Nebraska vs Michigan: What We're Watching For

It'd be nice to see this much happy in Huskerville about 6:00 pm tomorrow. - Eric Francis

How will Nebraska beat Michigan? What has to happen?

Cornhuskers, Wolverines. Two teams still struggling to find an identity from two storied programs and two fanbases with legendary coaching staffs that the current staffs are forever compared. That defines the 2013 version of "Where We're At Now".

A loss in this game for either team will result in endless hooting and howling from the perspective fan base, complete with calls for "firing coaches", otherwise known as "just another week in Nebraska", and if you're paying attention to what goes on in the outside world and just not your local space, "just another week in [insert powerhouse sports team here]".

What is it that will make Nebraska successful against Michigan? That's what you're here to discuss. I have my ideas. Here they are....

Consider Tim Beck, offensive coordinator for Nebraska.

You have an-all conference running back who's already eclipsed the 1,000 yard barrier and he's averaging 7.1 yards per carry. There are 2,134,832 iterations of plays in your playbook because you'r offense is "multiple". You have a young quarterback who has a propensity to throw interceptions playing on the road in a stadium that seats over 100,000 people. The opposing team's defense aligns in such a manner daring you to throw the ball.

What do you do?

You call pass plays. You call them because you see opposing teams and their defensive alignments as equations. If opponent does X, then you do Y. If they move to 3X+2Y, then you do R2+4Z.

This has the problem of treating your players as if they're robots. They're supposed to respond with mathematical precision, just like it's run in a computer simulation. Unfortunately humans sometimes they slip and fall. They run the wrong route. The quarterback doesn't see the linebacker move in front of the receiver until it's too late. Damn humans anyway. Why can't they execute properly?

Winning against Michigan holds no secret. It will be about which team runs the ball better. For Nebraska that means Ameer Abdullah, mixed in with Imani Cross and Terrell Newby because your target for Abdullah should be around 25 carries.

Beck has all those iterations in his playbook, plays upon plays, plays packaged within plays (multiple reads/options per play), and we're somehow supposed to believe that he can't figure out creative ways to get Abdullah the ball in a position to be successful?

Part of the narrative of this football season has been about finding leaders. What more leadership do you want from a player than Abdullah's fourth down conversion to save the game against Northwestern?

Establish Abdullah and the run game early. Take pressure off Tommy Armstrong Jr so that he knows it's not up to him to win the game. Clarify it for him when he comes off the field. Resist the urge to throw the ball just because that's what they're giving you.

Beck's run/pass ratio will tell us where he's going.

On defense, Nebraska is going to do the same to Michigan as they will do to us - force the offense to throw the ball. It's a good plan. Devin Gardner, especially when forced to make quick decisions, can turn into a turnover machine (13 TDs, 11 INTs). You have Ciante Evans and Stanley Jean-Baptiste to cover Jeremy Gallon and whomever Michigan decides is their second-best receiver, so the possibility for a more aggressive style is available.

Big plays and turnovers - keys forever in football, moreso in close games. Husker fans have to feel good about what Nebraska youngsters Alonzo Moore and Jordan Westerkamp did last weekend, and even better about Kenny Bell and Quincy Enunwa being available this weekend.

Can the TA2/RK3 duo get them the ball for the big play more than Gardner can connect with Gallon? Whether those plays are made or turn into takeaways determines who wins this game.

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