The trip to Ann Arbor has been a game many fans have had their eyes on all season. With Denard Robinson in charge of the offense, Husker fans have been worried about what the Blackshirts will be capable of stopping. As always, there are five main areas Nebraska fans need to keep their eyes on.
1. Contain and Control Denard Robinson
During Monday’s press conference, head coach Bo Pelini said that watching Michigan starting quarterback Denard Robinson is fun. Pelini is right, but for Nebraska, it will be about keeping him in check if the team wishing to win.
Robinson is a mobile quarterback, something Nebraska has struggled with this season. Before a big hit ultimately removed Braxton Miller from the Ohio State game, the Buckeyes were running all over the Huskers. If Nebraska wants to win, fans should expect to see some major stops by the defense. Pressure will be key in this game. Without it, Robinson could very well run all over Nebraska.
2. Balanced Offensive Attack
While I-Back Rex Burkhead will never quit, it is crucial that the team workhorse gets some help. Fans should expect to see a fair balance of pass and run calls. Without a strong balance, things could get off track very quickly. Nebraska will need to take advantage of Taylor Martinez’s passing game hot streak.
The wide receivers will need to be on their game today more than ever. Dropped passes could mean the difference between a loss and a win. This game will not be about running or passing too much. Offensive coordinator Tim Beck will need to replicate the play calling of past games this season such as Washington, Ohio State, and Penn State. If he can do so, fans should see success from the offense yet again.
3. Leadership from Taylor Martinez
Martinez has showed fans nothing but growth in recent weeks. Each game, he has stepped up, leading his team to victory. Even in the loss against Northwestern, Martinez did everything he could in attempting to secure a win. While the defensive lapses made that goal more difficult, it would be absurd to say Martinez hasn’t been maturing and growing rapidly over the course of the season.
Fans should be on the lookout for Martinez to continue the trend. Leadership is growing and players are responding. How will Martinez handle the largest crowd he has ever faced?
4. Excellent Clock Management
Time management was a massive issue against Northwestern. Had Pelini and company handled the clock a little better, Martinez may have been able to keep the offense scoring. However, by the end of the fourth quarter, Martinez simply had no time to accomplish what was necessary.
Today will be a challenge for the Huskers. Clock management, while always important, will be more important now than ever. Being able to maintain possession of the ball will be key. This game should be close and whoever winds up with the ball last very well could be the winner.
5. Team Composure After Big Emotional Win
After Nebraska defeated Michigan State, everyone believed the Huskers would easily beat Northwestern. Nebraska was then stunned by the Wildcats who came to Memorial Stadium looking for a fight.
Michigan is a solid football team and fans know this. While the win over Penn State was a big one, that challenge was nothing compared to what Nebraska faces in the Big House. Last week was emotional, but the Huskers cannot let it affect their focus. The same drive to beat Penn State must exist today.
While Oklahoma State’s loss to Iowa State makes it more difficult for the Huskers to secure an at-large BCS bowl bid, there are still many ways for Nebraska to get there. It is not about winning out and proving that the Huskers are a force not to be reckoned with. Nebraska has beaten teams like Michigan before. A different quarterback is under center, but with a similar story.