When Michigan beat Nebraska 45-17 last season, it was arguably the Wolverines' most complete game of the season. A performance that helped guide the Maize & Blue to a 11-2 record and a Sugar Bowl victory in New Orleans, La.
A year has passed-- and an even bigger game is at stake when No. 20 Michigan (5-2, 3-0 Big Ten) travels to Lincoln, Neb., this Saturday night to take on Nebraska (5-2, 2-1 Big Ten).
This time, it's a chance to take strangle hold on the Big Ten Legends division, which will make the winner a frontrunner to play for the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis, Ind.
A key part of the game will be the Michigan offense versus the Nebraska defense.
As the Wolverines offensively have struggled to put the ball in the end zone against stingy defenses like Notre Dame (six points) and Michigan State (12 points), and the Cornhusker boast one of the more aggressive front fours in the Big Ten.
"They're a tough team and they're going to be a great team," said Michigan senior quarterback Denard Robinson. "They lead the Big ten in sacks. I think tackle for losses too. So that's a great team. We've got to step it up, because we had too many tackles for loss this weekend (versus Michigan State)."
Currently, Michigan is fourth in Big Ten in red zone offense with a 88.5 scoring rate, but have only 12 touchdowns out of 26 red zone possessions. With Nebraska leading the Big Ten in scoring offense at 41.6 points per game, competing with the Husker offense will be a key for Robinson, who said the Wolverines need to capitalize when they have red zone scoring opportunities.
"I feel like every time you get in the red zone, the defense is going to step up and fire a little harder," The Wolverine captain said. "I know (they're) a good defense. We've got to step it up still. We can't look down on them. We've got to look at like a championship game. Every time we get in the red zone, we've got to look to score—every time. I can't say, ‘Oh, we going to score every time we get in the red zone.' Because they are a great defense. We've got to step up and be accountable and score every time we get in the red zone."
Nebraska does lead the conference with 22 sacks on the season, and has full attention of Michigan coach Brady Hoke.
"Them as a group, you've got to take them as they are," Hoke said. "The black shirts and the pride that they have as 11 playing together. I mean, negative plays and those kind of things, those get you off schedule. I mean, when you get off schedule, you usually have a problem offensively."
The Wolverines offensive line has given up only five sacks this season, which leads the Big Ten.
Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges said Nebraska defense is well coached and will always be in the right position.
"I can promise you, from a schematic perspective they fit all their runs the way they should," Borges said. "They're basically in the right position most of the time. Their coverage is sound. They don't do anything where we can say say, ‘Oh my god, we can take advantage of that.' They don't do any of that stuff."
Hopefully the Michigan offense can capitalize and be one step closer to a Big Ten Championship, redshirt senior center Elliot Mealer discussed.
"There is no denying that it is a big game for us," Mealer said, "but the way Coach Hoke has had our minds set -- and I'm sure you guys have heard it more than you would like to -- but it is a championship game for us. Last week was a championship game, and the week before that was. So for us, we try to have the mindset that every game we play against a Big Ten opponent is just like we are playing in Indianapolis and we are playing for the trophy."
Game time is set for 8 p.m. this Saturday on ESPN2.
Robinson looks to capitalize v NEB Red Zone D
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