3 keys to a Michigan football win vs. Nebraska

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Michigan travels to Memorial Stadium to take on Nebraska on the road for just the third time ever, the first time since 2012, and it’s looking to get its first win there as the Wolverines are 0-1-1 when playing in Lincoln.

The last time the Wolverines faced the Cornhuskers was back in 2018 when Michigan slaughtered Nebraska, 56-10. The maize and blue rushed for over 200 yards on the ground in the game, and the defense lived in the Cornhuskers’ backfield all game. Scott Frost had to bench Adrian Martinez after one half of football and played his back up to try and get something going, but to no avail.

That 2018 game still haunts Nebraska to this day and Scott Frost, along with his players, discussed just that on Monday with the thinking that the Cornhuskers are a much improved team.

Nebraska may be 3-3, but it is playing much improved football, and the undefeated Michigan will need to be on its game on Saturday night in a very hostile environment.

If the Wolverines want to stay undefeated and win their first game at Memorial Staidum, here are three keys to doing just that.

List

New team at the top in PFF Big Ten team rankings after Week 5

Contain the read option

Photo: Isaiah Hole

Think of the Rutgers offensive attack against Michigan, but make that much more deadly with a capable quarterback to run the offense, that’s what the Cornhuskers will bring to the table.

Quarterback Adrian Martinez brings a nice skillset to the table for Scott Frost and the Cornhuskers. Although he is very inconsistent at times, Martinez can sling the ball around, but what makes him so dangerous is his ability for the read-option attack.

Martinez leads the team in carries, yards, and rushing touchdowns: 80 carries, 412 yards, and nine rushing scores.

That’s where the Nebraska offensive attack can kill the opposing defense, you are set to defend the run, but the electric quarterback keeps it and scurries for yards.

The Michigan edge defenders and ‘spy’ linebackers will need to be on their game when defending the read-option on Saturday. If everyone can be set in their gaps and contain the edges then the Wolverines should be in a good place.

The one thing that bodes well for Michigan is that Martinez has a little bit of a fumbling issue — he has put the ball on the ground six times while running. The maize and blue seem to be getting better and better forcing turnovers, so this could be a night where the defense gets some more thanks to Adrian Martinez. Additionally, the Huskers have perhaps the worst pass protection in the country, having allowed 18 sacks thus far this season.

Get touchdowns in the red zone

Photo: Isaiah Hole

This has a good chance to be a much closer game than what it may have been projected to be when the season began.

The key is here is for Michigan to finish drives when it gets into the red zone. Last week against the Badgers, the Wolverines had a couple of issues finishing drives with touchdowns and had to settle for field goals — it obviously didn’t matter though.

So far thru five games, Michigan has scored 14 touchdowns out of 20 attempts in the red zone. That’s not a horrible conversion rate, but the Wolverines will want to raise that touchdown number this weekend to solidify a win in a tough environment.

It may not be too easy against the Cornhuskers red zone defense though. Nebraska has only allowed six touchdowns in the red zone out of 12 red zone attempts this season.

Josh Gattis may have to get a little creative on Saturday when the maize and blue get into the red zone. Players like Cade McNamara, Blake Corum, and Cornelius Johnson will really need to step up to make sure Michigan comes away with touchdowns on Saturday.

Win the turnover battle

Photo: Isaiah Hole

What’s the best way to silence a loud crowd on the road? Get some three-and-outs and force the opposition to give the ball away.

Michigan is the best team in the nation with only having one turnover all year — that was from Alan Bowman late last week. On the other hand, Nebraska ranks 72nd in turnovers — it has turned the ball over seven times this year.

On the defensive side of the ball, Michigan has gained six turnovers from the opposing teams, and Nebraska has gained seven, with one extra game being played.

This game very easily could go down to the wire, and turnovers can play a vital role in the outcome. Statistically, the Wolverines have shown to have the edge over the Cornhuskers on this one.

The Michigan defense showed how aggressive it can be last week when the defense stifled the Badger passing and rushing attack. The Wolverines edge players, Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo, both played great football, and they both will have chances to create some turnovers this week when facing Adrian Martinez.

Cade McNamara has been catching a lot of flak from the fan base for his play, but the one thing he does extremely well in is taking care of the football. He has yet to throw an interception, or really even. coming close to throwing one. If the Wolverines continue to get that play from the first-year starter then they should take care of business in Lincoln and walk away with a win.

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