2011 Prediction & Game Story
Week 12, Nebraska at Michigan
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Nov. 19 at Michigan 45 … Nebraska 17
CFN Analysis: This is how it's supposed to work for the Michigan offense. Denard Robinson is never going to be the quarterback Brady Hoke wants for his offense, but as long as he's hitting on 11-of-18 passes for 180 yards, even with the one pick, everything is going to click. Michigan held on to the ball for over 41 minutes, the running game came up with the big dashes needed to keep the chains moving, and it was an easy blowout. … The Michigan secondary never worried about the Nebraska passing game in any way, and it showed with everyone cheating up to stop Rex Burkhead. Everyone tries to do that, but Michigan was able to get it done because Mike Martin and the line controlled everything up the middle. … Michigan might not win the Big Ten championship, but an at-large BCS game is still on the table with an impressive win over Ohio State. If the offense is as efficient and as effective as it was this week, the Buckeyes are in trouble.
Nebraska doesn't have to throw to win, but it has to be effective when it puts the ball in the air. Taylor Martinez needed to hit on half his passes, but instead he connected on just 9-of-23 throws and he couldn't keep the Husker defense off the field. … It's not fair to Michigan's performance to blame the emotion of Nebraska's game last week at Penn State for a letdown performance, but the energy and the enthusiasm didn't seem there like it was last week. It was as if Nebraska's D knew it was on center stage last week. It missed too many stops and was out of position too often against the Wolverines. … A ten-win season is still possible with a win over Iowa and a bowl victory. This might not have been the season the Huskers were hoping for, but a 9-3 regular season finish would hardly be anything to criticize.
(AP) ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Denard Robinson threw two touchdown passes and ran for two scores to help Michigan (No. 18 BCS, No. 20 AP) rout Nebraska (No. 16 BCS, No. 17 AP) 45-17 Saturday.
The Wolverines (9-2, 5-2 Big Ten) moved into second place in the conference's Legends Division and kept its chances of playing in a BCS bowl for the first time since the 2006 season.
The Cornhuskers (8-3, 4-3) lost any hope of playing in the Big Ten's first title game.
The Wolverines, who lost to the Spartans this year, can't win their division, but they have plenty to play for next week at home against Ohio State. The Buckeyes have won seven straight games in the storied rivalry.
Some of the 113,718 fans at Michigan Stadium on Saturday broke out a "Beat Ohio!" chant in the fourth quarter -- and again after the game.
The Wolverines turned a close game against Nebraska into a rout with 21 straight points after it was tied at 10.
Robinson, a stingy defense and Cornhuskers miscues had a lot to do with that.
Robinson was 11 of 18 for 180 yards with two TDs and an interception. He ran for 83 yards and two scores in three-plus quarters. Devin Gardner finished the game at quarterback after Fitzgerald Toussaint's second score put Michigan up 45-17. Toussaint had 138 yards rushing and two scores on 29 carries.
Robinson ran for his second TD early in the third quarter to make it 24-10 after Nebraska's Kenny Bell lost a fumble on the kickoff.
The Wolverines had a chance to take a 17-point lead on their next drive, but faked a field goal against the flat-footed Cornhuskers with holder Drew Dileo running for a first down to set up Toussaint's 1-yard TD run.
Nebraska pulled within two TDs on the ensuing drive, capped by a crafty play that started with a handoff to Rex Burkhead and finished with an option pitch to Ameer Abdullah for a 3-yard score, but couldn't get closer.
Michigan's defense, which has improved under first-year coach Brady Hoke after struggling the previous three years with Rich Rodriguez, didn't allow the Cornhuskers to convert a third down until late in the third quarter after they failed on their first seven chances.
Just when it looked as if Nebraska might get some momentum in the game, shutting down Michigan on consecutive drives, Wil Richards was called for roughing the kicker on a punt and the Wolverines put the game out of reach.
Robinson converted a third down in a big way, perfectly heaving a pass from just inside the 50 to the back of the end zone into the hands of Martavious Odoms to make it 38-17 with 10:14 left in the game.
Nebraska's Tim Marlowe lost a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and Taylor Martinez fumbled the next time the Cornhuskers had the ball just after he completed two passes in a row for the first time in the game.
On the next snap, Toussaint ran for a 31-yard TD to make it 45-17.
All in all, the Cornhuskers' first game at Michigan Stadium since 1962 was simply miserable and it might've reminded them of their Big Ten debut this year -- a 48-17 loss at Wisconsin.
Nebraska scored its first 10 points on Martinez's 54-yard pass to Brandon Kinnie, who took advantage of three defensive backs falling on the play late in the first quarter, and Brett Maher's career-long 51-yard field goal after Robinson threw his 14th interception of the season.
Burkhead was held to a season-low 36 yards. Martinez was 9 of 23 for 122 yards with a TD and a fumble.
The only thing that didn't go well for Michigan was the power supply at the Big House. It went out more than an hour before kickoff, leaving one of the two video boards without power for much of the first half.
Nebraska (8-2) at Michigan (8-2) Nov. 19, 12:00, ESPN/ESPN3
Here's The Deal … In 1905, Michigan started out the season 12-0 outscoring its opponents 495-0 before losing to Chicago 2-0 in the season finale. Along the way was a 31-0 win over a Nebraska team that quickly got over the loss with a 102-0 win over Creighton. The two superpower programs have only played five times since, and while the 1986 Fiesta Bowl was interesting, this year's battle of new Legends rivals is the biggest game of the bunch.
Both teams need a Michigan State loss in the final two games for the winner in Ann Arbor to have a shot at the division title. The Huskers came up with a stunning win over the Spartans two weeks ago to get in a position to take the division, only to blow it against Northwestern the following week. Now, the long, strange inaugural trip into the Big Ten is finally coming into the home stretch, and after last week, playing in front of over 100,000 Michigan fans won't be a problem.
For all the discussion about what the Penn State players were going through last Saturday, the Nebraska players also had to deal with as bizarre a situation as any team has ever been put in. On the one hand, Nebraska was America's Team, considering all the anger and outrage over Penn State as a university, but there was the emotion from the other side to deal with, facing a fired up team looking to win one for its fired coach and for themselves on Senior Day.
Michigan is likely out of the Big Ten title chase, needing Michigan State to lose twice and needing to beat the Huskers and Ohio State to close. No matter what happens, if the Wolverines win their final two games to finish the regular season with ten wins, the first year under Brady Hoke will be a success.
The two teams aren't exactly mirror images of one another, but they both use the same form of transportation. Michigan has the nation's 11th best rushing attack, ranking second in the Big Ten behind Wisconsin, while Nebraska is 13th in the nation. Both have hit-or-miss passing games, and both have strong enough defenses to rise up when needed and come up with a key stop. This is the start of something big, and there will be far more huge battles down the road, but this won't be a bad start.
Why Nebraska Might Win: For all the excitement and all the talk over playing Nebraska, Michigan's world revolves more around next week's game against Ohio State in the hopes of stopping a six game losing streak. Michigan doesn't have as much to play for, and it might show if the Huskers come out with more of a sense of urgency from the start. The Husker defensive front did a great job of holding its own against the Penn State offensive line last week and completely shut down the Nittany Lion attack for 40 minutes. The Husker line ended up allowing 166 rushing yards and two scores as Penn State was never able to establish itself like it needed to on the ground.
Michigan has had a turnover problem lately. Interceptions have been the norm throughout the season, but after going four games without losing a fumble, the offense has given it away three times in the last two games. Nebraska has also lost three fumbles over the last two games, but Taylor Martinez has kept the interceptions to a minimum with just one pick in the last four games. Over the last five games Nebraska has turned it over just four times, while over the same span Michigan has given it away 11 times. In a game that should be even on both sides, a +2 turnover margin could be the difference for the Huskers.
Why Michigan Might Win: Michigan faced a similar offense last week against Illinois, and the defensive front whipped the Illini offensive front to stuff QB Nathan Scheelhaase for 14 yards on 16 carries, finishing with three sacks and six tackles for loss. Meanwhile, the Husker defensive front has been good against power running teams with statues at quarterback, but Minnesota's MarQueis Gray was able to roam free a bit for 67 yards and a score on 17 carries. The 1-2 punch of Ohio State's Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde – the starter before Dan Herron returned – combined for 195 yards and two scores with Miller averaging 9.1 yards per carry and Hyde ripping off a 63-yarder on the way to eight yards per carry. Michigan's combination Denard Robinson and Fitzgerald Toussaint should have similar success behind a line that's hitting its stride at the right time.
Michigan has more weapons. Nebraska is a true two man offense with Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead taking turns to see who'll carry the ball next, while Michigan has a night-and-day better receiving corps and far better options in the backfield. The Wolverines can come at the Huskers with more of a balance and can spread the ball around a little bit, while Nebraska has one pitch, and while it throws it very well, the defense knows what's coming.
What To Watch Out For: Is Denard Robinson okay? He banged up his wrist against Illinois, forcing Devin Gardner come in, but he's expected to be able to play this week. The problem is that Denard hasn't been himself lately, failing to break off enough big runs and not nearly being the electrifying playmaker who tore up the first half of the season. He's leaving the highlights to Fitzgerald Toussaint, who destroyed Illinois with 192 yards and a score. Robinson's job is to finally try to go a game without throwing a pick, and if he can tear off a few big runs, the rest of the offense should open up wide.
Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David might not be among the nation's top tacklers, but he's making meaningful stops and he's setting the tone with big stops game in and game out. After making 24 tackles over a two game stretch, he came up with nine against Penn State including a few game-changing late hits. If his name isn't being called often, the Michigan running game is probably rolling.
What Will Happen: Michigan and Nebraska do many of the same things, but Michigan does them better. The defensive front is playing better and the receiving corps is far stronger. The Husker running game will work, but Robinson and the Wolverines will get more pop out of its attack with more of a passing game to balance things out.
CFN Prediction: Michigan 24 … Nebraska 20
Click For Latest Line From ATS: Michigan -3.5
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