Eight. With a win last week against Illinois, the University of Michigan picked up their eighth win of the season. For the Wolverines, eight wins represents another benchmark for the progress of the Brady Hoke era. Michigan hasn’t recorded eight victories in a season since 2007, the last season that Lloyd Carr was at the helm.
Fittingly, the Wolverines will pay honor to their former coach Carr before their game against Nebraska. The Wolverines and Huskers enter the game with identical 8-2 records, with a 4-2 mark in Big Ten play. For all intents and purposes, this game will decide second place in the Big Ten Legends division, barring a massive collapse by Michigan State.
A game featuring two very similar teams could be the start of a new rivalry between two of college football’s more storied and prestigious programs. The two teams have met just six times before with Michigan leading the all-time series 3-2-1. Recent history between the Wolverines and Huskers has many excited that the two schools are now in the same conference and division. In 2005, Nebraska defeated Michigan in a wild Alamo Bowl that ended on a lateral play and a controversial no-call penalty. In 1997, the two shared the National Championship, although both sides will tell you it was controversial that they did.
This season’s incarnations both rely on their defenses and running games to be victorious. Fans of gun-slinging quarterbacks need not watch this game. Denard Robinson has left Wolverine fans shaking their heads with his recent passing performances. Thankfully for Michigan fans, Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez doesn’t exactly strike fear into opposing secondaries either. However, both signal-callers are more than capable of shredding defenses for big gains with their legs.
We could see a heavy dose of Fitz Toussaint and Rex Burkhead, early and often. The starting runningbacks have been on a tear as of late, with Toussaint putting up 192 yards last week and Burkhead already over 1,000 yards this season. Both teams should look to keep it on the ground and control the clock and tempo.
If Michigan is able to win the game, they set themselves up for a nice end to the season. Sitting at 8-2, if the Wolverines are able to win their final two games they could find themselves in one of the bigger bowls come January. Wins over a ranked Nebraska team and their bitter rivals Ohio State would add a lot of credence to the idea that Michigan is on the way up under Brady Hoke.
This game should come down to which defense is able to contain the running game and prevent big plays. Michigan has played well at home this season, but will need to have a better and more consistent effort from Denard Robinson. Robinson will need to make plays against a Nebraska secondary that really only features one true stud. When the junior is accurate with his arm, it opens up the field for his running ability, which has been held in check in recent weeks. If Michigan can do enough through the air to keep Nebraska honest, they should be able to gain yardage on the ground against a depleted Husker defensive line.
Look for this game to be close, if not pretty. It could be a war of attrition, with whatever team is able to find away to make big plays to come out on top.