Before the season this was supposed to be a key Game for Michigan in its first Big Ten contest. Now, it would be an embarrassment if the Wolverines lost to a Nebraska team that’s 0-2 for the first time since 1957. It hasn’t been a great start for SCott Frost and a trip to Ann Arbor will be their toughest Game to date. The Wolverines were favored on Tuesday by -18.5 points with an over/under of 49 at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
The last time these teams played was back in 2013 so there isn’t much relevance in previous matchups. Nebraska is in a major rebuild under SCott Frost and it’s going to take at least one season, having lost the first two Games at home against Colorado and Troy. They weren’t the toughest opponents, but this one will be and it doesn’t help that freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez is a Game-time decision against one of the best defenses in the country. Sophomore Andrew Bunch replaced him against Troy and that led to 19 points for the Cornhuskers. If Bunch starts again, it’s a wonder if they’ll be able to top 14 points.
This is a tough spot for any quarterback and then you throw in Bunch, who is much less mobile than Martinez and has a worse arm and it’s hard to see how Nebraska will have a chance. The Huskers will likely run the ball as much as possible behind Greg Bell and Maurice Washington, but those guys can only do so much. against Troy, they ran for 187 yards on 3.9 yards per carry and that still only led to 19 points. Combine that with the Michigan defense that has guys like Rashan Gary on the line and the Huskers could have trouble reaching three yards per carry.
For Nebraska to cover, the defense needs to step up and that’s not out of the question. Colorado and Troy don’t have terrible offenses so the blame couldn’t be put on the defense in those losses. In fact, the Huskers had 111 more yards than Troy and held Colorado’s rushing attack to 44 yards on 1.3 yards per carry (sacks included). That could be enough to keep this Game within 18 points.
Michigan’s offense is still a mystery despite scoring 94 points the last two Games. Neither of those defenses is worth anything and even then, the Wolverines didn’t look dominant against SMU, winning 35-20 early in the Fourth quarter. If SMU can stay close with Michigan after losing its first two Games by at least 23 points, there’s no reason Nebraska can’t. The Wolverines are running the ball fine between Karan Higdon and Chris Evans, but Shea Patterson is still gelling with the offense. He’s at 9.06 yards per attempt, but hasn’t been challenged in the last two Games. If this one is close and Patterson is forced to pass more, that could open up for more turnovers like in the Notre Dame Game.
Even if Bunch gets another start for a winless Nebraska team, this is by no means a free win for Michigan. It will be challenged and it will depend on if the offense can put points on the board consistently to cover.
The Cornhuskers are 4-1 ATS in their last five road Games, but 1-5 ATS in their last five overall. The Wolverines are 4-1-1 ATS in their last six following an ATS loss, but 2-8 ATS in their last 10 following a straight-up win of more than 20 points.
Our Pick – Michigan -17