Michigan 34, Nebraska 3

Michigan 34, Nebraska 3

November 13, 2022
Blake Corum (image via Toledo Blade)

Nebraska sucks! Yes. Yes, they do. Nebraska is a 3-7 football team with an interim head coach, no defensive playmakers except outside linebacker Garrett Nelson, and no quality FBS quarterback right now. Nebraska’s best play on Saturday was to call a pass and then let the quarterback scramble up the middle and hope he doesn’t hurt himself. Unfortunately, that play ended one too many times with the quarterback hurting himself. Meanwhile, the two quarterbacks, Chubba Purdy and Logan Smothers, combined for 9 rushing attempts and 40 total yards. The team ended up with 146 total yards, or exactly 106 yards that didn’t come on QB scrambles.

Hit the jump for more.

Michigan’s passing game sucks! I mean . . . yes. Yes, it does. For the second straight week, 5-star quarterback J.J. McCarthy completed less than 50% of his passes. He was 8/17 for 129 yards and 2 touchdowns. One of those touchdowns was a fluke on which Ronnie Bell had to break several tackles, only to fumble the ball into the endzone from the 1-yard line, where it was recovered by Andrel Anthony for a score. Ronnie Bell is great after the catch, the best since at least Junior Hemingway. But when playing a team like Nebraska, it shouldn’t take a superhuman effort and a freak fumble recovery to notch a second passing touchdown.

Should great receivers come to Michigan? The people are talking. The people should be saying no. I have been saying this since at least 2017, when Donovan Peoples-Jones signed with Michigan despite being a 5-star receiver. I said Peoples-Jones would be a better pro than a college player because Jim Harbaugh’s offense limits receivers. Now that wasn’t necessarily 100% correct so far, and here’s why:

  • Peoples-Jones in college (37 games): 103 catches, 1327 yards, 14 TDs
  • Peoples-Jones in NFL (34 games): 78 catches, 1318 yards, 5 TDs

The catch numbers and touchdowns are down in the NFL, but the yardage is up and so are the yards per catch. Ronnie Bell (4 catches, 72 yards) was the only receiver with more than 1 catch against Nebraska, while Roman Wilson, Cornelius Johnson, and Tyler Morris were the only other wideouts with a single reception. This was a team missing three of its best receivers in tight end Erick All, tight end Luke Schoonmaker, and running back Donovan Edwards (who did not play much). One would think the staff would find a way to get Cornelius Johnson and Roman Wilson the ball more than one time, but nope. A.J. Henning had zero offensive touches, and Andrel Anthony only touched the ball when he recovered a fumble. The unfortunate truth is that 4-star and 5-star receivers should be going elsewhere. Michigan has a 5-star quarterback, and its leading receiver is tied for #9 in receptions in the conference among receivers. Cornelius Johnson is #33 among receivers in the Big Ten.

Should great running backs come to Michigan? The people have decided yes. If you’re a good running back, you should be flocking to Michigan. You will get developed, and you will get a ton of opportunities. Blake Corum (28 carries, 162 yards, 1 TD) had another great game and is in the Heisman consideration. Donovan Edwards (2 carries, 13 yards) got banged up? No problem. True freshman C.J. Stokes ran 8 times for 68 yards. With some more body development, I think Stokes is going to be another very productive running back in a Michigan uniform. He had one fumble a few weeks ago that got him benched, but he makes decisive cuts, runs hard, and has some burst. With Edwards and Stokes looking like the primary backs for 2023 and 2024, Michigan should be in at least decent shape for the next couple seasons, but I would like to see Michigan bring in a sturdier back than Cole Cabana in 2023 or 2024 to pair with his skill set.

There’s not much to say about the defense. Michigan was flying to the ball and tackling well. The only real issue was Michigan going so wild on the pass rush that they let the quick-ish quarterbacks scramble up the middle for some chunk gains. This has been a problem for Michigan the past couple years, but other teams can’t live off of scrambling their quarterbacks. It’s probably not a very serious “problem” if the starting quarterback runs a couple times, gets hurt, and then gets replaced by a worse quarterback. In fact, maybe that tactic should be used more often. Productive Nebraska running back Anthony Grant (11 carries, 22 yards) was held to his lowest output and rushing average of the season. Star receiver Trey Palmer had 5 catches for a pitiful 12 yards. The biggest concern coming out of that game is the health of leading sacker Mike Morris, who left the contest late with what looked like an ankle injury.

Don’t overlook Illinois. Illinois started off 7-1 with a random loss to Indiana, but they have since lost two games to middling Michigan State and Purdue. Both games have been one-score contests, but they’re losses nonetheless. The transitive property doesn’t always work, but Michigan beat Michigan State 29-7 and a depleted Michigan State beat Illinois 23-15. The only thing that could get in the way of Michigan entering the Ohio State game 11-0 with a chance to win the Big Ten and/or make the playoff is if they put all their resources into OSU and forget that Illinois has a very good defense.

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