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CFN Analysis: Huskers Take The Big House

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Nov 9, 2013


In the span of eight days, the Nebraska Cornhuskers have made themselves a contender in the Big Ten Legends Division. Head coach Bo Pelini took a huge step toward saving his job by outcoaching Michigan's Brady Hoke, who now faces a long and stormy offseason.

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Not unlike their coach, the Huskers certainly are a resilient, no-quit bunch.

Down but not out. It applies to both Nebraska and its leader, Bo Pelini. Leave it to the Huskers to bottom out against Minnesota on Oct. 26, only to rebound with comeback wins over Northwestern and Michigan in back-to-back weeks. Last week, they were lucky. This week, they were good when they needed to be, snapping Michigan's 19-game winning streak in Ann Arbor.

Nah, not a great Wolverine team. In fact, a pretty disappointing Wolverine team, one that's become increasingly shoddy over the last month. Still, head coach Brady Hoke had been unbeatable at home since taking over the program, so this goes down as a quality win for Nebraska.

The Huskers stayed alive in the Legends Division, while turning next Saturday's visit from Michigan State into one of the must-see games of Week 12. Bigger picture, 7-2 Nebraska's ability to fight through injuries and general adversity is bolstering the job security of Pelini. He's flawed, as are his teams. But his kids are battling hard for him this month, which shouldn't be lost on AD Shawn Eichorst.

By Phil Harrison
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The honeymoon is officially over for Brady Hoke.

Let’s be real. The Michigan Wolverines have serious issues on the offensive-line. After providing about as much resistance as a Swiss peace corps last week against an onslaught of pressure from an athletic Michigan State team, things didn’t improve much today against a less-talented Nebraska front. The Maize and Blue not only gave up seven sacks, but couldn’t get anything going with the ground game either.

Now show ‘em what they’ve won Bob.

A Michigan team that had so much promise to start the season is now done in the race for the Legends division, and is left scrambling just to regroup and muster an invite to a bowl-game that doesn’t have a chance of snow during vacation. Simply put, Brady Hoke and the coaching staff are have to tinker and find some way to work on the car while still weaving between the guardrails.

For Nebraska, living dangerously seems to be the norm. After a Hail Mary last week, the ‘Huskers let the Wolverines back in the game and then were left to turn water into wine yet again. The second straight knee-buckler win for Bo Pelini’s crew keeps Nebraska as one of only two teams with ownership of their own domain in the Legends -- Michigan State being the other.

Speaking of the Spartans, they’re ready to pack that aggressive and athletic defense into a carry-on and make the flight to Lincoln for a big-time matchup with an all-expenses paid trip to beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana up for grabs. That happens next week.

Set your DVR now ...

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The Michigan Indifference. If this game had a title, it'd be that, a play on words on their University commercial slogan, as another gutless effort on the field and witless effort in the booth handed Michigan its first loss in 19 home games and first in Ann Arbor in the Brady Hoke era.

The game was another abject failure by Michigan's coaching staff to 1) Motivate the team following a loss to a rival and 2) Adjust to what Nebraska was throwing at them. And make no mistake; Nebraska tried hard to give them the game with some ill-fated turnovers in their own territory that netted a total of -1 yard and 3 points for Michigan.

It seemed as though the team had found something after halftime on a touchdown drive that finally saw Al Borges provide QB Devin Gardner with some short routes to help curtail a suddenly formidable Nebraska defense that came in having given up 200-plus yards rushing to five different opponents including Wyoming and an FCS program.

But that was obviously some sort of mirage, and once again Michigan resorted to deep drops, predictable play calling that saw boos raining down from the 112,000 at Michigan Stadium, and crossing routes that take real time and blocking to develop.

Gardner for his part was terrible too, again holding onto the ball too long instead of throwing it away, missing open receivers, and dancing around behind the line of scrimmage, undecided on if or when to run.

Late in the game, the announcers on ABC remarked at how Nebraska ostensibly knew exactly what Michigan was running with their stack formation plays, just another indictment of what a miserable job this coaching staff has done offensively.

Perhaps what is more concerning to the Wolverines though is a rapidly-developing culture that doesn't seem to "get it." Late in the second quarter, WR Jeremy Gallon had a crease on a punt return that could have gone as far as it needed to to score points. He was pointing out blocks. His own player (not really a fault of his) destroyed a Nebraska defender on a block, pushing it into Gallon, who crashed to the ground about 30 yards sooner than he probably should have. Immediately, senior captain OT Taylor Lewan was the first to celebrate the block, never mind the fact that it cost Michigan likely a long FG try.

While it's something mostly innocuous at first and second glance, it's a sign of where this program is right now. Soft, style over substance, and not mature enough as a football team. If there's a fix for this program, it painfully is probably not on this roster or in that coaching staff this particular year.

By Matt Zemek
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We live in a strange world.

We live in a world where the Nebraska Cornhuskers can look utterly lost on defense against the likes of Wyoming and Minnesota but then smother Michigan in the Big House.

We live in a world where Brady Hoke – seemingly a rising star in the coaching profession two short seasons ago, a man who appeared likely to lead Michigan back to the mountaintop in college football – faces a 2014 season marked “win or bust.”

We live in a world where Bo Pelini – almost certain to be dismissed as Nebraska’s head coach if a Hail Mary pass had fallen incomplete against Northwestern a week ago – can pretty much guarantee a 2014 season if he beats Michigan State.

We live in a world where Nebraska – so abysmal at times this season – can capture the Big Ten Legends Division if it wins out. Yes, this would mark a second straight Legends title for the Cornhuskers, all while Hoke and Michigan are quite possibly headed for a December bowl game.

Michigan entered this contest as a team with a split personality. The Wolverines had a Seattle Seahawk-like ability to flourish at home but collapse on the road. For Michigan’s offensive line to falter at home against Nebraska’s defensive line represents the fullest indictment yet of the player development that’s (not) occurring in Ann Arbor. Some might say that recruits don’t mean much until they step onto the playing field in college. Others might say that the play selection of offensive coordinator Al Borges is to blame for Michigan’s woes. Those are reasonable criticisms. Yet, Michigan’s players just aren’t very good. Nebraska’s players were better, and Nebraska’s had trouble playing consistently for much of 2013.

Bo Pelini is gaining job security. Brady Hoke’s job might be on the line 11 or 12 months from now. What a world we live in.