Michigan Football: Game-Deciding Matchups for Showdown with Nebraska

Richard Langford@@noontide34Correspondent IOctober 21, 2012

ANN ARBOR, MI - NOVEMBER 19:  Denard Robinson #16 of the Michigan Wolverines tries to out run the tackle of Lavonte David #4 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Michigan Stadium on November 19, 2011 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Michigan won the game 45-17. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The winner of this pivotal Big Ten showdown will make their way to the Rose Bowl.

At 3-0, Michigan has a half-game lead over Nebraska for first in the Big Ten's Legends Division. The only two other teams playing at a level high enough to beat them out are not eligible to participate in a bowl this season (Ohio State and Penn State). 

Michigan will be just a half game back should they lose, with four more division games remaining. So, it would have a decent shot at overtaking them, but still, the smart money is on the winner of this game finding some roses in their near future. 

Here are the matchups that will determine the winner. 


The Running Game Battle

Neither team tries to hide or lie about it: They like to win by pounding the rock. Michigan is 17th in the nation in rushing yards and Nebraska is an even loftier sixth. Combined, these two teams are rushing for just over 500 yards a contest. 

Both of these schools can hit for the occasional big pass play, and Nebraska is going for a decent 233.4 yards per pass, but neither will be able to get anything going through the air if the defenses aren't preoccupied by having to stop the rushing attack. 

Still, Nebraska is offering at least a semblance of offensive balance—and they are going to need it because Michigan is playing better defense. 

The Wolverines have not allowed more than 13 points in a game since Week 2, and they are giving up just 3.65 yards per carry compared to Nebraska's 4.44. 

They have also allowed just six rushing touchdowns to Nebraska's 11. 

One area where Nebraska has a big edge is their depth in the running game. They have five players who have gained over 200 yards on the season—Michigan has two. 


Denard Robinson vs. Taylor Martinez 

These two exciting quarterbacks will not be battling head-to-head on the field, but this is definitely a key matchup. 

The offense of these two teams goes with its quarterback, and these are two dynamic dual-threat QBs. 

Taylor Martinez comes in with far better passing stats. He has Robinson beat by over 30 points in passer rating. Of course, Martinez has also not had to play Alabama or Notre Dame this year—Robinson has combined to throw six interceptions to just one touchdown in those two games. 

Robinson is a far more accomplished runner and has amassed 900 yards on the ground already this season, and he will almost certainly get more chances to make plays with his feet in this game. 

In a game featuring two good teams without much separating them, it almost always comes down to who wins the little battles of key plays. These two quarterbacks are the leaders of their teams and they must be the reason their teams win on those key plays.