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Nebraska (6-2) at Michigan (6-2) Nov. 9 3:30, ABC
Why You Should Give A Hoot: This looked a lot more appealing a few weeks ago, but now it's all about whether or not Nebraska can stay alive.
Michigan's emasculating loss to Michigan State last week all but ended any real shot of playing for the Big Ten title, with road games at Northwestern and Iowa ahead before hosting Ohio State. The Spartans would have to lose two of their last three games for the Wolverines to realistically stay alive, but first things first, a win over Nebraska is a must.
The Huskers are reeling after a loss to Minnesota and a fortunate win over Northwestern on a wild final play, but with the Hail Mary they're still in the hunt and in control of their own destiny. With Michigan State up next, the next two weeks might not only be make-or-break for Nebraska's season, but also for the Bo Pelini tenure during a rocky season. The team isn't playing all that well, and the best win so far came last week, but a win would make the Northwestern game a springboard while a loss would make it a true fluke.
Why Nebraska Might Win: Husker defense, now is the time to send everyone into the backfield. The Michigan line hasn't been bad, but it's allowing way too many plays behind the line and having a hard time keeping Devin Gardner from being popped. Michigan State did whatever it wanted to last week, coming up with a season-high 11 tackles for loss on the way to stuffing the Wolverine running game for -48 yards. Nebraska's defensive front isn't Michigan State's, and it can be run on, but it should get its share of drive-killing plays.
Why Michigan Might Win: What has been Nebraska's biggest issue over the last few weeks? It's the biggest issue all season – turnovers. The Huskers had been good for at least a giveaway per game, and then came the last three weeks with eight picks and a lost fumble. Michigan had big turnover problems earlier in the season against Akron and Connecticut, and they were part of the problem in the loss to Penn State, but the defense has usually been able to pick up the slack – the Wolverines aren't in the negative on turnover margin over the last four games. However, Nebraska's biggest problem has been a run D that's getting ripped to shreds, allowing 271 yards to Minnesota and 245 to Northwestern, giving up three scores in each game.
Who To Watch Out For: Taylor Martinez is still out for the Huskers, meaning the Ron Kellogg and Tommy Armstrong will continue. Kellogg was the one who threw the game-winning pass last week, but the heave masked his bad game with 49 of his 104 yards coming on the one play. Tommy Armstrong did most of the heavy lifting completing 15-of-29 passes for 173 yards with a touchdown and three picks, but he ran 17 times for 69 yards and a score.
- The 5-10, 186-pound Raymon Taylor might not be all that big, but he's turning in a whale of a season for the Michigan secondary. A big-time tackler, he made nine stops against Indiana and came up with a season-high 12 against Michigan State with an interception. A fluid athlete, he gets all over the field in a hurry, and he's turning into a better hitter as the season has gone on.
- Michigan-Michigan State is always chippy, and Taylor Lewan added to the rivalry. Michigan's star tackle lost his cool and grabbed the facemask of MSU's Isaiah Lewis, and while he has apologized to the Spartans and through the media, it was the signature moment of what's quickly growing into a frustrating run for the team.
- This is just the ninth meeting between the two storied programs. Michigan won the first matchup 31-0 in 1905, and followed it up with a 70-0 win over Albion. The Wolverines are 4-3-1.
What Will Happen: Michigan will bounce back from the Michigan State debacle with a surprisingly sharp offensive performance. Devin Gardner will run well, and the Wolverine defense will come up with enough takeaways to pull away in the second half.
Prediction: Michigan 31 … Nebraska 23
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