Michigan Pass "O" vs Nebraska Pass "D" Matchups
- WRs Jason Avant/Steve Breaston/Mario Manningham vs CBs Zackary Bowman/Cortney Grixby
Expect to see Bowman, a bigger more physical corner matched up against Avant. He's had a good season after being a highly touted JUCO recruit, but Avant's experience will be the difference here. Grixby is the Husker's best cover man, so he may draw Avant on a few occasions, but more than likely he'll see a lot of Breaston. Grixby has the quickness to stay with Breaston, but what will be most important for him is to wrap up the slippery Breaston on short routes. The X factor here will be freshman Mario Manningham. Depth at corner is not a strong suit for the Huskers and Michigan is deep at WR. Tierre Green, who has moved around from CB and S, may see more time at corner in this matchup.
- OT Jake Long vs DE Adam Carriker
Both are excellent players. Long has struggled with injuries, but when he's healthy, he's one of the nation's best. Carriker has had an excellent season and combines speed and power to get to the QB. Neutralizing him will be a big key as QB Chad Henne is still improving when it comes to avoiding the pass rush. How healthy Long is will be important. If not, the Wolverines may choose to use their most experienced lineman, Adam Stenavich on Carriker.
- TE Tyler Ecker vs LB Corey McKeon
Tim Massaquoi's injury opened the door this year for Ecker to be Michigan's go-to TE. McKeon had a breakout season this year, has the speed and instincts, but gives up size to Ecker. In one on one matchups, Ecker and Massaquoi will have the edges. However, McKeon and safety Daniel Bullocks are playmakers in zone coverages and Chad Henne must do a better job of not locking onto primary targets and making quick reads.
Michigan Run "O" vs Nebraska Run "D"
- G Ruben Riley, G Matt Lentz, C Adam Kraus vs DT Titus Adams, DT LeKelvin Smith
Kraus and Lentz are experienced starters, and Riley will be stepping in for the injured Leo Henige. They will be going up against two strong senior tackles in Adams and Smith. Smith, a potential first day NFL draft pick will be key in forcing Mike Hart into Nebraska's active linebackers. Michigan thrives on establishing their interior run game and using it to set up the pass and getting Chad Henne comfortable. But to do that, the interior of the line must control Adams and Smith, which is easier said than done.
- RB Mike Hart vs SS Daniel Bullocks
Bullocks is an active, run stuffing safety who will likely see a lot of time in the box on 1st and 2nd down with LBs Bo Ruud and Steve Octavien out. We haven't seen a healthy Mike Hart in awhile, but the layoff should have him close to full strength. These two will likley meet in the hole a few times and whether or not Hart can make Bullocks miss could be the difference between a 2-yard gain and some big plays.
- FB Will Paul vs LB Lance Brandenburgh
Paul, a converted defense lineman has been the key blocker in short yardage situations for the Wolverines this season. He'll see a lot of Brandenburgh who is filling in for the injured Bo Ruud. Brandenburgh himself has struggled with injuries, otherwise he might have played much more this season. How well he performs in his first start will be big for Nebraska's D, but Paul, who has proven himself as a lead blocker will make that a tough task.
Nebraska Pass "O" vs Michigan Pass "D" Matchups
- RB Cory Ross vs LB Prescott Burgess
Yes, Nebraska throws the ball now, and their I-Back is a dangerous receiver. Ross is very shifty and has good hands and the Zac Taylor looks to him with frequency (40 receptions this season). Burgess is the LB Michigan usually has in coverage, but a healthy Burgess will still have his work cut out for him with the cat quick Ross. Michigan does employ a lot of zone, which will help, but in one on one situations, they may end up using a safety more on Ross.
- WR Nate Swift vs CB Leon Hall
Swift and the other WR Terrence Nunn have had good, productive seasons. Hall is a fast cover corner, but Michigan doesn't play him man to man a lot. The Michigan defense likes to play a lot of zone and give some cushion, and Swift, a big and sure handed receiver will use that. The Wolverines would be wise to play Hall closer to the line and force Zac Taylor and Swift to challenge them downfield, as the Huskers do not throw deep too often.
- OT Chris Patrick vs DE Lamarr Woodley
Patrick, who has been the Huskers' LT will likely draw the assignment against Michigan's best rush man in Woodley. The Husker O-Line has had a lot of changes due to injury this season and they have four tackles who will likely play in this game. They might all get a crack at Woodley as Michigan moves him around a lot. On passing downs, both Woodley and Pierre Woods provide athleticism off the edge and that may give the Husker tackles some trouble.
Nebraska Run "O" vs Michigan Run "D"
- Gs Brandon Koch and Jared Helming vs DT Gabe Watson/DE Alan Branch
Two senior guards clear the way for the Nebraska run attack. Koch had an excellent season. He's faced some good defensive tackles in the Big 12 and that will have him well prepared for his matchup with Gabe Watson. Watson is big and strong and can really disrupt a running attack with his penetration, but has a tendency to underpeform. Branch plays an end spot, but is a key run stuffer and can move inside when needed. He's been Michigan's most consistent lineman (except Woodley maybe).
- FB Dane Todd vs ILB David Harris
Todd did not have one carry all season but he is a hard nosed lead blocker. He'll see a lot of Harris who really came out and had a great season for the Wolverines. Harris is good pursuing and making tackles, but one area he must improve on is taking on and shedding blocks. If Todd gets his hands on him, it will open up some holes for Ross and freshman RB Marlon Lucky. If the Huskers allow Harris to roam free, he'll make a lot of tackles as he is a good 1-1 tackler in open field.
- RB Cory Ross vs SS Brandent Englemon
Ross is the kind of back that has success against Michigan, a quick all purpose back who can make you miss. The Huskers are pretty good up front, especially if OT Seppo Evwayare is at full strength. That means the secondary will have to perform well in run support. A large part of that burden will likely fall to strong safety Brandent Englemon, a big hitter who has come on later in the year. The key will be taking better pursuit angles and breaking down because if they don't, Ross has the ability to dance around them.
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