Michigan Football: Don't Expect Spartans Hangover in Wolverines vs. Nebraska
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Beating the Michigan State Spartans for the first time in four years was one of this season's objectives for the Michigan Wolverines.
Now ranked 20th in the AP Top 25, the Wolverines (5-2, 3-0) are in control of their destiny after a shaky 2-2 start. Two decisive Big Ten wins likely fueled Michigan as it reclaimed the Paul Bunyan Trophy on Saturday with a 12-10 victory over the Spartans, who hadn't lost in the series since 2007.
But defeating Michigan State is just the beginning for the Wolverines, who strutted into 2012 with a No. 8 preseason ranking, only to fall out of the AP poll weeks later.
Michigan won't rest on its laurels after downing the Spartans. It was a huge step for coach Brady Hoke, but not the end-all, be-all of wins.
"It's an instate rival," Hoke told the Detroit Free Press. "But, you know, we have bigger expectations."
In order to achieve those "bigger expectations," Michigan has to tangle Saturday with the Nebraska Huskers (5-2, 2-1), the other perceived Big Ten Legends Division power that has an uber-athletic quarterback in Taylor Martinez.
Martinez vs. Denard Robinson—that should make for must-see Big Ten football.
Perhaps Saturday's clash will be the game we've all been waiting for, other than Michigan-Ohio State, of course. The Huskers are primed for a charge after their 29-28 come-from-behind victory over the Northwestern Wildcats.
A hot Huskers team—minus the 63-38 debacle against the Ohio State Buckeyes—will surely present a challenge for Hoke's Wolverines, who haven't lost in four weeks (including a bye and a 13-6 setback, courtesy of the 7-0 Notre Dame Fighting Irish).
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini is a believer in his Huskers.
Michigan probably should be, too.
Who wins Saturday?
"I firmly believe we can win ‘em all,” Pelini told CBS Sports. “We can play with anybody we play with. We can’t do the things we did today. We pulled this one out. A lot of the issues we had were self-induced. You’re not always going to be able to come back and make that kind of comeback.”
Both teams are in different phases this season when compared to last year. The Huskers were newcomers to the Big Ten and were welcomed by the Wolverines with a 45-17 drubbing.
However, Nebraska averages 41.7 points per game (12th in the nation) and could throw Michigan's defense out of line with Martinez running the show.
Don't discount Nebraska's ground game either—an average of 279 yards per game (sixth best in the country) is enough to make the Wolverines defense take notice.
If there are two teams in the Legends Division that want a title more than Nebraska or Michigan, they've yet to speak up about it. Of course, the Iowa Hawkeyes and Northwestern may feel differently, but the obvious programs to beat are Nebraska and Michigan—they're making the most noise.
Each week's duels become increasingly important. We're down the stretch, and we'll find out just how legitimate this Michigan team is come Saturday.
Don't expect a Spartans hangover.
"It was special, it was a rivalry game, we have three big rivalry games a year," Wolverines tackle Taylor Lewan told the Detroit Free Press. "But, at the same time, this wasn't our season. We have bigger goals, our goal is the Big Ten championship, and that's what we focus on."
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81
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