The big one is here… The #2 Wolverines come to Lincoln for the week 5 contest, and have yet to be challenged the first 4 weeks of the season. This one feels a bit different in Huskerland, as our last national title in 1997 was shared with Michigan, and since then we have been on much different trajectories. Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke came and went in Ann Arbor, and they found their footing with Jim Harbaugh and are coming off of back to back college football playoff appearances. Meanwhile, our beloved Huskers haven’t been to a bowl game since 2016 and are on our 6th coach since that national title. Hard to even type those words. Let’s take a look at the stats:
Michigan has yet to play anyone in my opinion besides possibly Rutgers last Saturday, but they’ve dominated early. The most points they’ve given up is 7 and they’ve been over 30 every single game. Let’s get into the positions:
Last year, JJ McCarthy came in and stole the starting QB job from Cade McNamara, and sent McNamara packing to Iowa. I wouldn’t quite call him a dual-threat, but he is certainly the best running QB we have seen to date and is dangerous if you don’t stay in your rushing lanes. McCarthy is completing a whopping 80% of his passes, for 950 yards passing and 8 touchdowns. The silver lining is he has somehow thrown 3 INTs with that 80% completion percentage. However all 3 of those INTs came against Bowling Green, hopefully DC White is studying that film, but i’m sure there was just something weird going on there. The QB spot at Michigan in 2023 reminds me a bit of what Russell Wilson did at Wisconsin, lean on the run and have the defense sneak up which creates easy reads for the signal-caller and easy completions. Nebraska has to stay disciplined as to not fall for the play-action. McCarthy, who was a second team All-B1G selection a year ago is starting off just as well this season. We’ve talked about it before, but DC White once told me he loves playing against the immobile QB and eats them for lunch. Let’s see what happens with our defense now that we are playing a QB that can make you pay on the ground. We aren’t playing Rocky Lombardi who just is going to trip over his own feet this game.
In an embarrassment of riches and probably the best 1-2 punch in all of college football, Blake Corum AND Donovan Edwards return in the backfield for the Wolverines. The clear leader early in the season is Corum who has gained 355 yards and 8 touchdowns on a whopping 6.1 yards per carry. Corum, who was a first team All-American last year is blazing the field turf again this year. Edwards has struggled a bit more on the ground only averaging 3.3 yards per carry, but he is a threat out of the backfield with 11 catches for 100 yards so far this year.
Michigan lost their top two threats from a year ago to the draft as TE Luke Schoonmaker was selected 27th overall and WR Ronnie Bell was selected in the 7th round. However, they do return 4 of their top 6. Their top WR is Roman Wilson, who has already amassed 6 touchdowns on 15 receptions for 268 yards. They also have a second WR in Cornelius Johnson who has a touchdown on 13 receptions for 224 yards. A duo that is good enough to make defenses pay if you start creeping up to take away the run.
At TE they seemed to have already found a replacement (which makes sense since Harbaugh loves that spot) in Colston Loveland as he has 14 receptions for 168 yards.
In what doesn’t seem real as I type this, Michigan lost two starters in the NFL draft in their center Oluwatimi and an offensive tackle Ryan Hayes, but somehow replaced them with 3 OL starters from the Pac-12. Must be nice when you have 2 open spots but bring in 3 valid starting options on top of whatever you were already developing in your program. They brought in Stanford’s center who started 24 games for the Cardinal in Drake Nugent, and he is the middle of that OL currently. While Nebraska struggled to reel in Walter Rouse from Stanford, Michigan brought in their other starting tackle Myles Hinton who is at RT for the Wolverines after starting 16 games out west. Harbaugh also convinced another two season starter to come to Michigan in Arizona State tackle Ladarius Henderson who had 29 starts for the Sun Devils. Henderson hadn’t started until Hinton was pulled from a game. Both of Michigan’s first team All-B1G guards return bolstering their line. And they even have an offensive tackle in Karsen Barnhart that was honorable mention All-B1G last year to choose from that is still hanging around. This will be far and away the best line our defense has faced all year, and I believe Harbaugh is going to try and prove a point against our #1 rushing defense. What was regarded as the #1 OL in the country last year somehow may even be better this year.
In what seems like a breath of fresh air after typing about the OL, the DL is needing to rebuild after losing two first team all-conference selections from a year ago as DT Mazi Smith was drafted in the first round and DE Mike Smith was taken in the fifth. Michigan does return Kris Jenkins at DT who was honorable mention all B1G a season ago. He is their co-leader in tackles for loss with 2.5. Jaylen Harrell returns at their edge rusher position and is their leader in sacks with 2.5. This stat below may spell trouble for our tackle(s) as I expect him to be put over Corcoran.
Michigan doesn’t lose anyone from their LB core from a year ago (which pisses me off even more we had a guy transfer there). Their leading tackler from a season ago returns in Junior Colson at the MIKE position and he again is pacing the defense with 22 tackles. Similarly, Michael Barrett was their second leading tackler last year from the WILL spot and is in second again this year. Unfortunately, Ernest Hausmann is their third leading tackler and really pours some salt in the wound. At Nickel in their 4-2-5 is Mike Sainristil who is leading their team in interceptions with 2.
The secondary is led by returning free safety Rod Moore as he was an honorable mention all-conference. They have a host of other players more than capable of making things really difficult for our guys on the outside. I expect their safeties to play close to the line of scrimmage and make Haarberg throw out wide to beat them. They also may get one of their best players Will Johnson back at safety against us. Awesome.
According to Phil Steele, Michigan had the #1 position group in the B1G at QB, RB, OL, DL, LB, and coach. They are 2nd in DB and Special Teams, the only place they aren’t 1st or 2nd is WR where they are ranked 4th. Compare that to Nebraska, who has their best position groups as QB and RB ranked 6th, and we may be in a world of trouble here. Especially when you consider the fact we are on our 3rd string RB (who may be our most talented) and our backup QB (who may be better than our starter just because he protects the ball).
Nebraska has to slow this game way down, which is good because I believe that’s what Michigan wants to do anyway. There also could be 30 mph winds which would really force teams to be one dimensional while going into the gusts. However, neither of Nebraska’s QBs are good throwing the ball whether there is wind or not, so this in my opinion would just help our defense.
Offensively for Nebraska, we are just in a really bad spot. Our OL isn’t going to be good enough to push them around, and they are going to take away our QB run for sure. Our leading receivers are Kemp and Fidone, so I imagine that Michigan is just going to pad the box and take away those guys and make Satterfield beat us by throwing outside which we haven’t been able to do all year. As we mentioned in our LA Tech recap, I will be real curious if Michigan goes single high safety to add another guy in the box and account for Haarberg? Or do they go 2 high and just let their dominant front 7 take care of it on their own and not give up the big play? Michigan’s defense is #1 in the country in ppg and ypg only allowing 5.8 and 231.5. While I would like to think our offense is better than what they have seen so far, I am not sure it is. Add to the fact our offense has looked remedial against teams like Colorado or even LA Tech who have defenses in the bottom of FBS, and it gets dicey in a hurry.
There was an article written by Sipple the other day about how we shouldn’t nitpick that our QB is rushing so much, and of course Husker fans started talking about how good HH would have been in an option system. But I truly believe we are needing to run HH and Sims so much because nothing else is really working. That really really concerns me heading into Michigan, and I think they will expose it isn’t just about our QBs being good at that, I think it’s because we couldn’t do anything else. I don’t blame Satterfield for calling those plays, i’m just saying it worries me that’s pretty much all we got.
Defensively, the Blackshirts are going to have their hands full with a stout line to let some of the best RBs and QB in the conference/country get to work. Our #1 rushing defense will absolutely be tested, and guys like Hutmacher, Robinson, Gunnerson and the LBs are going to have to step up. With Reimer being in concussion protocol, it could be even more challenging. Donovan Edwards is a little like the Colorado RB that would leak out as well, so we need to be conscious of that. Let’s see how we do against the best offense we have faced this year. My gut tells me it may be a tougher day, but the weather could help us.
While I like it to be close in the first half, I believe they will just lean on us and wear us down. Against Bowling Green and Rutgers, it was 14-6 and 14-7 at half, I think we can do something similar. But in the end we may just not quite be ready. Michigan has outscored teams 17-0, 17-0, 14-7, 7-3 in the second half. The only scores they have given up is when they were ahead 30-0 and 35-0 and backups were in the game. It’s a scary scenario.
Tomorrow we have a new feature coming out that i’m pretty excited about! Elon also got my Twitter embedding back on, so our toilet reading and gambling picks will be back!
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