Saturday, October 27, 2012
It's game day at Memorial Stadium
By Adam Rittenberg
LINCOLN, Neb. -- The Sea of Red will be rocking tonight as Nebraska hosts No. 22 Michigan for the first time in 101 years.
A huge Legends Division matchup is on tap as Michigan (5-2, 3-0 Big Ten) aims to preserve its perfect mark in Big Ten play and take a big step toward Indianapolis, while Nebraska (5-2, 2-1) can put itself in the driver's seat -- because of head-to-head tiebreakers -- with a victory. Every other Legends Division team has at least two losses in league play, so it's quite possible we see tonight's winner take on Wisconsin on Dec. 1 in Indianapolis.
Nebraska has won 10 consecutive home night games, including historic comebacks both Sept. 29 against Wisconsin and last year against Ohio State (largest in team history). The Huskers are 36-5 under the lights at Memorial Stadium, which will be packed and very, very loud. I haven't been here since the East stadium expansion really got rolling, and it's going to make an already electric venue even better.
Michigan dominated Nebraska last year in Ann Arbor, as Denard Robinson and Fitzgerald Toussaint had their way with the Huskers' defense. Nebraska defended the spread decently last week against Northwestern, although Northwestern had a head-scratching game plan that played right into what the Huskers wanted. Bo Pelini's team knows exactly what's coming their way tonight -- lots of Robinson on the ground. An interesting subplot will be whether or not Toussaint, a major disappointment this season, can finally get going. If Nebraska can contain the run game and force Robinson to throw the ball, it will have chances to record interceptions.
Nebraska's offense, meanwhile, will be the most explosive Michigan has seen since the season opener against Alabama. The Huskers are expected to be without senior running back Rex Burkhead, who aggravated his knee injury for the second time in three games last week at Northwestern. They should be more than fine with Ameer Abdullah, Braylon Heard and Imani Cross carrying the rock, but they'll need quarterback Taylor Martinez to make plays in a place where he typically steps up.
Michigan's defense has been exceptional in Big Ten play, as linebacker Jake Ryan leads the unit. The secondary has held up decently without starting cornerback Blake Countess, but Nebraska's receiving corps, which played very well last week, will test the back four.
Much more to come from Memorial Stadium throughout the night. I'll be tweeting throughout the game and back with more coverage immediately afterward.