LGHail is a Twitter personality, nationally renown for his subtle jokes and Michigan fandom. Once a week, he blogs about the state of Wolverines football in his series titled, LGHail’s Tales.
Michigan pummeled Nebraska all day on Saturday, and it got very ugly, very early. The offense was scoring at will, and the defense stopped Nebraska from moving the ball at all.
How Good Was Michigan?s Offense?
Very, very good. The offensive line was opening holes for Tru Wilson, Karan Higdon, and Christian Turner that a MACK truck could drive through. Perhaps even one of the trucks with the yellow ?Wide Load? banners. The passing game was good enough. It seemed like Michigan was intentional about being run first, which some fans may not like, but it was probably the best option for multiple reasons:
1)????? Linemen love run blocking instead of pass blocking, and running a lot keeps down the wear and tear on them, for the bigger games on the schedule, against teams like MSU and OSU who can pressure QBs at a high level.
2)????? Running the ball a lot keeps defenses for better teams guessing when Michigan inevitably does open the playbook against them.
3)????? The run game was working really well. Michigan averaged 7 yards per carry when you remove the 1 rush for -9 yards that Shea Patterson ?ran? for (he was sacked).
4)????? With Nebraska running a high tempo offense, Michigan was able to shorten the game by running the ball, and keeping the clock moving.
Some Michigan fans would prefer to see a Big 12 style passing attack from Michigan in these games, but if you?re winning 56-10, does it really matter?
How Good Was Michigan?s Defense?
They were looking like 2016 again. With Adrian Martinez in the game, Nebraska was expected to move the ball on Saturday. I posted here last week that mobile QBs always give Michigan fits.
The Michigan defense was stout all day on Saturday, allowing just 132 yards of total offense — 71 of which came in the fourth quarter after the game was already out of reach.
— Michigan Football (@UMichFootball) September 23, 2018
Well it didn?t really go that way on Saturday. Instead, Nebraska opted to make a business decision with Martinez?s health, and let him sit the 2nd half, so he could maybe win some other games. This was because Scott Frost knew he wasn?t winning on Saturday. Here were previous issues with Michigan?s defense, and how they responded on Saturday:
Issue: Huge QB run gains to extend drives on 2nd and long/3rd and long
Response: There was a 3rd and 12 that Martinez was able to turn into a 1st down with his feet. But this only really happened once. That?s a huge improvement for Michigan?s defense.
Issue: Being beaten on the outside because of over-committing
Response: Michigan played really great contain, covered the outsides really well, and busted up a few option plays for a loss.
Issue: Not enough big plays.
Response: Michigan had 14 TFLs for a loss, it?s highest total for a game since the school started tracking them in 1997. (Thank you @DrewCHallett) There were big hits, there was a tip drill interception, there was a safety, there was a sack on 3rd and 27, and there was greatness from Michigan?s defense. It certainly seems like they are BACK.
How Bad Is Nebraska?
Nebraska is undergoing somewhat of an awkward coaching transition, because they went from a rah-rah guy in Mike Riley to a drill sergeant in Scott Frost. It can be tough to get players from the old regime on board for this. They have talented pieces, but they are still learning a new system. One nice thing is that they were expected to stay within 17-20 points of Michigan, but Michigan won by 46. And let?s be honest, it could have been a lot more than that, but Michigan called off the troops.
I think Nebraska will be about a 5-7 or 6-6 team, benefiting from a good home field advantage when they have it, and a butter soft Big Ten West schedule. This isn?t a blowout win over a Top 25 team, but it?s still nice to blast a Power 5 foe out of the water.
What Happens Next With Michigan?
Michigan heads to Evanston to play Northwestern. This is a nice way to go on the road, but not really go on the road. Michigan has a huge fan and alumni base in the Chicagoland area, and they?ll be out in full force on Saturday.
I am seriously wondering where Northwestern is going to get offense from. For starters, it’s facing a defense that plays smart and is far more athletic than its offense. But to add onto that, the Wildcats lose their leading rusher and second-leading receiver, Jeremy Larkin. His backup has 12 carries for 21 yards.
If Northwestern’s offense can?t move the ball, is its defense really going to withstand the gauntlet that Michigan?s offense is quickly becoming? Highly doubtful.
Michigan is only a 15-point favorite because they are technically a road team. I can only see bad weather or traffic backups on I-94 slowing down Michigan in this game. I see Michigan doubling up the point spread and winning 37-10.