Game Day: Nebraska vs. Michigan

Is No. 8 enough?

While Nebraska's offense has been shaky, reliable I-back Ameer Abdullah is the one sure thing. Will Abdullah's legs be enough to carry the Huskers — down two offensive linemen, including an All-America candidate — past a Michigan team with plenty to prove?

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2-Minute Drill by Jon Nyatawa

Nebraska rush offense vs. Michigan rush defense

Opponents have had little success running against the Wolverines, who allow just 105.1 rushing yards per game. The Huskers didn’t break many long runs in their last two games against Michigan, but they have averaged 4.6 yards per attempt. Ameer Abdullah has 1,108 rushing yards, the most through eight games by an NU I-back since 1994. Advantage: Nebraska

Nebraska pass offense vs. Michigan pass defense

Tommy Armstrong has six interceptions in his last two games, though he’s had to work with a depleted receiving corps. The Wolverines will likely zone blitz frequently, which could leave openings for tight ends to flash open up the seam or receivers to gain separation on crossing routes. NU can’t rely on that, though. Advantage: Michigan

Michigan rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense

Nebraska has struggled to stop the run for three seasons, giving up 4.4 yards per carry since 2011. The Wolverines could try to mimic Minnesota’s downhill approach, or utilize the zone-read option. But they’ve been ineffective at both lately, opting to pass first to open up running lanes against Michigan State. Advantage: Nebraska

Michigan pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense

At one point last week at Michigan State, the Wolverines had six offensive linemen on the field — and still gave up a sack. Their pass protection is in shambles, but having an elusive QB helps — Devin Gardner’s agility might scare Nebraska out of blitzing. Plus, he averages 9.8 yards per pass attempt, which ranks seventh best nationally. Advantage: Michigan

Special teams

Nebraska has recorded a touchback on 65.5 percent of its kickoffs, which ranks 11th nationally. And its net punting average (38.2) ranks fourth in the Big Ten. But the Huskers are also averaging just 3.4 yards per punt return, which is tied for ninth-worst in the country. Michigan, at 6.8, is not much better. Advantage: Michigan

Intangibles

The Wolverines are 19-0 at home under coach Brady Hoke but, facing plenty of scrutiny after a 29-6 loss to the Spartans, won’t carry the mentality of a favorite into Saturday’s game. Nebraska, meanwhile, still feels pressure to maintain control of its destiny, and the Huskers are riding high after last week’s miracle finish. Advantage: Nebraska

Key matchup: Michigan receiver Devin Funchess vs. Nebraska's defense

How do you match up against a 6-foot-5, 235-pounder who looks like a tight end but runs routes like a receiver? Could be up to the Huskers' linebackers. Maybe it's their safeties. Maybe this is a job for senior Stanley Jean-Baptiste. NU has been vulnerable against guys of Funchess' stature and skillset all year.

Our take

There may not be two teams in the conference more inconsistent than Nebraska and Michigan. While it may not make sense to pick an NU team recently dominated by Minnesota — which Michigan trounced — this is Big Ten football, where logic only applies if Ohio State is part of the conversation. We’re taking the Huskers.

Our prediction: Nebraska 28, Michigan 27

Live updates

 

Videos

Extras

Printable rosters

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Game notes

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Listen: BRT Podcast

In this week’s edition of "The Big Red Today Podcast," Jon Nyatawa and Sam McKewon analyze the fallout from Nebraska’s surprising loss to Minnesota. Why couldn’t NU stop the Gophers’ plan? And what will future opponents take from last week and use against the Huskers going forward? The staff writers also try to determine what Nebraska’s offensive strategy will be going forward. Click here »

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Big Red Today coverage

NU offensive lineman Tanner Farmer is convinced wrestling has helped him earn a starting job in football

Tanner Farmer’s path to a starting guard spot on the Nebraska football team included a detour through the Husker wrestling room.

Recruiting: Top Nebraska quarterback target Colson Yankoff commits to Washington

Huskers turn to a highly-rated California QB prospect, Tanner McKee, with Colson Yankoff off the board.

Six Huskers make up 2017 Nebraska Athletics Hall of Fame class

A group of six Huskers make up the 2017 Nebraska Athletics Hall of Fame class, which was released Wednesday. The members of the 2017 class are: Bob Brown, Karen (Dahlgren) Schonewise, Denise Day, Rich Glover, Dave Hoppen and Scott Johnson.

Recruiting: Can Nebraska match the spring recruiting run that boosted the 2017 class?

Around this time last year, the Huskers started a stretch that would see six recruits commit in a six-week span. Will this spring be just as big for Nebraska?

Pick Six Podcast: Creighton's NCAA tournament disappointment, Final Four picks, Nebraska's lines, outside linebackers, quarterback battle

World-Herald staff writers Sam McKewon and Jon Nyatawa tackle top local topics and the hottest headlines from across the country in the March 21 edition of "The Pick Six Podcast."

Meet in the middle: Husker linebackers are from all over, but winning is their universal language

Mohamed Barry already knew three languages before he started speaking English, so right up front the Nebraska sophomore will admit he might have a different worldview than some of his fellow linebackers.

'Where I Come From': Husker broadcaster Kent Pavelka on 1990s Huskers, favorite play calls, tumultuous career

In the fourth episode of "Where I Come From" — a new podcast from The World-Herald — host Dirk Chatelain sits down for an in-depth interview with longtime Husker sports broadcaster Kent Pavelka.

Former Notre Dame assistant Scott Booker joins Nebraska staff as special teams consultant

According to a report, Nebraska has hired Notre Dame’s former special teams coordinator and tight ends coach to work as an analyst in NU’s personnel office.

Recruiting: A closer look at a 2018 RB battle NU can — and needs to — win

Nebraska's 2018 class — that already has three commits in it — should grow bigger after the April 15 spring game, which is shaping up as a big unofficial visit weekend.

McKewon: If running back Mikale Wilbon leaps on, he’ll have Huskers’ faith

Nebraska junior running back Mikale Wilbon appears to be in mid-leap this spring. Good news for the Huskers — even better news for Wilbon, who might be NU’s best pure runner.

Putting Mustang motor in Lincoln: Husker signee, Oklahoma D-lineman Deontre Thomas blends speed, strength with drive to excel

Thomas found what he was looking for while attending Nebraska’s spring game last year. The facilities, the crowd, the academic support. All of it — headlined by a strong bond with NU defensive line coach John Parrella — was enough…

Roots of Husker coordinator Bob Diaco's 3-4 defense trace back to longtime coach Al Groh

When Al Groh gets a request from an inquiring mind, he’s happy to share what he knows. And when it comes to the 3-4 defense, Groh knows a lot. Of most interest to Nebraska fans, Groh is the guy who…

Husker junior Bryan Reimers impresses coaches in practice as he looks to join mix of top wide receivers

His five receptions as a sophomore last season rank third among returning players at his position and suddenly transform the Lincoln East graduate into one of the voices of experience in spring workouts.

Husker notes: Defense gets better of offense at end of practice; spring break for NU; two leaders at tight end

Nebraska finished the first half of spring practice Thursday with a lengthy workout that culminated in a long, live red zone session where the top offenses worked against the top defenses.

Ready to multi-task from outside: Huskers plan to put linebacker Marcus Newby’s varied skills to good use

There was a reason the Nebraska coaching staff wasn’t immediately sure what it would do with Marcus Newby, and it was because defensive coordinator Bob Diaco and assistant coach Trent Bray thought Newby could do a lot of things.

Junior Aaron Williams, NU's 'quarterback on defense', stands out to new safeties coach Bob Elliott

New Nebraska safeties coach Bob Elliott just talked to his wife about it the other day — they’ve moved 18 times to 12 locations in his football coaching career. That’s a lot of coaching jobs and defensive backs Elliott has…

New England Patriots sign former Husker Rex Burkhead

The New England Patriots announced Tuesday they had signed the former Nebraska I-back as an unrestricted free agent. Terms of the contract were not released.

Recruiting: Defensive backs, wide receivers the focus of Nebraska's recent scholarship offers

Defensive back and wide receiver continue to be positions of heavy focus for Nebraska in this recruiting cycle. Those two positions accounted for nearly all of the offers extended by Husker coaches over the last week.

Recruiting: New 2018 quarterback on Nebraska's radar

It appears another quarterback is now on Nebraska's radar for the 2018 recruiting class. Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton senior-to-be Tyler Shough is visiting Nebraska today, according to 247Sports.

Notes: Diaco, Bray work together; Coaching punters ‘so fun’ and more

Trent Bray was the Huskers’ linebackers coach the last two seasons, but an adjustment came along with the transition to the 3-4 scheme — and both Diaco and Bray now work with the position.

Husker pro day notes: Something to prove for Newby; ‘A call to the bullpen’ and more

Terrell Newby was disappointed to not get an NFL combine invitation, so the I-back had poured his preparation into Nebraska’s pro day on Tuesday.

Former Huskers Brandon Reilly and Alonzo Moore hope to rise after strong pro day

Brandon Reilly put it on paper Tuesday. Although testing results varied among timers and were not released as official, the former Nebraska receiver and agent Chris Ellison were hearing that Reilly’s 40-yard dash time was as low as the 4.42…

Wide receiver Stanley Morgan is willing, able to carry heavy load for Huskers

Stanley Morgan donned his full football uniform last week for the first time in months. What he felt was progress. “It’s just learning how to breathe in these pads again,” the wide receiver said with a grin. “They’re a little…

Ex-Husker running back Terrell Newby, not invited to NFL combine, confident training will pay off at pro day

Terrell Newby didn’t obsess over how running backs were testing at the NFL combine, but he naturally kept an eye on what some of his competition was doing in Indianapolis.

McKewon: Early returns show tight race at QB; Husker passing game must spring forward

The Huskers have to get their pass game in shape. If it struggles as badly as it did for much of 2016, Bob Diaco’s defense may have to pitch a few shutouts and score its own touchdowns.

It’s special teams coaching by committee for Huskers; even Bob Diaco is involved, tutoring punters

Nebraska is spreading out its coaching duties on special teams as it moves on without Bruce Read, and first-year defensive coordinator Bob Diaco is even part of the mix.

Zac Taylor’s take: QB needs toughness; former Husker standout says intangibles also factor in

In a quarterback race, Taylor said, little things matter. Arm strength is good. Athleticism is too. But toughness counts.

Lincoln Southwest grad left Wayne State to try D-I; now he’s contending for Huskers' top tight end job

Tyler Hoppes never saw the move as a gamble, even though he played as a true freshman at Wayne State and was setting the stage for a successful career as a tight end with the NCAA Division II Wildcats.

Notes: Huskers still waiting for a lead back to emerge; Wideouts catching on and more

No one has yet established himself as Nebraska’s leader at running back. And the latest workout was disappointing for the entire position group from a focus standpoint.

Since picking Nebraska, quarterback Patrick O’Brien has embraced competition from Tanner Lee

Patrick O’Brien had been on the Nebraska campus for only a few weeks when he met Tanner Lee, and before long O’Brien learned that Lee intended to become a Husker.