Nebraska rush offense vs. Michigan rush defense
Michigan's run defense has always had a risk/reward style that running quarterbacks can occasionally exploit. The Wolverines load the line of scrimmage and come from a variety of directions with many stunts. Its front — anchored by Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich — is especially good this season, and Nebraska’s run offense is transitioning to a spread attack. UCF dropped 275 rushing yards when it went to Michigan in 2016, so NU can do it. Adrian Martinez’s presence would help immensely, and Nebraska’s offensive line has to be on point. A big play or two from Maurice Washington or Greg Bell would help, and perhaps the Huskers bust out a new play or ballcarrier that Michigan hasn’t really seen on film.
Nebraska pass offense vs. Michigan pass defense
Martinez and Andrew Bunch are in the beginning stages of learning Scott Frost’s passing offense, and Michigan’s pass defense is as good as any in college football. UM was top-five nationally the last three seasons in yards allowed per game and opponent completion percentage thanks to a fierce pass rush and smart coverage scheme that creates small windows. The scheme works. Nebraska’s quarterbacks are young. The Huskers’ best chance is for receivers Stanley Morgan and JD Spielman to beat man coverage when they see it, or for Nebraska to sneak a few big throws to its tight ends. UM doesn’t traditionally intercept a lot of passes, but whichever quarterback starts has to be smart with the ball.
Michigan rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense
Jim Harbaugh has resisted the urge to transform his pro-style, pound-the-rock offense into something more dynamic. His hidebound desire to run the ball down NU’s throat will play into the Huskers’ hands. Nebraska knows how to stop the run, and Erik Chinander’s scheme clogs up the middle of the field and forces runs to the edge. Michigan’s backs — Karan Higdon, Chris Evans and Tru Wilson — are sturdy but not burners. Watch how much Michigan involves Shea Patterson in the run game. He’s not exactly a dual-threat quarterback, but he has enough mobility to keep a defense honest. Plus, Nebraska gave up a 57-yard quarterback run last week.
Michigan pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense
Michigan has only thrown 24 passes per game, but it makes them count, completing 70.8 percent. Patterson throws a pretty, accurate ball, and his receiving corps — led by wideout Donovan Peoples-Jones and tight end Zach Gentry — is among the most talented in the Big Ten. Can UM’s so-so offensive line protect Patterson better than it did against Notre Dame? That’s a big question. If Nebraska’s front seven gets home on the pass rush, UM’s matchups with NU’s secondary may be moot. But the Wolverines like to run to set up the pass, which can slow down a blitz.
Nebraska has had two terrible weeks on special teams, and Troy’s 58-yard punt return touchdown was arguably the difference in the Trojans’ win. Michigan's Ambry Thomas already has a kickoff return touchdown this season, and punter Will Hart is averaging 50.13 yards per punt. NU will have to prove its worth in the third phase before it gets the edge again.
The Big House, at least in the last two trips Nebraska made there, isn’t the loudest Big Ten venue, but it’s an intimidating stage with few places to hide when things don’t go well. Neither Martinez nor Bunch have played in a road game like this, and although the noon kickoff locally might cool off the crowd, it doesn't give NU the upper-hand. It’s a relatively young team on the road for the first time in a hostile venue. Good luck.
Key matchup: Nebraska’s offensive line vs. Michigan’s front seven
Nebraska has to get a run game going to have a chance, and the offensive line better have some punch and pep. Moving Michigan’s talented front seven is job one. The better the Huskers do that, the more they can control the ball and keep Michigan’s slow-paced offense off the field.
The first road game of the Frost era is one tough assignment. Michigan holds the talent edge, and its players have many years in the schemes of Harbaugh and his staff. Patterson is at least as good a quarterback as Martinez, should he play, and Michigan’s defense is more dominant. Nebraska doesn’t have a puncher’s chance, but it does have a boxer’s chance, if that make sense. NU can’t out-slug the Wolverines, but if it's ultra-efficient — and Michigan spends too many snaps trying to body-punch the Huskers — maybe they can pull out a most unlikely win. But it’s been nearly seven years since Nebraska won a road game against a ranked team, and Michigan doesn’t seem like the spot to break the streak. The first win of the Frost era waits another week.
Our prediction: MICHIGAN 28 NEBRASKA 16
Big Red Today coverage
Nebraska and Purdue faced off as conference opponents for the first time in 2013, which ignited what will be at least 13 consecutive seasons with one another on the schedule. But 2013 wasn't the first overall matchup. Nope, that came…
We wrote this story out of Minnesota in 2013 and 2017, too. The names change. The clichés, too, a little bit. And even if it’s supposed to be different under Scott Frost — even if, one day, it is —…
Time and again, opposing coaches see Nebraska step off the bus and wonder if they can run the ball on them. And then they do.
Scott Frost had one hand in his pocket, and the other one was carrying a playsheet. And nothing was fine for the Nebraska football coach.
P.J. Fleck just shoved his oar right down Nebraska’s throat. People like to laugh at Fleck, the Minnesota football coach, saying he’s a huckster and a fake. Well, there was nothing fake about what Fleck’s Gophers did to Nebraska on…
The blank faces said it all. By the time Nebraska defenders trudged off the cold and misty field at TCF Bank Stadium, they had already processed much of the carnage. A 20-point third quarter that blew the doors off a…
A closer look at the defining stats and figures from the Huskers' loss to Minnesota on Saturday.
Minnesota carved up Nebraska’s defense with its run game Saturday night because it spotted soft spots disguised as strengths.
World-Herald staff writer Chris Heady takes a look at Nebraska's effort on both sides of the ball during the Huskers' loss to Minnesota.
Three things we learned and three things we still don’t know about the Huskers coming out of Saturday's loss to Minnesota.
Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez is not suited up for the game an hour ahead of kickoff and will not play against Minnesota.
Some regents say it’s a win for Nebraska to bring Hank Bounds back because he is a good fundraiser who knows and cares about the projects involved. Some observers say they are perplexed by the amount he will receive, and…
The Huskers think a strong second half is coming. Their counterparts in Minneapolis have already experienced it.
Noah Vedral knows the offense back and forward. We haven’t seen a lot of his game. He got in one game last year. And then last week. That’s the beauty of it, too. There isn’t a lot of film of…
Fremont senior Keegan Menning added his name to the list of walk-ons in Nebraska’s 2020 class on Thursday night.
“It’s an awesome rule,” said Luke McCaffrey, who’s drawn raves from coaches and teammates while he redshirts and works to push Adrian Martinez for the starting role next season. “I think it’s fantastic.”
Mohamed Barry was named a quarterfinalist for the 2019 Lott Trophy, which recognizes a player who made the biggest impact on his team both on and off the field.
If it’s Christmas weather — 32 degrees — for Nebraska’s Saturday night game at Minnesota, well, Scott Frost can’t think anything much better.
While Nebraska's travel roster is rounding into form, the status of players at multiple key positions remains unclear.
"I just thought that I was on a different planet almost," she told The World-Herald. "It was a special place to be."
“Defensively, they’re a lot more sound than what we saw last year and more athletic," Scott Frost said. "They’ve definitely improved. You can tell it’s year three of his tenure up there. They’re starting to look like the team he…
Weather, smeather. That was more or less the reaction from Nebraska offensive coaches Tuesday when probed about how they might adjust preparations for Saturday night's game at Minnesota that calls for temperatures in the mid-30s and a good chance of…
They've given you lifelong memories, permanent heartache, everlasting glee and eternal suffering.
Encouraging news this morning from Husker football practice. Adrian Martinez (knee) and JD Spielman (undisclosed) were both in pads for practice Wednesday.
Earlier this week, I called Matt Turman to talk about his nephew, Noah Vedral, waiting and getting that big moment. But as we talked, it hit me that there's a bigger story. The story about the small, small world of…
Nebraska has dominated Minnesota since 1963, claiming 19 of 22 games. But the Gophers have the all-time edge.
For Nebraska’s program to be full blast again, the A.D. says it will take two more recruiting classes and two more years of developing a walk-on program.
Nebraska received a commitment Tuesday from Miami Northwestern defensive back Ronald Delancy. Three takes on the decision of the 6-foot, 165-pounder.
Inside linebacker Mohamed Barry doesn’t usually concern himself much with wide receivers. This week, he’s at full attention.
Credit Scott Frost and his staff for squeezing just enough of true freshman Wan’Dale Robinson, Martinez and backup quarterback Noah Vedral to win against a defense that had given up three plays of 30 yards or more heading into the…