Pat’s Preview and Prediction – Michigan Wolverines
Game Info: Saturday, Sept 22nd at 11:00 CT – Ann Arbor, Michigan
Where to watch/listen: TV – Fox Sports 1, www.foxsportsgo.com, Husker Radio Network
Oh, Big Red…
For the sake of my sunny disposition (and fraying sanity) let’s begin with the good news first in our preview:
- Lamar Jackson got himself an interception marking the first time the Blackshirts caused a turnover this season. While I’ve been hard on Jackson in the past, his pick was a thing athletic beauty. Nebraska also recovered a fumble and coughed up the ball a whopping four times.
- Barrett Pickering kicked a couple of field goals. So hopefully whatever yips, nerves, or jitters may have affected him last week can be put to rest.
- Third, the running game is proving to be a potent three-headed hydra where any one of the heads can be a difference maker. This time around it was Maurice Washington who got in the action showing shiftiness and moves that remind me more than a little of a Mr. Ameer Abdullah.
- Sack totals are piling up with five more added on. That gives Nebraska 12 sacks in two games. The defense only had 14 for the whole season. The Blackshirts are proving they can be as nasty as they wanna be and letting opposing quarterbacks know about it.
And now the not-so…why sugarcoat it?….the horrendously no-good news:
- Another untimely and critical penalty, this time courtesy of Mohammed Barry. Best playmaking linebacker ejected and with it, the experience a senior leader can provide. The result is whiffed tackle by Will Honas, who filled Barry’s spot for the rest of the game, and linebackers who were suckered into abandoning their assignments due to receivers in motion, obliterating the second level support and allowing Troy to run right up the middle.
- More turnovers and more penalties committed by Nebraska. Two interceptions, especially the one that ended the game on a whimper. A lost fumble. And while they didn’t accrue as many penalty yards as Troy, the Huskers still had 10 penalties for 77 yards.
- Nebraska was still not able to maintain their composure and mental acumen for a whole 60 minutes. There was the breakdown in punt coverage in the 2nd quarter. There were mental mistakes, missed tackles, blown assignments, and defensive breakdowns in the 4th quarter that resulted in a touchdown run that would end up deciding the ball game. What might have been passed off as first game flukes are starting to look like a trend.
So now Nebraska journeys to Ann Arbor to play in front of 100,000 plus fans dressed in gold and maize, barring the traveling Husker faithful, of course. As of Monday’s presser, the quarterback might be a game time decision. Again. Big Ten play begins Saturday with two losses under Nebraska’s umbrella. Things have never looked bleaker in one sense. In another sense, things may have never looked more ripe for an upset. We’ll see.
What to watch for:
Finding Balance — Here’s something to consider with Michigan. Despite how heralded the Wolverines’ defense was in the preseason, with many pundits and even the folks on Big Ten Network saying the Wolverines had the best defense in the Big Ten, Notre Dame still gashed them for 132 on the ground and 170 yards passing. Not gaudy numbers, but noteworthy in not only how efficiently the Irish ran their offense, but how balanced it was. There were more rushing attempts, of course, with 47 as opposed to just 22 passing attempts. But they went with what was working and the successfully mixed it up with the pass. Textbook football. Nebraska already has the three-headed hydra in Bell, Ozigbo, and Mo Washington. Now they have to utilize the other three-headed hydra in the receiving corp made up of Stanley Morgan, J.D. Spielman, and Tyjon Lindsey. The arsenal is there. Now the Huskers need to open it up and let the playmakers make their plays and maybe it will prove to be too many weapons for the Wolverines to deal with.
Leakage along the O-Line — Troy had three sacks against Nebraska last week and Michigan has a vastly better defense. If the Wolverines are in the quarterback’s face all day, this will be a very long game.
Offensive key to a Husker win:
Establish the Norm: The Huskers need to take away the home field advantage from Michigan right from the get-go. If Nebraska can score on their first drive either through a long time-consuming ground and pound attack or with a deadly strike to a streaking Spielman, the statement is made. Let’s dance.
What to watch for:
Exploiting their weakness — There is a big fat exhaust port that is just ripe for a Blackshirt torpedo and that is a debilitated offense. Notre Dame stuffed the Michigan running game holding them to 58 yards rushing and sacking Michigan QB Shay Patterson three times. Sacks and stuffing the run? Sounds like that’s right in the Blackshirts’ wheelhouse. If the D-Line can get penetration and let Akinmoladun and the Davis twins make with the sacking and Erik Chinander gets exotic with some well-timed blitzes and stunts, Nebraska may keep it a defensive battle and hold the Wolverines in check.
Big Plays in the Big House — The Michigan running game may have been ineffective in the Notre Dame game, but the receivers were as dependable as advertised. Patterson ended up with 249 yards passing. Michigan’s leading receiver Donovan People-Jones has already racked up 159 yards in receptions and four TDs. It is imperative that the Blackshirts work as a cohesive unit with all three levels communicating and being on the same page. Otherwise, the secondary might be having its hands full.
Defensive Key to a Husker Win:
Weather the Storm: The Blackshirts are gonna be victimized by big plays. This is Michigan. This is what they do. Nebraska needs to limit the big plays and not panic. Stick with the gameplan. Stuff the run. Force Patterson to have to make plays. Make him pay when he passes. Gang tackle and sack him when the moment arises. The Blackshirts have to stay aggressive and attack, no matter what happens.
SPECIAL TEAMS KEYS TO A HUSKER VICTORY:
Be sound in punt and kickoff coverage: The Huskers cannot allow a huge return, because Michigan is gonna be looking to exploit that little chink in the armor. Fill the lanes, pursue the returner, pay attention to the action and look for an opportunity from a muffed punt. And above all WATCH FOR THE FAKE. Harbaugh will pull out whatever stops he has to win.
Be the man, Pickering: Barrett Pickering seems to be the kind of kicker with a short memory. That’s good. Because he needs to keep in mind that it only takes one. You can miss every field goal try throughout the whole game, but as long as you make the one where the outcome is on the line, that’s all that matters.
If this were a more disciplined, more experienced group, I would go for Nebraska. I really do think the Blackshirts will keep the Huskers in the game and expose the Wolverines’ offensive troubles. But you can’t ignore patterns. Turning Nebraska back into a contender might take longer than anticipated, but it will make that turnaround all the sweeter when it happens.
But it won’t be Saturday. It will be a game effort by the Huskers, but the Wolverines will prove to be too much in the end.
Day by day we get better and better… You know the rest of it. See ya next week!
GO BIG RED!!!
/ 4 days ago
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