Nebraska needed two touchdowns in the final six minutes to eke by Northwestern on the "road," 29-28, last Saturday. The game wasn't nearly as close as the score would indicate, however, as it took three Husker fumbles—two on muffed punts—to nearly negate a 543-301 total yardage advantage. For most of the game, Northwestern's best offense was to punt to Nebraska and dive on the football.
The first seven minutes of the game and the final two minutes were cut off, respectively, by the Ohio State-Purdue overtime and my DVR (note to self: extend recording an hour, not 30 minutes), and there's no torrent available, so this breakdown covers the middle 51 or so minutes.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? The Husker offense leans heavily spread-run, with the vast majority of the snaps coming out of the shotgun except in short-yardage sitiations, when they usually go I-form.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? A team that runs as much as Nebraska is going to show both gap and zone blocking concepts. They run a fair amount of inside and outside zone, but also showed some interesting ways to get Martinez on the edge with pulling linemen (see the play breakdown below).
Hurry it up or grind it out? Nebraska had a slightly above-average pace last year and looks to be in the same range this year; they're not a sprint-to-the-line spread squad.
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): You're likely pretty familiar with Taylor Martinez, who currently sits behind only Denard Robinson and Braxton Miller in the rushing standings among Big Ten quarterbacks. He's always been a very solid runner, with speed only surpassed by Denard among B1G QBs, and he broke a surprising number of tackles against Northwestern. The threat he provides with his legs makes the Husker offense very difficult to defend—I'll give him an 8, and that could easily be a 9.
Dangerman: With running back Rex Burkhead likely out of the game this weekend, Martinez becomes the focal point of the Husker offense. Another player to watch is sophomore wideout Kenny Bell, currently leading the team in receiving with 26 catches for 540 yards (20.8 ypc) and five touchdowns. He's a tough cover, dangerous both going downfield or catching short passes and getting big YAC, and that's worrisome if Raymon Taylor is limited at all this weekend.
Zook Factor: Despite having one of the best rushing attacks in the country, Bo Pelini is quite conservative on fourth down, only going for it three times this year. The Huskers have converted twice, but the failure came against Northwestern, when they dialed up the same QB sweep that they ran on the previous play for seven yards—the Wildcats sniffed it out and stuffed in the backfield.
I know last year we had a couple of beasts in the middle, but this year's edition seems to be coming along, and I like this year's secondary even better (notwithstanding personnel).
The biggest difference, however, is that the entire unit appears to be playing together within the scheme. Not that I understand the specifics of this scheme, but if I'm running an offense that resembles the spread, I want no part of this defense. The front is playing downhill and the back has the ability to lock things down. I see a lot of three and outs and at most 17 points (I hope I hope I hope...)
But jebus BISB, you could note in that locked thread that there is no impropriety alleged on the part of Michigan. If it's the same rumor discussed on other boards, it's a former recruit allegedly getting benefits from another school.
I about crapped when I read it, before I remembered Oregon and the NCAA doong nothing to anyone anymore. Though others might be glad to know Michigan isn't involved.
I like the Abdullah kid who is their #2 option at tailback after Burkhead. Not sure there is much of a dropoff there anymore, HOWEVA, that kid loves to put the ball on the ground. And, indeed, he was the one who muffed those punts, at least one of them.
Speaking of fumbles, talk about a key thing to look out for. Braska has lost 10 of 17 fumbles, while UM has recovered just of 13.
It's the offense that cant recover their own fumbles vs a defense that cant recover fumbles they've forced. Something. Has. Got. To. Give.
For all that we're always saying "Michigan won't have to face another triple option team like Air Force this year"... wouldn't you go heavily triple option against Michigan if you're Nebraska? I mean, if I was their offensive coordinator, I'd look at Michigan's performance against Air Force and say "we have better players than Air Force. Imagine what we can do" and focus heavily on that.