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What We Need to See: Michigan vs Nebraska

Michigan gets another Big Ten test a week after taking a beating in East Lansing. What do we need to see from the team to restore the slightest bit of hope?

Taylor Lewan needs to follow Devin Gardner's lead
Taylor Lewan needs to follow Devin Gardner's lead
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Play with confidence and composure

Confidence is a team-wide issue; composure is an issue with Taylor Lewan, and only Taylor Lewan. The senior tackle needs to start playing and acting like the team leader he's supposed to be by shying away from childish shoving matches and yelling contests. He's capable of being a shutdown offensive tackle who lets his play do the talking, and that's exactly what Michigan needs out of him tomorrow.

The confidence issue is a totally different monster on its own. Michigan has looked lethargic for the better part of this season, making mistakes and showing everyone in the country that it's aware of its mistakes. The best teams in the country make mistakes, but they turn around and improve upon them. It's up to Brady Hoke, Al Borges, Greg Mattison, Devin Gardner, Jake Ryan and every other possible leader to make sure that the Wolverines aren't slumping after its inevitable mistakes, because lethargic football teams are losing football teams.

Baby steps up front

This is the most we can possibly ask from a terribly young, inexperienced interior group on Michigan's offensive line. Erik Magnuson, Kyle Bosch, Kyle Kalis and the rest of Michigan's interior players must take the first section to heart–mistakes will be make, but that doesn't mean they can't improve because of their failures. Michigan's slide protections, blitz pickups and technique have all been questionable on the inside for quite some time now; even the slightest improvement in any of those categories will be good reason for hope down the line.

Put the pressure on Tommy Armstrong Jr. and Ron Kellog III

I heard the announcers of last night's Oregon-Stanford game use the phrase, "Drag them out to deep water" when talking about putting the pressure on an offense through consistent defense. Michigan has to–and should definitely be able to–drag Nebraska's young, turnover-prone quarterbacks out to deep water.

How? First of all, utilize Michigan's three best pure pass rushers: Frank Clark, Brennan Beyer and Jake Ryan all need to show some burst if the defense wants to squeeze the life out of Nebraska's offense. Second, don't allow Ameer Abdullah any room to breathe. The star Husker is the lifeblood of the Nebraska offense; his young passers are chained to him and therefore move further from shore with him. Finally, play aggressively in the secondary, where opportunities to make plays will be plentiful.

Win the turnover battle in convincing fashion

This is where Michigan lives and dies. Devin Gardner showed short flashes of ball security against Michigan State, eating the ball and losing yards all over the field in return for the chance to punt, and he needs to continue it against Nebraska. The turnover battle begins and ends with Devin Gardner, who will have the ball in his hands on every snap.

Defensively, make life easy for Gardner and Al Borges by giving them plenty of opportunities to score. A turnover margin of +2 is just what the doctor–and the entire Michigan fan base–ordered. A loss in the turnover column would only give this team's skeptics further ammunition.


In my opinion, this game is a must-win for so many reasons outside of the Big Ten race. Ann Arbor has been under a depressing smog cloud ever since Michigan almost dropped two easy wins against Akron and Connecticut; the need for an impressive victory is obviously there.

Then there's the issue of Al Borges and Brady Hoke. Borges is legitimately on the hot seat and is in desperate need of a great offensive performance, and Hoke needs a strong overall team performance to maintain his near-sterling image (Hoke is not on the hot seat; anyone claiming he is needs to take a cold shower and think on life). This Saturday could be the turning point that we all remember somewhere down the line, or it could add to the damage on a program that is already moving too slowly toward its goals.