Nebraska vs. Michigan: Breaking Down Keys for Each Team

Jeremy Fuchs@@jaf78Correspondent IIINovember 9, 2013

LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 27: Safety P.J. Smith #13 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers knocks the ball loose from running back Stephen Hopkins #33 of the Michigan Wolverines during their game at Memorial Stadium on October 27, 2012 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska beat Michigan 23-9. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images

One team is coming off of the highest of highs.

The other is coming off of the lowest of lows.

That should mean that the Nebraska vs. Michigan matchup on Saturday should be pretty good.

Both teams are 6-2, although Nebraska has one more Big Ten win. Nebraska should be feeling pretty good about itself, especially after this epic Hail Mary to beat Northwestern in the final seconds (GIF courtesy of Bleacher Report):

LINCOLN, NE - NOVEMBER 2: Quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. #4 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers slips past linebacker Damien Proby #46 of the Northwestern Wildcats during their game at Memorial Stadium on November 2, 2013 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Fra
Eric Francis/Getty Images

Michigan is coming off of a bad loss to Michigan State. The Wolverines were held to -48 rushing yards (No, that's not a typo. They really had negative 48 rushing yards).

You can bet that the Wolverines are desperate for a bounce-back win. However, the Huskers will be looking to extend the momentum from that incredible victory.

What are the keys for victory for each team?

Read on to find out.



The key to a Nebraska victory is the play of Tommy Armstrong Jr. Despite throwing three picks against Northwestern and eventually getting benched for Ron Kellogg, the Huskers are going back to the freshman, according to Steven M. Sipple of the Lincoln Journal Star:

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 05:  Fitzgerald Toussaint #28 of the Michigan Wolverines runs eight yards for a first quarter touchdown during the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Michigan Stadium on October 5, 2013 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by
Leon Halip/Getty Images

 Armstrong has been inconsistent at quarterback while filling in for Taylor Martinez. He was efficient against Illinois, throwing for 135 yards and two touchdowns, but was dreadful against Purdue, throwing for just 43 yard and three picks.

If the Huskers want to win, then Armstrong cannot turn the ball over. Michigan averages 1.5 interceptions per game, and they have recorded 17 sacks.

The Wolverines are going to bombard Armstrong with pressure, and based on the sample size, I don't think that he can handle it. There's no doubting that Michigan is going to send the house at Armstrong. Frank Clark, who has five sacks for the Wolverines, and Cameron Gordon, who has three, should spend plenty of time in the backfield.

I'm doubtful that Armstrong is going to do well, and I would not be surprised if we see Ron Kellogg again. Armstrong is talented—he's just too raw right now.



The Wolverines have to get back to the run game.

Yes, their game against Michigan State was an embarrassing disaster. It seems impossible to rush for -48 yards, but they did. 

But the only way for Jeremy Gallon to face single coverage is for the run game to get going.

Luckily, the Huskers have an awful rush defense. They give up a gaudy 182.6 yards on the ground per game. They somehow gave up 227 rushing yards to South Dakota State. Zach Zenner, who ran for 202 yards in that game, does lead the FCS in rushing. But, let's be clear—Nebraska gave up 227 rushing yards to an FCS team.

Michigan needs Fitzgerald Toussaint to get going. He's not the same runner that rushed for 1,041 yards in his first season as a starter. In fact, it's been a pretty steep decline since:


Despite that inexplicable drop, the Wolverines need Toussaint. They need to establish the run game, so the safeties can cheat up, and Gallon can go one-on-one against a corner. Gallon is pretty unstoppable when he's not double-covered.

Michigan put up those awful run numbers against the best defense in the nation. That means it was probably an anomaly. On the season, the Wolverines do average nearly 155 rushing yards per game.

Without a steady and reliable running game, they are going to lose. Look what happened against Michigan State.

I would not be surprised to see Michigan get back on track. Michigan State's defense is so good, and Nebraska's is not.


Final Thoughts

I like the Wolverines in this matchup. If Taylor Martinez were playing, then maybe I'd feel differently.

But he's not. The Wolverines should get back on track, and I think they will beat up on the Huskers. 

Look for the Wolverines to win this one by a score of 28-17.