers, we can make a repeat of last year’s game. Although I don’t see it being that much a dominant performance. Although stranger things have happened.
Nebraska’s offense isn’t something to squawk at. They are ranked higher in rushing and passing than Michigan. But the big difference is defense. Michigan is ranked higher on defense, and seems to have the better defense obviously.
That’s going to be the key Saturday. I see this one being high scoring. I see big plays from both teams, and I see a combined score of near 100 points. Michigan pulls it out, in a hard fought battle.
Wolverines by 10. If this is a low scoring game, I’m done for the year!
Michigan 52 – Nebraska 42
Sam (1): Now seven games into the regular season, and three into Big Ten season, teams are starting to show their identities. Michigan is a team that relies on another stout defense under Greg Mattison and an offense led by the legs of Denard Robinson. The Wolverines still haven’t given up more than 13 points in five straight games, an impressive number in college these days, and while the offense struggled last week in a 12-10 barn-burner win over Michigan State, it has thrived throughout the season, averaging a solid 30.7 points per game. Robinson continues to make the offense click, running for 128.6 yards per game on his own and throwing for 180.6 more per outing with 15 total touchdowns.
Kenny Bell is Nebraska's playmaking receiver (photo by Rebecca S. Gratz, The World-Herald)
Nebraska is not much different, running for a whopping 279 yards per game, good for sixth in the country. Sensational dual-threat quarterback Taylor Martinez is third on the team with 403 yards running on the season and his passing numbers have been unexpectedly brilliant after a rough 2011, throwing for 230.7 yards per game and 15 touchdowns to only four interceptions. Returning starting running back Rex Burkhead has 405 yards of his own on 8.6 yards per carry, but he is doubtful to play this weekend with a leg injury. Enter speedy sophomore Ameer Abdullah, however, and the Cornhuskers have had little problem replacing Burkhead’s success. Abdullah actually leads the team in rushing with 615 yards and seven touchdowns to go along with 15 catches for 129 more yards.
The Huskers sit at 5-2 overall and 2-1 in Big Ten play after a fourth quarter comeback last week over middling Northwestern to return to Huskerland with a 29-28 win. And while any win is a welcome takeaway for any team, Bo Pelini has to be concerned with the play of his defense lately, having given up a whopping 39.3 points per game over the last three contests, including 63 to Ohio State in a beatdown in Columbus.
Nebraska’s pass defense has been great, ranking 10th overall in passing yards allowed, but the run defense has hemorrhaged yards at a clip that leaves them ranked 90th in the country in that category. Unfortunately for Nebraska, running the ball is exactly what Michigan does well.
Last year’s matchup between these two teams in Ann Arbor saw the Wolverines romp the Huskers in a 45-17 victory that featured 238 yards and four touchdowns on the ground for Michigan, including 138 and 83 for Fitzgerald Toussaint and Robinson, respectively. Toussaint has obviously struggled in the early going and is still looking for a breakout game. Again, I think this could be it.
Martinez’s much improved accuracy needs to be on display this Saturday if Nebraska is to cover the 2.5 points they are giving up to Michigan in the spread, or to simply win the game in general. In last year’s blowout, Martinez managed only 122 yards through the air on a rancid 9-of-23 attempts and just 49 rushing yards on 16 carries. Burkhead didn’t fare any better, averaging only 3.6 yards per carry on 10 rushes.
Michigan’s secondary is a little banged up, and Mattison is certainly praying that Raymon Taylor will be 100% after coming out of last week’s game. The Cornhuskers boast an array of receiving threats, led by Kenny Bell and his 26 catches for 540 yards (good for an eye-opening 20.8 ypc) and five scores. Michigan should be able to contain the running game as Jake Ryan continues his domination of opposing offenses, but if Martinez starts to find receivers down field, it could be a long night.
Luckily for the Wolverines, Greg Mattison’s bend-don’t-break philosophy has been a great success in his two seasons leading the defense. Bell might have a couple catches for 20-plus, but I would be surprised if he went for more than 75 yards. Abdullah will create some trouble with his speed, but I expect Michigan’s front seven to show up and have a big night again.
Finally, you heard it here first – Fitz Toussaint will eclipse the 100-yard mark in a game for the first time all season, going for 125 and a pair of touchdowns. Robinson will be his usual self and run for 100-plus and throw for two touchdowns and the defense will hold the Huskers to under 20 again in a 34-18 win.
Michigan 34 – Nebraska 18
Katie: Michigan and Nebraska head into the weekend with the same record, although the Maize and Blue are sitting a bit more comfortably because of their undefeated conference play. The Huskers on the other hand are tied for second place in the Legends division with Iowa. Both teams have one loss, and Iowa is facing the Northwestern Wildcats that gave Nebraska so much trouble last week. So with the Hawkeyes potentially falling to a 2-2 record, the Cornhusker fans know how big a win at home is for their team. If all goes well for Nebraska they will end the week tied for first, of course, not if Michigan can help it.
Denard hopes run all over Nebraska like Braxton Miller did (photo by Jamie Sabau, Getty Images)
The Wolverines just came off of a close call to their instate rivals. Their touted offense put up only 12 points. Thankfully though, the Spartans posed the biggest defensive threat that Michigan will face in the second half of the season. That is until they visit that team down south who should never be underestimated, especially not when they have home field advantage. As for Nebraska, the combined records for the teams they have beaten is an unimpressive, 18- 20, the number being saved only by Wisconsin and Northwestern, who the Huskers beat by 3 and 1 respectively. So when it comes down to numbers the total offense tallies heading into the game this Saturday are pretty even. Red Zone scoring is within one percentage point, but then again Nebraska lost to the only ranked team they have played thus far, and while Michigan has the same track record to opponents ranked in the top twelve the Buckeyes are a far cry from Alabama and are edged out by Notre Dame. Not to mention the fact that Ohio State has been on the ropes two weeks in a row to low caliber teams. That being said Michigan’s record is more impressive at 5-2 than is Nebraska’s and they should prove it with a win this weekend.
However, the Huskers have an impressive run game with a senior back Rex Burkehead coming in at just under 400 yards, and a sophomore leading the way with 514. That’s without the starting quarterback Taylor Martinez’s 459 rushing yards. So the ground game is pretty solid, and Martinez’s pass percentage is respectable. If there’s a potential downside it’s in the passing game. He’s got a favorite. Kenny Bell has about 300 yards more than anyone else in the receiving core. If Michigan can shut him down it will probably bode well for them to stick tough and remain perfect in Big Ten play.
On the other side of the ball Michigan has seen steady improvement since their first game. And while Will Compton is a force for Nebraska with 53 tackles, Michigan’s own Jake Ryan is only one short of the statistic. Our boys in the winged helmets have also amassed thirty more take down’s than their next opponents, and while playing a tougher schedule. Needless to say I’ve yet again picked the Wolverines to bring home the victory.
Michigan 31 – Nebraska 20