Nebraska Preview

Nebraska Vitals
6-2 overall, 3-1 Big Ten
Head coach: Bo Pelini
     Career: 55-22 (6th year)
     at UN: 55-22 (6th year)
Offense: Multiple
     Rush: Ameer Abdullah (157-1,108 yards, 6 TDs)
     Pass: Tommy Armstrong (41-75, 520 yards, 4 TDs)
     Rec.: Quincy Enunwa (34-467 yards, 8 TDs)
Defense: Multiple
     Tackles: David Santos (55 tackles) and Corey Cooper (55 tackles)
     Sacks: Randy Gregory (3.5-34 yards) and Avery Moss (3.5-21 yards)
     Int.: Stanley Jean-Baptiste (4-134 yards, 1 TD)

Last time Nebraska was here...this guy.

When Michigan has the ball
There's not much Michigan can do to get back on the horse other than come out and try to forget the minus 48-yard rushing performance they put up against Sparty last weekend. Its been widely reported that both Derrick Green and DeVeon Smith will get some carries this week, and I think that's probably a good idea. I like Fitz and his comeback story has been nice to watch, but I don't think he's got it this season. He lacks any sort of tackle-breaking ability and he's not running with much confidence. That may not be entirely all his fault, but it's whats happening.

Personally, I like the OL lineup of Lewan-Bosch-Glasgow-Magnuson-Schofield. I think the interior guys are way inexperienced, but there's only one way to remedy that right now and that's what Funk/Borges/Hoke are doing.

Really the crux of this game, offensively, will be how Devin Gardner rebounds from a frustrating performance last week. Michigan essentially, is no longer in the B1G conversation, so it's all about pride and playing for the future of the program. The good news is, Michigan won't face a defense even close to resembling Michigan State's the rest of the way.

Nebraska has typically been an above-average defensive team, but 2013 has been a struggle. In their 6 wins against relatively cupcake competition, the Huskers give up an average of 377 yards defensively. In two losses to UCLA and Minnesota, they gave up 504 and 430 respectively. In their season opening 37-34 win against Wyoming, Nebraska allowed 602 yards. That's a far cry from the blackshirts that made Nebraska's defense famous. Statistically, their right on par with Penn State if that helps you draw any conclusions.

The book on Michigan has been pretty clear this season. Blitz Gardner and make him do something dumb...and stack the box and force Fitz to run into his own OL. This keeps the NEB corners on relative islands, which could be flirting with danger with guys like Gallon and Funchess floating around.

Nebraska is 85th nationally defending the run, and their line got consistently pushed off the ball by Northwestern. The DEs weren't disciplined in containing the edge and the DTs couldn't get push. What this means for Michigan is a matter of considerable debate; if Borges decides it's time to go full spread-to-run, I think the Wolverines will have success getting Gardner and Toussaint to the edge. At the very least, this won't be a State-like massacre up front.
The linebackers are mess. This will be covered in more detail later—redshirt freshman MIKE Michael Rose made his first start against Northwestern and didn't fare well, getting out of his lane with regularity and eating blocks due to a lack of aggressiveness. The outside linebackers didn't catch my attention much as Nebraska spent much of the game in nickel; it's safe to say they were culpable on a few of the lost contains. Northwestern RB Trayvon Green rushed for 149 yards and three TDs on just 19 carries, almost all of which went to the edge. Naturally, Green got dinged up early in the fourth quarter, because Northwestern can't have nice things.
When Nebraska has the ball
Lost in the cloud of agony last week was the defense's rather impressive performance in a tough game. They kept the game within reach until the bitter end when it was clear Michigan's offense was not going to happen, in which case the defense just couldn't prop them up any longer. A valiant effort.

Nebraska is a mess on offense thanks to multiple injuries. This unit is beat up.

Like Abdullah, who didn't practice much last week while nursing a sore ankle. He says he's fine this week, though, as Nebraska (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) prepares for a road game against Michigan. (Nebraska's three Big Ten victories thus far are over teams with a combined 0-13 record in conference play).
Nebraska will play in the Big House without senior quarterback Taylor Martinez, who's out indefinitely with a variety of ailments, most notably sprained toes and a bad hip. Both starting offensive guards are out -- Spencer Long (ACL) for the season, and Jake Cotton (MCL) indefinitely -- and two starting receivers Jamal Turner (calf) and Kenny Bell (groin) are questionable. So is senior tight end Jake Long (hamstring), who's not played a conference game.
Along the offensive line, Nebraska will likely move center Cole Pensick to guard, and insert walk-on Mark Pelini, the nephew of head coach Bo Pelini, at center.
Ameer Abdullah is the team's workhorse and he's putting together a nice season. He may be one of the best RBs in the league, and sure he's played some pretty awful competition so far, but his 7.1 ypc is impressive.

With Martinez out, the Huskers have turned to a combination of redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong Jr. and Ron Kellogg III. Armstrong has been the starter mainly due to his running ability that resembles Martinez's, thus the offensive strategy remains mostly intact. Against lowly Northwestern though, NEB QBs struggled throwing 4 interceptions. Armstrong had 3, on throws where he really just misread the field/routes. He's not afraid to thread the needle though, which results in a lot of high risk/reward throws. You might be reminded of Denard when you see Armstrong throw tomorrow.

Brady Hoke and Michigan win big games at home. I can't explain it, its just what they do.

It's crazy to me that 3 B1G teams don't have a single conference win. It's even crazier that those 3 teams are Nebraska's 3 B1G wins so far this year. Their one conf loss was to the upstart Gophers who Michigan beat 42-13 way back on October 5th. I don't know if that means anything, but it means something, probably.

I think Michigan can make turnovers go in their favor this week in a big way. Between Nebraska's two QBs, there's some opportunities there to make turnovers happen. Michigan was able to secure the ball pretty well against Michigan State, which surprised this blogger quite a bit. It would seem Michigan has stemmed the tide on turnovers. In October/November, Michigan is a surprising +3 in turnover ratio after an awful -5 in the month of September. Nebraska however, is -5 in October/November after going +4 in September.

Take care of the football. Stop Abdullah. Those two things will go a long way in securing a victory for Michigan tomorrow. A win doesn't really do anything for Michigan's slim-to-none B1G championship hopes, but it will go a long way in getting this final stretch of 4 games off to a great start. Northwestern and Iowa are beatable if Michigan shows up with a little confidence and swagger. Then, on November 30th...who knows???

Tweet obnoxiously if...
• Turnovers by Nebraska become points for Michigan.
• The Gardner/Gallon fest continues where it left off the last time Michigan played at home.
• Michigan is running the ball, whoever is carrying it.
• This is finally the game Norfleet breaks one loose.

Commence panic if...
• Turnovers go against Michigan in a big way.
• The 2-headed monster of Armstrong/Kellogg becomes a real 2-headed monster.
• Abdullah gets his typical 20-25 carries and flirts with that 7.1 average.
• Green gets carries and goes down on first contact, often in the backfield.

Michigan 31 Nebraska 21

Related content:
• Recruitaholics: Ooooo Kill Em'
• Big Ten Preview: Week 11
• When The Fall Is All There Is, It Matters
• Big Ten Power Rankings and Bowl Projections - Week 11

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