One of the benefits of seeing the Big Ten expand in recent seasons is matchups like this one.
No. 22 Michigan travels to Lincoln to take on Nebraska on Saturday in a battle of traditional powers. Between the two schools, there are six Heisman winners and 16 national titles. Legendary coaches like Fielding Yost, Bob Devaney, Tom Osborne and Bo Schembechler commanded these teams.
But the school met just six times before the Cornhuskers’ first year in the Big Ten in 2011, with only four meetings coming in the regular season. Indeed, this is Michigan’s first trip to Lincoln since 1911.
The game features two players on the outskirts of the Heisman conversation. Michigan’s Denard Robinson started out second on HP’s preseason Heisman Watch, but a rough opener against defending national champ Alabama scuttled his hopes for the trophy. He’s since rebounded nicely, averaging 128 yards rushing per game (9oo total) while throwing for 1,264 yards and nine touchdowns. The one flaw in his game continues to be a propensity for turnovers (he has nine interceptions on the season) and the occasional injury. Nonetheless, Nebraska will have its hands full with his speed. Word comes down today that he may return kicks, too, which can’t make the Cornhuskers’ special teams units too happy.
Nebraska counters with the much-improved Taylor Martinez, who is quietly having his best season. The junior is 15th nationally in passing efficiency and his touchdown-to-interception ration of 15-to-4 complements his 403 rushing yards. He got off to a great start this season before UCLA knocked his Heisman hopes down the drain, but he led a comeback win over Northwestern last week to keep the Huskers in contention for the Legends division title of the Big Ten.
Michigan leads that division, so this matchup is vital for both teams. Both squads are offensive oriented with mobile quarterbacks and skilled running backs. Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah is an emerging star in the backfield while Wolverine Fitzgeral Toussaint is slowly rounding into shape after being suspended earlier in the year. Both defenses will have their hands full trying to stop the wide open offensive attacks of the other.
Normally, Nebraska’s home field advantage would be the difference in a game like this. But in recent years, the Huskers have had trouble getting athletes on defense, which could hamper its ability to stop the multiple weapons at Michigan’s disposal. And while Michigan hasn’t been great defensively, it has enough athletes and a sound enough scheme to keep Nebraska at bay.
Frequent heartburn sufferer and Lincoln, Nebraska’s favorite comedian Larry the Cable Guy is hanging in Lincoln this weekend as part of a wild adventure to help introduce the first-ever, flavor-coated frequent heartburn pill, new Prilosec OTC Wildberry.
Unless Martinez gets hot in the passing game, Michigan should take control of this one early, which means Larry will want to make sure he’s taking his Prilosec OTC well before kickoff. I like for Robinson to have a huge rushing day and, as long as he keeps mistakes to a minimum, the Wolverines should crank out a solid win.