Game Time: 3:30 PM EST | Cornhuskers vs Wolverines coverage
Television: ABC Regional
Opponent Blog: Corn Nation
Series History: Eighth meeting; Michigan leads 4-3-1
Vegas Says: Michigan -6.5
Weather Forecast: Cloudy and low fifties, and falling.
Let us console one another in our time of despair. Michigan did pretty much everything wrong on Saturday. They rushed for negative yards, failed to score a touchdown, and gave up about 47 sacks. The defense performed admirably, and even got an interception, but failed to stop MSU drives on big third downs that led to points. Poor Devin Gardner likely spent his Sunday comatose in an ice bath. The coaching staff likely spent their Sundays hiding in their houses.
Did anything go right? Matt Wile kicked a 49-yard field goal, so that was good. Dennis Norfleet had a good kick return in the second half. That's where the good news ends. Gardner looked shakier than ever behind his offensive line, and Fitzgerald Toussaint is unable to block anyone running at him. The play-calling never got consistent, but how could it when Michigan's average starting field position was behind their 20-yard line or was playing second or third down fifteen yards behind where the drive began. You find me an offensive mind capable of overcoming those conditions and I give you permission to start up the Fire Borges train with some legitimacy.
The irksome thing presently, is the lack of trust in things Michigan does do well, which is throwing the ball and spreading the field so that terror defenses like MSU's don't have time to collapse on whoever has the ball. Without an upperclassmen-heavy offensive line, Garder is doomed to fail at his position, and without a threat at running back, Michigan has morphed into something worse than the Lloydball we all despise. A team that does not disguise what they're going to do and is incapable of adjusting to what opposing defenses have already guessed (correctly) what is about to happen is not going to meet expectations.
And so enters Nebraska, who is like Michigan in a lot of ways. Experienced at the offensive positions, with a semi-young defense and little to no wiggle room to deviate from a game plan that prepared opponents shut down with ease. Taylor Martinez didn't play against Northwestern, and it took a hail mary pass from a backup quarterback to beat Northwestern. They are decimated on offense with injuries, and Michigan has demonstrated bye weeks do them no good in preparation, so Greg Mattison's defense has their best opportunity to dominate a conference opponent. If Martinez returns from injury (many reports say no way), it becomes more complicated. He is not the biggest passing threat, but he beats defenses deep, and Michigan's safeties and corners have shown they get beat on longer routes.
Michigan and Nebraska have not played each other much. There isn't any longstanding dislike among the program or fans, but Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah gave Michigan's ailing players bulletin board material already by saying he hopes he can come up here and shut them up. Abdullah is going to have to do most if not all the work in order to beat Michigan, and don't think for a moment he isn't capable. Thanks to the win against Northwestern, Abdullah leapfrogged Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon as the Big Ten's leading rusher.
Bo Pelini and Brady Hoke at least share a commonality with having to appease largely unforgiving fan bases while trying to rebuild a program. Michigan is still figuring itself out, and unfortunately for those players, they're going to have to grow up right quick and beat Nebraska, or it is going to get really unpleasant for Hoke.