Every Nebraska fan saw this stretch on the schedule for the Huskers in October. Lead off with Ohio State on the road, bye week, head to Northwestern, and then wrap up the month with Michigan at home.
Nebraska gets a chance to even the score with Michigan who took care of Nebraska 45-17 in the Big House last year. Nebraska brings one of the best offenses in the nation into the game, while Michigan brings one of the best defenses in the nation and one of the most dangerous players in the nation on offense in Denard Robinson.
Nebraska is in a must-win situation against Michigan to stay alive in the Big Ten Championship Game picture. These are my keys to the game for Nebraska against Michigan:
1. Protect the ball - Nebraska is 110th in the nation in turnover margin. That = not good. Nebraska has been better at home this season so they have that going for them on Saturday night against Michigan. However, it’s also been big games for Nebraska where they have typically been the worst at turning the ball over. Nebraska cannot afford to give the ball to Michigan and give Denard Robinson the ball and a chance to score off of a Nebraska turnover.
2. Consistent offensive line play - Nebraska’s offensive line has been better, but when it comes to what the limitations are on the offense the offensive line is at the top of the list. Nebraska seems to do OK when it comes to pass pro, but overloading pressure to one side seems to confuse the protection. I would look for some very quick patterns against Michigan away from the middle of the football field allowing for Nebraska’s skill positions on the edge to get one-on-one matchups.
3. Stay out of second or third and long - This is going easier said than done for Nebraska. There seems to be a run in every game when Nebraska’s offense just gets out of sync. What’s worse than Nebraska’s offense getting out of sync is that the opposing defense can brilliantly scheme for Nebraska’s offense by loading the box on the early downs and then bring pressure on second or third and long. Typically, this is where Taylor Martinez struggles the most when he doesn’t have time to go through the progressions of the routes.
Nebraska is rated 12th in total offense. Michigan is 10th in total defense. The difference in the game will be turnovers. Who can end the night with a positive number and who ends with a negative number. After turnovers the penalties come into the picture. Michigan is better in that area, but not by a huge margin.
The one thing that I haven’t mentioned, which I give the most credence to on Saturday night, is the fact that the game is in Lincoln and that the game is at night. Historically, Nebraska has done very well under the lights of Memorial Stadium under head coach Bo Pelini.
It’s one of those games, like Northwestern and Wisconsin before, that you can see a team needing to make a run and going on a run in the second half. This game literally could come down to who has the ball last. I give the edge to Nebraska on Saturday night in a back and forth game, 37-31.