Nebraska Preview

Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, NE
October 27, 2012, 8:00 PM EDT

TV: ESPN2 (Mark Jones, Brock Huard, Jessica Mendoza)
Radio: WWJ-950 AM, WTKA-1050 AM, SiriusXM 113/200 (Frank Beckmann, Jim Brandstatter, Doug Karsch)
Line: UM +2.5
O/U: 57.5
Series Record: UM leads 4-2-1
Last Meeting: Nov 19, 2011: MICH 45 - NEB 17
UM Record/Rank: 5-2 (3-0), #20/20/20
NEB Record/Rank: 5-2 (2-1), unranked
Gametime Forecast: Mid 40s, partly cloudy.

Stats. In case you missed it, my Michigan-Nebraska stat chart.

Via Midnight Maize.

It should be known that any Michigan/Lebowski reference will get top billing on this site.

Relevant links from sites we trust
MZone's always reliable Know Your Foe. Not really a preview, but here's a Nebraska cheerleader via TTB. Kyle Meinke's 5 Keys to victory.

Other Previews
Maize & Brew, Big House Blog, BWS, Nebraska blog Corn Nation previews Michigan.

What say you?
Express your thoughts here on our Nebraska prediction thread!


When Michigan has the ball
As we saw in yesterday's stat chart, Michigan doesn't stack up well against Nebraska's formidable pass defense. So as usual, its going to be up to the ground game to shoulder the load tomorrow. That probably means a heavy mix of Denard, Fitz, Smith, and hopefully Rawls, who didn't see any carries against State last week.

Of course you can't abandon the pass entirely. Short, manageable passes will be the key. No question. Michigan went 5 of 15 on third downs last week thanks in large part to how much Michigan State shut down the run and forced us to throw. I don't think Nebraska's defense is even on the same page as Michigan State's in terms of run stopping ability. And frankly, no defense is going to play Michigan any tougher than what Michigan State did last week.

It's going to be really intriguing to see how the offensive line plays tomorrow. I thought they did about as good as can be expected last weekend, mostly until we hit the redzone, and then Michigan State's defensive front was able to really get penetration and pressure. Nebraska has a good defense, and they will try and stuff the run as much as Michigan State did.

Denard is the key to everything. He must do a better job on the read-options than he did a week ago. Way too many times he handed the ball to Fitz when he should have just kept it. That needs to be addressed. If he can keep the ball more and do more with his feet, that might be enough to break this game open like last year.

As far as injuries go, I think we're a little banged up, but hopefully no big absences. Taylor Lewan should be fine, but he looked completely spent after last week. After the game he was limping off the field, but while in the game, lined up opposite against Gholston most of the time, he looked fine.

I think the recipe for success this week is exactly the same as it was against Michigan State: Run to win. Control the ground game, use that to open up the pass, and mix them to perfection. Sounds easy enough, right?

When Nebraska has the ball
We're hearing that RB Rex Burkhead is doubtful for this game. In his place will be Ameer Abdullah, who so far has 615 yards and 7 touchdowns for Nebraska. He's a decent runner who can get big yards in a hurry.

Of course any mention of Nebraska immediately evokes mental images of QB Taylor Martinez. It feels like he's been there forever. Last year, Michigan essentially shut Martinez down, going 9 for 23 for 122 yards and a TD, and only rushing 16 times for 49 yards. Ryan Van Bergen, Will Campbell, Kenny Demens and Jake Ryan all tallied a sack in the 2011 matchup. That was a huge part of why the Michigan-Nebraska game was such a success last year. Martinez is a better passer than he was a year ago, so I expect that to be something they try to exploit as much as possible.

It's going to be very important for Michigan to shut down Nebraska early in this game. They have the statistical edge in almost every defensive category. If we can keep them under control, and most importantly take the crowd out of the game early, then it will go a long way in making this feel like the Nebraska game of 2011.

Another area where Michigan needs to regain it's edge is creating turnovers. That's been a struggle for Michigan this season. Nebraska ranks 110th nationally in turnover margin, so this game might just be what the doctor ordered for Michigan's defense. Nebraska nearly fumbled away their win last week on the road at Northwestern. Turnovers and special teams can be a huge factor when your an underdog on the road.

Word out of Fort Schembechler is that cornerback Raymon Taylor is good to go tomorrow. This is huge for Michigan, who's pass defense ranks 4th nationally. Nebraska is woefully one dimensional on offense, and with a pass defense like Michigan's, it could end up looking a lot like last week when Michigan State tried to ground and pound with LeVeon Bell who only managed 68 yards on 26 carries.

Special teams
Don't spend too much time worrying about Denard showing up on kickoff return. Like my friend Craig at HSR, I think that move was a bit of misdirection played by Brady Hoke.
It's on tape, which means Urban will see it.  Urban will now need to consider the possibility, which steals away maybe just one or two cycles of processing from Meyer's staff.  Maybe it ends up being nothing, but what if they head fake lets Dennis Norfleet break one?

Michigan beat Michigan State last week on the feet on Brendan Gibbons and Matt Wile. I think field goal duties are taken care of. Will Hagerup has had a nice season punting, sans one awful shank last week that made everyone a bit restless. And Matt Wile's kickoffs have been perfectly acceptable.

RB Ameer Abdullah returns punts for Nebraska and he's pretty good at it. WR Kenny Bell is the primary kickoff returner. I would classify Nebraska's kicking units as "average".

Make boisterous comments on Twitter if...
• Denard makes better reads on the read-option.
• Jake Ryan shows up in #Manster mode (which he will)
• Nebraska's already non-existent passing game stays non-existent.
• Michigan creates turnovers the way it did in 2011.

Cancel recording on your DVR if...
• Michigan's offense continues to play poorly in big games on the road.
• Bad Denard (both throwing and read-option miscues).
• Taylor Martinez is connecting with his receivers consistently.
• Turnovers or penalties start becoming a thing.

Michigan 20 Nebraska 13

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