Nebraska vs. Michigan: Cornhuskers D Plays Big, but Where Was This All Season?

Sean Frye@Sean_E_FryeFeatured ColumnistNovember 9, 2013

The Nebraska Cornhuskers are slowly coming back into the national conversation, and it was their defense that made the biggest statement in their 17-13 win over the Michigan Wolverines. 

In Michigan's first loss at The Big House under Brady Hoke, the Wolverines were limited to just 175 total yards despite averaging 411.6 yards of total offense going into the game. Michigan was also limited to just 3-of-15 on third-down conversions. 

Quarterback Devin Gardner looked terrible against Nebraska, throwing for just 196 yards and one touchdown. 

While it was Nebraska's defense that was the biggest factor in the Huskers' win, fans in Lincoln also have to wonder where performances like that have been all season. 

Going into Saturday, the Cornhuskers ranked just 70th in the country in total defense as they gave up 399.9 yards a game. In their two losses in 2013, UCLA and Minnesota gained 504 and 430 yards, respectively. 

Teams also have put up plenty of points against the Cornhuskers. Nebraska was giving up 24 points per game heading into Saturday and also allowed 20 or more points five times. That's despite facing just one ranked team (UCLA in Week 3) all year. 

But against Michigan, the Cornhuskers allowed the second-fewest points they have all year despite facing the 24th-ranked scoring offense of the Wolverines. 

The Cornhuskers absolutely needed a showing like this from their defense, as they're about to play the biggest game of the season next week as they take on the Michigan State Spartans. A win against Sparty will put Nebraska in the driver's seat to the Big Ten title game. 

Michigan State allows the third-fewest points in the nation (11.6). So Nebraska can't rely on its offense to simply outscore the Spartans. Instead, the Cornhuskers have to take the momentum of their great defensive showing against Michigan and use that against the Spartans.