It’s the calm before the storm for the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines, as they are set to take on Nebraska today before matchups with No. 21 Illinois and No. 2 Ohio State.
Michigan can’t fall into a trap game with more important matchups on the horizon. That being said, the Wolverines are heavily favored and the 3-6 Nebraska Cornhuskers, who relieved former Nebraska quarterback Scott Frost of his head coaching duties mid-season, aren’t exactly what many would consider a good football team.
Here are some keys to victory for the game.
Dominate the line of scrimmage
As our Dan Plocher covered earlier this week, Anthony Grant has quietly been one of the best running backs in the Big Ten, as he’s top-five in the conference in rushing yards (858) and attempts (177).
With the usual starting quarterback, Texas transfer Casey Thompson, out for this game, I’d imagine Nebraska will rely on Carter heavily.
To stop Carter from going off, the Wolverines need to dominate the line of scrimmage and not allow the Cornhusker offensive line to get an initial push, giving linebackers the chance to plug up holes and force a lot of third-and-longs.
Force turnovers and keep a positive turnover margin
The easiest way for a college football team to pull off an upset is to capitalize off turnovers, so Michigan needs to take care of the football in this one.
Michigan has had a relatively solid turnover margin this season. The Wolverines have collected 11 turnovers and have only given the ball up five times. That margin of +6 is tied for 26th in the country, which is much better than Nebraska’s mark of -7 (tied for 114th in the country.)
If Michigan can force a few Nebraska turnovers, this game could be over before halftime.
Run the damn ball
I feel like I’m starting to sound like a broken record at this point, but Michigan’s biggest strength is the running game, led by Heisman candidate Blake Corum and a re-tooled offensive line that hasn’t really missed a beat from their excellent 2021 season.
As I touched on last week, part of the reason why the Wolverines have been so dominant is they dominate time of possession, not allowing opponents much time to come back after successful, methodical drives.
Nebraska isn’t exactly great at stopping the run either; the Cornhuskers give up an average of 182.9 rushing yards per game, a mark that’s 107th in the country. There are only 24 teams in college football with a worse average than that.
It sounds like Nebraska is going to try to slow the game down as well.
The #Huskers have a pretty simple plan with Casey Thompson sidelined vs. Michigan:— Kevin Sjuts (@kevinsjuts) November 10, 2022
"The #1 thing we gotta do, we gotta be able to hand the ball off. Hand the ball off. Slow it down. That's what we gotta do." pic.twitter.com/ToVMQrF8NN
To paraphrase my favorite dodgeball color commentator, this seems like a bold strategy, Cotton. I can’t imagine it pays off for them.