For our first installment of our conference “What the Opponent is Saying” where we ask an opponent how they see the game going from their side. Special thanks to SwankyWolverine, please go give him a follow!
How do you feel the season has gone so far?
Its hard to be upset with 4-0 and the #2 ranking in college football. But some Michigan fans might be disappointed given the level of competition that we didn’t have more dominating wins, 50+ yard rushing plays or long receiving TDs. Coming off 2 consecutive B1G championships and CFP appearances, Michigan fans sometimes set a very high bar for the program. That said, the defense has been solid as expected, leading the nation in defensive points per game. The offense has done well, although maybe some higher expectations for the run game with Corum & Edwards, both returning after injuries last season. There was some sleepwalking with the Bowling Green game, and many took note of JJ McCarthy’s 3 INT game as well as the return team which struggled with receiving short kicks. However, factoring in some key players returning to the lineup from injuries, incoming transfers adjusting, not to mention Jim Harbaugh only returning to the sideline as of the 4th game, I think we will start to see the team continue to improve as the season continues. The overall strength of schedule has not been difficult, but key games at Penn State and vs. Ohio State loom large later in the season which will test Michigan’s ability to win a B1G championship threepeat. Still very early in the schedule.
How is the overall health of the team?
Not sharing anything beyond what is already made public, there were some injuries at the start of the year. Key defensive players like DBs Will Johnson and Rod Moore just returned fully last weekend. But the overall health of the team appears to be very good right now as it has started the B1G part of the season. One starter (DT Mason Graham) was out last game and hopefully the team stays healthy through the season.
Could you notice a difference with Harbaugh not on the sideline?
I think there was a difference, yes. There is nothing but respect for all the other coaches who rotated into the head coach role the first three games, but I don’t think there’s the same impact when you don’t have your head coach on the sidelines. The players noted things felt different with Harbaugh’s return to the sideline. For the fans, they haven’t seen a Michigan football game without him for 8 years. It is of course great to have him back.
The OL was one of the best in the country last year, are they even better this year?
It may be too early to say they are “even better” this year. Returning players like OGs Zak Zinter and Trevor Keegan haven’t lost a step. Losing Olu Oluwatimi to the NFL meant getting a solid center to replace him, and Drake Nugent who transferred in from Stanford this year is stepping into that role. Again, it is going to be a “wait and see” approach as Michigan matches up against B1G teams who are working to defensively stop the rush. No one is overlooking the fact that Nebraska is the top defensive rushing team in the country. It will be interesting to see the matchup this week.
Corum seems to have taken the lead in the backfield, fair or unfair?
Fair, Corum was RB1 last year and Edwards was out with an injury for a few games, and when Corum was injured in mid-November, Edwards took over RB1 duty. With both back to health this season, Corum appears to be picking right back up. I think he may only have 1 or 2 40+ yard rushes, but he has been completely reliable as a ball carrier and leads the college football P5 conferences in rushing TDs.
Have you reloaded the DL from a year ago?
The defense looks very good this year, returning many from last year. The line is good and the secondary looks very good. As earlier, it will be interesting to see how Michigan does with Johnson and Moore returning to their starting roles from injury combined with the stronger level of competition ahead. But I really like what they’ve shown on the field so far, and this is a cornerstone of this team.
Why will Michigan win this game?
If the OL does it job, Corum and Edwards could tire out the Nebraska defense but expect to see Michigan go to the air to a number of great targets, not to mention a mobile QB that can keep a defense on its toes. With Jim Harbaugh at the helm and an experienced offense and suffering defense, Michigan should be able to score offensively and cause a lot of problems defensively.
Why could Nebraska win this game?
The Nebraska defense will be prepared to stop the Michigan run and if McCarthy has a bad game like with Bowling Green 2 weeks ago, Nebraska could take advantage of the home crowd energy and make it very difficult for Michigan to get points. The previous contest in Lincoln was pretty close for a good portion of the game, and Rhule should have Nebraska as prepared as they can be for the Wolverines.
How has Ernest Hausmann so far for the Wolverines?
We appreciate you allowing us to have him! He’s a great addition and working his way into the system. Having played at Nebraska, he’s gotten B1G experience and he’s quickly showed his skill on the field. We like him a lot.
Michigan 35, Nebraska 10. I think Nebraska keeps it close in the first half but Michigan is known as a second half team and they do just that to pull away and leave Lincoln with a W.
Off the wall question… who wins 97 Michigan or 97 Nebraska?
Oh boy, this is one of those questions that never sits well between Michigan and Nebraska fans. But I think it would be very hard for Nebraska to score with Charles Woodson and that Michigan defense on the field. Michigan all the way.
Thanks to @swankywolverine for his help! Check out our preview and score prediction frmo yesterday!
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