It’s a can’t lose situation this Saturday for the Michigan Wolverines. After coming off a horrible loss to their in-state rival the Michigan State Spartans, the Wolverines are looking to re-deem themselves and get back on track and what better way to do that, than at back home in Ann Arbor, Michigan. However, their opponent, the Nebraska Cornhuskers are not be underestimated. Nebraska is coming off clutch victory against the Northwestern Wildcats and looking to continue their winning streak against the Wolverines.
Despite the Wolverines horrible loss last week, they are still a solid team who has talent but if they want to get back on track and defeat Nebraska they will have to follow certain steps.
It all starts with the offense in this one and when it comes to the offense it all starts with the offensive line. As I have said all season long, Michigan’s offense will continue to struggle if the offensive line continues to play poorly. The offensive line must control the line of scrimmage, doing so will give quarterback Devin Gardner time in the pocket and hopefully open up some holes for running backs Fitzgerald Toussaint and Derrick Green.
When it comes to Gardner, he must get the ball out quickly and take what the defense gives him. As always, he must be smart with his decision-making and make a point to not force any passes. I think he should start with short and intermediate passes which will open up some big play opportunities. However, for Gardner to succeed he will also need his wide receivers to step up. Wide receiver Jeremy Gallon has done his part all season long and I have no doubt he will continue it in this game but I still want to see the continued emergence of tight end Devin Funchess in this game as well. More importantly I want to see at least one more receiver or tight end step up and become that third target for Gardner. However, once again the offensive line must do their part, Nebraska will make a point to load up the box and challenge the offensive line which should allow the receivers to create room but Gardner has to have time in the pocket so he can connect with his receivers and the offensive line must give him that.
Once again, the running game must get going in this game and I don’t mean through Gardner. I have said many times before, Michigan needs to stop running Gardner so much, he should only have 10-15 carries a game, no more than that. Last week against the Spartans, he had 18 carries and took 34 hits including seven sacks, he may be strong but his body can only take so much. Running the ball well through Toussaint and Green will help to move the chains, take pressure off Gardner and hopefully open up some passing opportunities as well. While I give blame to the offensive line for the lack of a running game this season, some of the blame still has to go to Toussaint which is why I also suggest that Michigan try some of their other running backs at this point such as Thomas Rawls, Justice Hayes, De’Veon Smith, even Dennis Norfleet. It’s just a thought but keep in mind, they can’t do any worse than what Toussaint has done so far this.
Just a side note, I also feel Offensive Coordinator Al Borges must do a better job with the play-calling and adjustments in this game. Some didn’t notice but the Michigan’s lack of adjustments and poor play-calling was another huge factor in the Wolverines loss to the Spartans last week.
Defensively, they must also step up and it starts with slowing down the Nebraska run game and that won’t be easy. Nebraska is currently ranked 13th in the nation in rushing yards per game averaging 261 rushing yards a game. This Michigan front seven must do their part and contain the running game and they are going to have to bring it for all four quarters. Running back Ameer Abdullah is a star and has already rushed for over 1,000 yards and to slow him down they must be able to control the line of scrimmage and more importantly wrap up and finish tackles.
Michigan secondary must also play their part. This season they have allowed the average quarterback to look like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning and that can’t continue in this game. Quarterback Taylor Martinez is expected to be out with an injury for this game, so they will go up against freshman quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. When it comes to Armstrong he is still young and inexperience, so Michigan defense will need be prepared to make plays on his mistakes seeing that he has thrown six interceptions so far. So again the Michigan secondary needs to be prepared to make plays off of his mistakes. However, they must also be aware that Armstrong can make a lot of plays with his feet, since he is considered to be a better runner than passer, so they shouldn’t underestimate him in that sense either. Michigan’s best bet defensively is to make Nebraska one-dimensional and the way to do that is to contain the running game which will force Nebraska to beat you with their freshman quarterback.
If the Wolverines follow those steps, I think they will be able to pull off the victory against Nebraska. I said after their loss to Michigan State, the Wolverines should be pissed and upset with themselves and take the loss personal, well the time for redemption is now. Michigan is back at home for this game against Nebraska and a win here could help them get back on track and hopefully get them ready to their road games against Northwestern and Iowa before returning to Ann Arbor to face-off against their rival Ohio State.
Written by LBeasley, Sports Contributor for Radio One Detroit
Listen to LBeasley’s Radio Show, “Sports Talk with L-Beasley” every Mon, Wed & Fri from 6-8pm (ET) on LBeasley.com