Here we are heading into the ninth game of the season and we still don't know a whole heckuva lot about this Nebraska team. That's okay. We're not alone. Michigan, complete with starting quarterback Devin Gardner, leading wide receiver Jeremy Gallon and All-American first round top draft pick best-offensive-linemen-ever Taylor Lewan, doesn't either.
That's amazing from both sides' perspective considering the history of these programs. Michigan is the all-time winningest program in college football history with a record of 909-317-36. They're ahead of #2 Yale at 874 (or Texas at 869 if you count only Division I/FBS programs). Nebraska stands at fifth (fourth) with an all-time record of 862-355-40.
This is where you should hear "past performance is not indicative of future results... " in the back of your head. Nebraska and Michigan may be shadows of their former selves THIS YEAR, but they are behemoths in the college football landscape. Add that this is MY school versus another school whose alums really care about football a lot, that we don't play them again until 2018, and that I want to hold a win over the top of any Meechegan man I run into during that time frame and this is a BIG GAME.
The numbers tell us that this will be a tough game. You don't need them for that, though, you know it already. They do provide a compelling case for a Michigan win, though, and if Bo Pelini is going to win this game, he'd better do some darned good coaching.
-48 - As in negative 48. That's how many rushing yards the Wolverines had against the Spartan defense for -1.7 yards per attempt. Michigan gave up 49 yards to sacks, but they only gained 44 yards against 92 lost. You think Nebraska will be stacking the box and daring Michigan to throw this week?
1 - As in first, as in the Northwestern game was Nebraska's first game without a fumble this season.
3 - Nebraska's national ranking in opponent third down conversion percentage. Husker opponents have converted only 28.16 percent of their third down conversions. That ranking is one place behind Michigan State and 77 places ahead of Michigan, who has allowed opponents to convert 41.32 percent of their third downs to rank 80th nationally. Northwestern was 2-for-14 on third down. I really like this statistic.
5 - Where Ameer Abdullah stands nationally in rushing yardage per game. He has 138.50 yards per game, 1,108 on the season on 157 carries for a 7.1 yard per carry average and six touchdowns.
7 - Times that Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner was sacked last week against Michigan State. It matches how many times he was hurried as well.
13 - Nebraska's national ranking in rush offense, third in the Big Ten behind Ohio State and Wisconsin at 261.63 yards per game. Michigan's rush defense is at 14th, fourth in the Big Ten, allowing 105.13 yards per game.
27 - Nebraska's national ranking in sacks allowed, down from 12th nationally last week. Northwestern came up with four sacks for 28 yards. Michigan is 85th here. We also see a discrepancy in statistics, as the Michigan - Michigan State gamebook lists seven sacks for Sparty, but NCAA statistics show only one.
19 - Michigan has the longest active home winning streak among BCS conference teams, claiming 19 straight games at Michigan Stadium. It is the fourth longest home winning streak in Michigan history. Last Michigan home loss as November 20, 2010 against Wisconsin.
19 - Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner's national ranking in rating at 152.96. Gardner is completing only 59.9% of his passes and his TD/INT ratio is 13/11. That is NOT good. In fact, that's pretty lousy. He also has 474 yards on the ground and nine touchdowns. Together he is 20th nationally and third in the Big Ten in total offense. Nebraska has to contain him and hope he throws some more of those tasty interceptions.
34 - Michigan wide receiver Jeremy Gallon's game streak with a reception. That is one short of Jason Avant at second place and four short of Braylon Edwards' school record 38 game streak.
34 - The number of receptions that Quincy Enunwa has this season. Enunwa leads the team in receptions, yardage, and is second in touchdowns with eight (Imani Cross, 9). Enunwa is not injured, nor capable of being injured, unless hit by a meteor the size of that thing that caused that big crater in Arizona all them years ago.
47 - As in 1947, the first year that Michigan was on television. September 27, 1947, the Wolverines beat Michigan State 55-0 on WWJ-TV, whatever that is. As a young 'un, I remember watching Michigan. They always stood out because of their helmets. Wings. Go figure.
50 - Gallon's receptions on the season. Gallon is Michigan's leading receiver and ranks second in the Big Ten in receiving yards per game (112.3). He has 898 yards with 369 of those yards coming against Indiana, which set new records for single game receiving for the Big Ten and for Michigan. I some point, you'd have thought the Hoosiers might have considered covering him, but it looked like no one wanted to be blamed for Gallon getting all those reception yards; no one wanted the responsibility. The Hoosiers pretended he didn't exist. The ball would jump move down field by itself. No one in Indiana could explain it. It just happened that way.
55 - Total tackles by Nebraska safety Corey Cooper. He's tied for the lead with David Santos. He has three tackles for loss, two sacks, and an interception on the year. Strange thing about Cooper - no one talks about him. Maybe that's because we spend all our time complaining about the young guys that can't get it right.
70! - Nebraska's national ranking in total defense. There's an exclamation point because that number is higher than last week's 78. The Huskers are now giving up less than 400 yards a game! It's at 399.9, but improvement is improvement, hey!
74 - Number of starts between Michigan tackles Taylor Lewan (43) and Michael Schofield (31). Both are fifth year seniors. Lewan's start streak is 36, Schofield is at 30. You'd think with that much experience on the edge that Michigan's run game would be a lot better than it is, but the interior of their line is very young. Ben Braden, Kyle Kalis, and Jack Miller are all first-year starters.
75 - I could have put a sad emoticon in for this one, Nebraska's national ranking in turnover margin. That's a huge drop from last week's 47th-place ranking. The Huskers dropped that far because of four interceptions, three by Tommy Armstrong Jr, and one by RK3. The four turnovers dropped Nebraska into negative territory (-1) on the season. The good news is that Michigan is 84th nationally.
80 - Michigan's national ranking in rush offense at 154.88 yards per game, which is 10th in the Big Ten. The Wolverines leading rush, Fitzgerald Toussaint, has 163 carries for 595 yards, resulting in only 3.65 yards per carry. Nebraska's national ranking in rush defense is 86th, ninth in the Big Ten, giving up 182.63 yards per game. That -48 yards against Michigan State didn't help Michigan's ranking. So why are the Wolverines so below average at rushing? Because teams want to force Devin Gardner to throw the ball. Nebraska will do the same.
91 - Nebraska's national ranking in opponent long scrimmage plays. Nebraska has given up 132 plays of 10+ yards, 42 of 20+ yards, and 17 of 30+ yards. Michigan is 52nd here, with 114 (10+), 32 (20+) and 12 (30+).
115,109 - The attendance at this year's Michigan - Notre Dame game, setting a new record.
Approximately 3.5M - people who have no clue as to what's going to happen in this game. Michigan is now a seven point favorite according to betting lines, but those shouldn't be taken as anything other than dangling candy to suck in fools. On the other hand, when you look at this game as an impartial observer - it should be a Wolverine win.