Wolverine Wednesday: Nebraska Week

Michigan Wolverines 6-2 (2-2 Big Ten) vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers 6-2 (3-1 Big Ten)

 

Michigan Last Week: Michigan stumbled for the second time against 22nd ranked Michigan State. The loss was not a pretty one for the maize and blue. Michigan rushed for a school record low -48 yards in the 29-6 thumping. The game began as a defensive struggle; however Michigan State’s offense started clicking in the second half, scoring 16 unanswered points. The loss was demoralizing for the Wolverines after they vowed to not repeat the 2011 loss in East Lansing.

Nebraska Last Week: The Cornhuskers kept their Big Ten title chances alive with a 27-24 win over the Northwestern Wildcats. It appeared as if the Wildcats were sitting on their first Big Ten win of the season, until Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. tossed up a last second 49-yard Hail Mary. Armstrong Jr. was filling in for the injured Taylor Martinez.

 

Michigan Team Leaders:

Passing- Devin Gardner 121/202, 1989 yards, 13 touchdowns

Rushing- Fitzgerald Toussaint 163 carries, 595 yards, 3.7 average, 11 touchdowns

Receiving- Jeremy Gallon 50 receptions, 898 yards, 18 average, 7 touchdowns

 

Nebraska Team Leaders:

Passing- Taylor Martinez 69/110, 667 yards, 10 touchdowns

Rushing- Ammer Abdullah 157 carries, 1108 yards, 7.1 yards, 6 touchdowns

Receiving- Quincy Enunwa 34 receptions, 467 yards, 13.7 average, 8 touchdowns

 

Michigan National Rankings:

Passing Yards-44th 256.8 yards-per-game

Rushing Yards- 79th 154.9 yards-per-game

Points For-24th 37.9 points-per-game

Points Against- 68th points-per-game

 

Nebraska National Rankings:

Passing yards- 89th 206.0 yards-per-game

Rushing yards- 13th 261.6 yards-per-game

Points for- 22nd 38.3 points-per-game

Points against- 46th 24.0 points-per-game

 

The Matchup:

Michigan is obviously coming off a huge loss to Michigan State. The Wolverines’ Big Ten title chances are no longer in their hands. Also, the infamous Paul Bunyan Trophy is now in East Lansing. Michigan exited East Lansing to “little sister” chants raining down on them. The question now is: how will they react?

The season can easily be lost for the Wolverines this week against Nebraska. Michigan is searching for a Big Ten win that they can hang their hat on. Their two Big Ten wins, Minnesota and Indiana, are none too flattering for bowl bids. However, if Michigan can run the table against Nebraska, Northwestern, Iowa and, most importantly, Ohio State, then the season can most definitely be salvaged.

It all starts next week in the Big House. For the first time in a long time, Offensive Coordinator Al Borges is in the hot seat. Michigan’s -48 yards of rushing last week does not bode well for him. He needs to make some schematic changes in order to start Michigan’s offense. It starts up front with the offensive line. Spartan defenders got to the backfield with ease last week. However, the Cornhuskers have an inexperienced and less talented defense than Michigan State. Nebraska is currently ranked 98th in the nation in pass defense, so look for the Wolverines to exploit them through the air. Wide receivers Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess need to be incorporated more than they were last week. One thing is important to note: quarterback Devin Gardner cannot be blamed for the lack of success on offense. It is hard for any quarterback to get going with defenders in his face on every snap and when the running game is nonexistent.  If Borges can’t find a way to get the offense going, this may be his last season at Michigan.

Defensively, Michigan is fortunate not to be facing dual-threat quarterback Taylor Martinez. The senior quarterback is not likely to play Saturday, according to Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini. That leaves freshman Tommy Armstrong Jr to make his fifth start of the season at quarterback.

During Martinez’s absence, Nebraska has based most of their offense around running back Ammer Abdullah. The junior has already recorded his second straight 1,000 yard season. He is a small running back, only 5’9’ 190 pounds, but he makes up for his size with explosive cuts and desire. Abdullah always keep his feet moving, so Michigan needs to wrap up and make sound tackles. The Wolverines are typically stout on run defense, but Abdullah will provide them with their biggest challenge to date.

If Michigan can stop the run and improve on offense, then it should be a good day in the Big House for the Maize and Blue.

 

Matt Moore contributes writings about the NFL Draft and Michigan Football for ProFootballCentral. Follow Matt on Twitter @Matt23Moore