Big Ten Week 7 Pickoff

The staff weighs in:

 RecordWisconsin @ IndianaPurdue @ IowaPenn State @ NebraskaMinnesota @ IllinoisNorthwestern @ Michigan
Ryan Callihan25-6WisconsinIowa2PSUMinnesotamichigan logo
Matt Brinkman23-8WisconsinIowa2LogoMinnesotamichigan logo
Joseph Boyd23-8WisconsinIowa2LogoIllinoismichigan logo
Jon Jennings22-9WisconsinIowa2LogoMinnesotamichigan logo
Clint Derringer22-9WisconsinIowa2PSUMinnesotamichigan logo
Sean O’Connell22-9WisconsinIowa2PSUMinnesotamichigan logo
Lance Callihan21-10WisconsinIowa2PSUMinnesotamichigan logo
Todd Male21-10IndianaIowa2PSUMinnesotamichigan logo

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Grading The Performance: Nebraska

Quarterback

While in the game Denard was dialed in with the passing game for the most part. A mix of short precise routes and downfield passes kept Nebraska off balance and passive. Denard threw a beautiful post route to Roy Roundtree that was later rDenard Robinson - USA Todayuled incomplete after replay and he continually found Jeremy Jackson in holes in the Nebraska zone. Denard missed an opportunity on the zone read in the first half that would have likely resulted in a big play.

Two years ago Michigan fans got used to Denard Robinson getting knocked out of games for extended periods of time. The presence of first Devin Gardner, then Tate Forcier soothed most fears and Michigan rarely missed a beat when #16 left the field. A lot has changed in two years. Russell Bellomy is the next man up and he struggled mightily on Saturday. Down on the scoreboard and on the road in a very hostile environment is never a great place to make your meaningful QB play debut. Bellomy did take over deep in Nebraska territory but accuracy issues and nerves kept him from leading the Wolverines to the endzone. Eventually Bellomy settled down; but the accuracy and decision making did not improve and he never really presented Nebraska with much of a threat. Bellomy didn’t receive a ton of help from his receivers either. Even on those plays where Bellomy did deliver the ball accurately, the ball was dropped more times than not.

Grade: F

Running Back

Fitzgerald Toussaint got off to a fast Saturday on Saturday and looked as good as he has all season early in the game. Fitz was decisive, his cuts were precise, and he fought for extra yards. As the night wore on and the holes closed the production for all the runners declined, Fitz included. Vincent Smith was the only other back that received a carry in the game and he finished with minus 6 yards on the ground.

Joe Kerridge was the first Wolverine to catch a pass from Russell Bellomy, getting him off the snide with a 12 yd reception that went for a first down.

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Nebraska Game Prediction

While last week’s game against Sparty was critical in that losing for a 5th straight time to Little Brother for the first time in program history would be unbearable, this week’s tilt with Big Red is basically a 3 game swing. Win it, and you have a 2 game lead in the division against the Huskers, and hold the tiebreaker in head to head, so essentially a 3 game lead, with 4 left to play.  Lose it, and you need help. While Iowa still only has one loss in conference, don’t look for them to be a contender when all is said and done.

A night game in Lincoln will be about as tough a game as Michigan will play all year, outside of the season opener. Nebraska leads the conference in scoring, averaging nearly 42 points a game. However their defense has allowed 27+ points per game, including 63 to the Buckeyes in the snakepit.

The key to this game will be to get out to an early start. Michigan would like to stick to their formula thus far in Big 10 play, and play somewhat conservatively, and pound the football. Not that they couldn’t do well in a shootout, controlling the clock is imperative, if nothing more, keeping the "all day long lubricating" Husker fans in their seats, and not on their feet.

Michigan should be able to run the football. Maybe not as consistently as they’d like, but effectively. That will open up some play action passing, and the onus will be on Denard to keep away from the turnover bug.

While Nebraska’s offense, the night game atmosphere, and revenge after last years beatdown is daunting, there is something about Michigan’s increased desire and toughness since basically halftime of the ND game that has me confident in any toss up game.

Michigan 31 Nebraska 24.

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2012 Game Preview – Nebraska

What to watch on offense

Like many defensive minded coaches Bo Pelini puts complete trust in his OC to manage most, if not all aspects of the offense. Pelini has allowed veteran OC Tim Beck to run the Nebraska offense as he sees fit. Beck has traditionally employed a pro-style offense, but with the ascension of Taylor Martinez to tTaylor Martinez - Bleacher Reporthe starting QB role, Beck has been forced to adjust. Elements of Beck’s pro-style offense still exist within Nebraska’s offensive attack but the spread option makes up a large portion of what Nebraska likes to do offensively. Nebraska runs a ton option plays, many from spread looks but also from under center and in the pistol.

Martinez is not a new commodity. Most who follow college football are aware of him and his skill-set. For much of the last two years Martinez has frustrated Nebraska’s fan base and coaching staff in the passing game. Poor footwork, mechanics, and decision making all led to a QB who was more a liability as a passer than an asset. Martinez put in a lot of work on his passing abilities in the offseason and that work has paid dividends this season. Martinez has the highest completion percentage of his career and a gaudy 14-4 TD to INT ratio. Kenny Bell leads a Nebraska WR core that has been largely unheralded this season. A former track star, Bell has the ability to get vertical and make explosive plays in the passing game.

Nebraska was expected to have one of the most potent rushing attacks in the country. Injuries to Rex Burkhead have impacted the Nebraska offense, but not close to the level that many expected when he went down. Ameer Abdullah, who posted just 172 yds on the ground a year ago, has filled in admirably for Burkhead but he doesn’t bring the same level of physicality, Abdullah is has more pop and wiggle. Burkhead is expected to miss Saturday’s game meaning the full load will fall to Abdullah.

Nebraska lost 3 starters off of the offensive line including 2nd team All-Big 10 Center Mike Caputo.

Best Offensive Player

QB Taylor Martinez- Burkhead would be the choice if he was healthy but he has be ruled out of Saturday’s game. Martinez is an electric running in the open field and a playmaker on the option. Improved passing ability has turned Martinez into a true duel threat this season.

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2013 Big Ten Recruiting Rankings (9/1/2012)

1. Michigan (23) No additions in August.

2. Notre Dame (19) Added former 3 star Penn State verbal Will Fuller (WR-PA).

3. Ohio State (16) No additions in August.

4. Nebraska (14) Added three stars Zach Hannon (OT-MO) and Jonathan Cook (CB-AL).

5. Illinois (19) Added three stars Martize Barr (JC-WR-IA), Reggie Spearman (LB-IL) and Darwyn Kelly (S-DC). Also added un-ranked prospect Miguel Hermosillo (RB-IL).

6. Northwestern (17) Added three stars Keith Watkins (RB-OH) and Godwin Igwebuike (S-OH).

7. Iowa (17) Added un-ranked Matthew VandeBerg (WR-SD).

8. Wisconsin (12) Added three star Alec James (DE-WI).

9. Michigan State (13) Added three stars Demetrius Cooper (DE-IL) and Dennis Finley (OT-MI).

10. Penn State (10) Added un-ranked Jordan Smith (CB-DC). Zach Bradshaw (3* WR), William Fuller (3* WR) and Dorian Johnson (4* OT) all de-committed in August.

11. Purdue (10) Added three star Dwayne Johnson (OT-TX)

12. Indiana (8) Added four star Antonio Allen (S-IN), three star Chase Dutra (S-IN) and un-ranked prospect Myles Graham (RB-FL).

13. Minnesota (6) Added un-ranked Jalen Myrick (CB-GA).

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