Well, for starters, it is important to note that as of this morning, Michigan is favored over Nebraska by14. However, it might be a little audacious to set the bar that high at this point. Let’s explore it.
The stats through 11 games for each team are as follows. Nebraska also played Maine, a Div-IAA team, so their stats with this game omitted are included in parantheses.
- Nebraska’s rush defense is ranked 28th, allowing 123.7 (136.7) yards/game.
- Michigan’s rush offense is ranked 38th, gaining 164.5 yards/game.
- Nebraska’s pass defense is ranked 12th, allowing 103.9 (99.2) yards/game.
- Michigan’s pass offense is ranked 63rd, gaining 218.4 yards/game.
- Nebraska’s rush offense is ranked 110th, gaining 91.0 (88.0) yards/game.
- Michigan’s rush defense is ranked 43rd, allowing 136.1 yards/game.
- Nebraska’s pass offense is ranked 46th, gaining 229.6 (233.3) yards/game.
- Michigan’s pass defense is ranked 35th, allowing 116.9 yards/game.
Another important note to make is Nebraska’s Division-I leading 46 sacks on the season. I wouldn’t read too deeply into this stat, however. 11 of these sacks (23.9% of them) came against Div-IAA team Maine. Against their only Top-25 opponent, Texas Tech, they got four sacks. Against a “Big-Time Program” (Oklahoma, in terms of perrenial recruiting), they only managed to get 1 sack.
With these stats, it is a little less clear why Michigan is so heavily favored in this game. However, this can be attributed to a number of reasons:
Strength of Schedule
- 2 of the 4 teams Michigan lost to are playing in BCS bowls (Nebraska- 0).
- 3 of the 4 teams Michigan lost to are ranked in the Top-25 (Nebraska- 1).
- The only non-Top-25 team Michigan lost to is ranked 37th (Nebraksa- 26th, other 2 not in Top-40).
- 4 of 7 teams that Michigan beat are bowl eligible (Nebraska, 2 of 6 Div IA teams).
- 2 of 7 Michigan-beaten teams are Top-25 (Nebraska, 0).
- Michigan beat a #3, BCS bowl team (Nebraska, no).
- Mike Hart was out for 4 complete games during the season, and saw only limited action in 3 of them. He should be healthy for the Alamo Bowl
- Numerous O-line injuries throughout the season, multiple players who were injured during the course of the season should be healthy for the Alamo Bowl (except Jake Long, who is having surgery, and Leo Henige, who has a bropken leg) .
- Lamarr Woodley did not play at all against Northwestern, and saw limited time against Iowa, Indiana, and Ohio State. He should be healthy for the Alamo Bowl.
- Nebraska also had some injuries over the course of the year, including LB Stewart Bradley (should be healthy for the Alamo Bowl), and TE Matt Herrian and LB Steve Octavien (Both of whom medically redshirted, and will not play in the Alamo Bowl).
- Nebraska’s injuries to key players should not have as much of an effect on the Alamo Bowl, because only 1 of 3 of these players will play in the Alamo Bowl.
There are also some intangibles to consider, however. Homefield advantage may play a part, as Nebraska has sold far more tickets to the game than Michigan (see previous post). Especially troubling for Michigan is the lack of student tickets sold.
Another issue is the matter of having something to play for. Nebraska didn’t make a bowl game last year, so they are eager to prove something, and hopefully put their program back on the map, with an upset win here. Michigan, on the other hand, has not played in a December Bowl since 1995 (when they played in the Alamo Bowl in Lloyd’s forst season). They probably won’t be as pumped up for the game. However, they will certainly want to win, in order to avoid an embarrassing year.
If anyone has any other insight to bring to this analysis, feel free to post it in the comments, and I’d be glad to respond. Other than that, I don’t pick scores, but I will definitely say that I am picking Michigan to win this game.