Michigan vs. Nebraska Prediction, Betting Pick, and Latest Odds
Spread: Michigan -3
Game time: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Where to watch: ABC
Michigan vs. Nebraska - Out of the Tunnel
They’re doing it again. Michigan is trying to pull us into believing that this year will be different under coach Jim Harbaugh.
This year won’t end with disappointment in big games or rivalry games or bowl games. Or all of the above.
It’s easy to see the 5-0 start and think this Wolverines team won’t follow down the same underperforming road of Harbaugh teams of the past. But look closer.
Michigan has wins against two Group of 5 teams (Western Michigan, Northern Illinois), the worst Washington team in more than a decade, a Wisconsin team off to its worst start since 1990, and rebuilding Rutgers – a Big Ten tomato can since it joined the conference in 2014.
Nebraska has slowly crept back to a semblance of a competitive team after back-to-back good losses (whatever that means) to Michigan State and Oklahoma, and a rout of Northwestern.
The Husker rely too much on QB Adrian Martinez (that’s not a good thing) and an undervalued defense (a very good thing). Nebraska coach Scott Frost is squarely on the hotseat, and has three chances for a signature win over the remainder of the season – and all three are in Lincoln.
Then again, losses to Michigan, Ohio State (Nov.6) and Iowa (Nov.26) at home might be the end for Frost at his alma mater.
When Michigan has the ball
There’s nothing creative to it, and that’s probably a good thing.
Because for all of Michigan’s offensive iterations under Harbaugh, the most successful have been what made him a great college coach in the first place: maul ball.
Or, in the words of Harbaugh, circa, Stanford: winning with character and cruelty.
So far under Harbaugh at Michigan, there has been plenty of the former, not much of the latter. Until, maybe, this season.
Michigan is running the ball better than it ever has, with sophomore TB Blake Corum averaging 104 yards per game with 7 TDs. His backup, Hassan Haskins, has 369 yards and 6 TDs. Combined, they average 33 carries, 178 yards and nearly 3 TDs a game.
That’s winning with cruelty.
There’s no deception, no option with QB Cade McNamara, who has all of 11 carries this season and isn’t a dangerous threat in the passing game. It’s straight power football. We’re coming at you, try to stop it.
And that plays right into what Nebraska does best: play defense. The Huskers aren’t statistically among the nation’s elite in stopping the run, but they’re giving up only 15.5 points per game.
When Nebraska has the ball
Everything begins and ends with Martinez, who hasn’t been consistent enough in his four years in Lincoln to carry the Huskers in big games – and is far too reckless with ball security.
Martinez has set numerous school records at Nebraska, but they’re all seemingly overshadowed by the number that can’t be ignored: 39.
Martinez has 39 career turnovers, including four this season (2 INT, 2 fumbles). In his NU career, he has 22 interceptions and 17 fumbles. Those are simply remarkably bad numbers.
The most difficult assessment for Frost over the last four years is what does Nebraska need more? Martinez’s dynamic ability, or to avoid Martinez’s reckless regard for ball security?
This season alone, he has thrown for 1,463 yards and 6 TD, and rushed for another 412 yards and 9 TD. If you take him off the field to prevent turnovers, your most productive player on offense is off the field.
When he’s on the field, he’ll have to deal with the Michigan pass rush, which has 13 sacks and has significantly affected the quarterback with pressures and knockdowns every game this season.
There are other options on offense for Nebraska. Rahmir Johnson has developed into a steady tailback, and Jaquez Yant has breakaway speed.
WR Samori Toure (6-feet-3, 200 pounds) is a big target who can run, and is averaging 21 yards per catch. Yet five games in, he averaging all of four catches a game. Martinez must get Toure more involved.
Michigan vs. Nebraska Prediction - The bottom line
It’s strength vs. strength. Michigan’s run game vs. Nebraska’s undervalued defense fueled by a loud, raucous crowd.
The Huskers will crowd the line of scrimmage and try to take away the run, and force McNamara to win the game. Michigan averages 16 passes a game.
If McNamara is in the 20s or more by the fourth quarter, the Nebraska defense will have done its job and this will be a last possession game.
The score: Michigan, 20-17
The Pick: Under 52 @ -110