Preview: Michigan vs Nebraska 2018

Nebraska: Boring and flat. Our game preview is neither of those.




Kickoff time: 12:00 EST
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor
Michigan -18, O/U 50.5
Wear Maize

When I studied aerospace engineering at Michigan, my aerodynamics professor described the boundary layer of an airflow over a theoretically infinite long plate. Turns out this plate exists, it's called Nebraska.


If you've ever had the drastic misfortune of driving through the entire state of Nebraska, you'll quickly realize why Cornhusker football is so important to the residents. Last year I took a two week road-trip that included a trek from Appleton, Wisconsin to Denver. The path of least resistance is to go through Omaha and drive the entirety of the state of Nebraska.

Via South Park
I stopped in Omaha, grabbed a hotel and checked in at about 1 a.m. to the friendliest 1 a.m. hotel clerk the world has ever seen. The next morning I began my drive. The 1st hour I walked right into Memorial Stadium and was greeted by the friendliest event staff hosting a summer camp the world has ever seen. Everyone in this state is so friendly. Like, suspiciously friendly. I grabbed some photos of the (actually quite beautiful) stadium and ventured off into the corn abyss.

The 2nd hour of the drive I saw a tree. It was quite the sight. Across the horizon I thought I could see the next tree but I couldn't tell if it was 10 miles or 80 miles away. There was an unidentifiable smell.

Literally 400 miles of this.
After about two weeks of driving I was on hour 3 and looked down at my GPS with the dismay of knowing I was only about half way through. A flat-earth society chapter was probably down a side-road. I didn't care to think much about how many nuclear missile silos I had passed.

On hour 4 I had wondered if Nebraska is actually its own dimension similar to Pacman where if you exit the left side of the map you re-enter on the right side and continue infinitely. I saw the tree again. It may have been the same one. I think. The wind in the corn abyss whispered my name. There was that smell again. This is the perfect place to get away with murder. I remembered how suspiciously friendly everyone was.

On hour 5 I passed a sign that said “Welcome to Colorado” and shed a single tear.

Anywhere I travel to that makes me say "I miss Iowa" is a bad time. Anytime I drive through an area that makes me genuinely wonder “do people live here on purpose?” I have to really wonder what it is that keeps them entertained. For Nebraska, it's Cornhusker football. There are no NFL, NHL, or NBA teams. A Google search for “entertainment in Nebraska” nets you-


Oh.

Scott Frost leads Nebraska in year zero of what will probably be a damn good football program in a couple years that the Big Ten West lacks outside of Wisconsin. But for 2018, Nebraska is 2008 Michigan. Hopefully Michigan is not 2008 Wisconsin.

Martinez will likely play for Nebraska, and even as a freshman he can be dangerous

Nebraska Offense vs Michigan Defense
The Cornhuskers offense will be with freshman QB Adrian Martinez (different QB than Taylor Martinez, I bring this up because actual people didn't realize). Martinez suffered a leg injury against Colorado with 3:29 remaining in the 4th. Before his injury, he was 15/20 for 187 yards (1 TD/1 INT) and had 117 rushing yards on 15 carries (7.8 avg, 2 TDs) against the number 50 S&P+ defense. Not bad for a freshman. In fact the entire Nebraska offense outgained Colorado 565 to 395. So what happened?

Two Nebraska fumbles on their first two offensive drives gave Colorado an early 14-0 lead. After regaining a 21-17 lead at the half, the offense stalled in the 2
nd. Against Troy, Andrew Bunch threw two picks (one on a not-so game winning drive), receiver Jack Stoll fumbled after making a catch, Scott Frost called for a bunch of runs on 3rd and long, and multiple failed red zone trips happened.

Nebraska's offensive woes are laughable, but lets not act like they're not also dangerous. Stanley Morgan Jr. had 986 receiving yards last season and has 139 yards in two games so far this year. Against Colorado, Nebraska had rushers go for 117, 104, 60, and 34 yards for a 329 yard day on 54 carries (6.1 avg). The Cornhuskers have generated the #45 S&P+ offense and one of those games was without their starting QB. However, they also haven't faced a defense as good as Michigan's yet this season. We saw Michigan struggle to contain Wimbush against Notre Dame and struggle to defend slant passes against SMU. Getting Khaleke Hudson back in the 2nd half will be important for the Wolverines.

Nebraska's offense is like The Hobbit trilogy. Somewhere in there, you can piece together a really good 2-3 hour performance. The cast and director are perfect for the system, the setting is just what we expected, large hype and expectation, and- wait, you're adding a Dwarf-Elf-Elf love triangle? You're running the dang ball up the middle against Smaug on 3rd and long? Why is Gandalf being imprisoned by Nick Saban in Dol Guldur? STOP FUMBLING THE DANG ARKENSTONE ARGHH. Nebraska fans on the loss to Troy: “Why does it hurt so much?” BECAUSE IT WAS REAL /turns off TNT
 
THIS IS A THING AGAIN
Nebraska Defense vs Michigan Offense

Let's talk about the you-know-what first. Nebraska sacked Colorado seven times, Troy three times. 2.5 of these sacks came from senior linebacker Luke Gifford and 2 from defensive lineman Khalil Davis. 5.0 sacks per game is #2 in the country, but low sample size and whatnot. They also rank 9th in tackles per loss per game (9.5). In two games, the Nebraska front seven have held rushing offenses to 44 yards (1.3 avg) against Colorado (#50 S&P+ O) and 143 yards (4.2 avg) against Troy (#78 S&P+ O). This is a beefy front seven that has the #20 rush defense in the country and can give Michigan headaches if the offensive line cannot hold. Michigan's tackles did not give up a sack against SMU, but Nebraska will be a next step in the challenge.

Nebraska did, however, give up 351 passing yards to Colorado. Steven Montez was 33/50 and had 3 TDs. The Cornhuskers have the #79 ranked passing defense, but did hold Troy to 110 passing yards, making the loss in that game even more confusing.

Colorado's longest reception was a 40-yarder, meaning most of the passing yards were short to mid-range. The Buffalo QB averaged 10.6 yards per completion. Michigan could expect a big day from the tight ends and Grant Perry, though Perry has only had 60 yards on 6 receptions so far this season. Michigan now has a QB who can hit down-field threats like DPJ, so if Michigan can get enough time from the offensive line, this could play a major factor in this game. The question will be, can the offensive line hold off the defense for that long?

Inside the giant 'The Team (x3)' banner
Best Case Scenario
The preview is written under the assumption that Martinez is playing. If he doesn't play, well LOL enjoy the slaughter. But assuming Martinez is under center:
-Nebraska continues their streak of troubles turning the ball over, especially when things seem to actually be going well for them.
-Michigan picks apart an 'ehh' Nebraska secondary for a 200 yard passing game.
-Karan Higdon beast modes his way through the Nebraska front seven for a 100 yard game.
-Martinez is not 100% (and we wish him a speedy recovery)
-Lil Red stays off the field and out of my nightmares.

Worst Case Scenario
-Martinez plays fine and goes freshman Tate Forcier vs Notre Dame
-Nebraska doesn't turn the ball over
-Nebraska's front seven sacks Patterson to end multiple crucial drives and stops the run game

WEAR MAIZE
Score Prediction
If this turns into a weird game, Nebraska has the pieces to pull off an upset. Losses to Colorado and Troy suggest a bad team, but Nebraska likes to shoot themselves in the foot a lot, and sometimes teams don't shoot themselves in the foot. Nebraska's offense has shown itself to be more effective than Michigan's except for the actually scoring the touchdown part. Michigan's pass defense, special teams, and turnover margin should be the difference maker for the Wolverines.

Also Michigan likes to play the opposite of how I've been predicting these things so there's that.

Michigan 31-20

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