Preview: Michigan at Nebraska

Preview: Michigan at Nebraska

September 29, 2023

Mighty Michigan is #50 in rushing offense (167.75 yards/game) but tied at #32 in yards per carry (4.97). The numbers aren’t atrocious, but they’re not where we expected them to be, either. With three starters returning up front and a couple solid transfers incoming, we wanted to see more. There has been some shuffling with La’Darius Henderson, Karsen Barnhart, and Myles Hinton going in and out of the lineup at tackle. Blake Corum has 351 yards and 8 touchdowns on 6.05 yards/carry so far, but backup Donovan Edwards is off to a slow start with just 3.3 yards/carry and no touchdowns so far this year. Meanwhile, Nebraska has the #2 rushing defense (46.3 yards allowed/game) and is allowing 1.83 yards/carry, which is also #2. They have adopted a 3-3-5 defense under new head coach Matt Rhule, and that 3-3-5 gave Michigan some issues last year when TCU ran it. Junior safety Isaac Gifford (6’1″, 205 lbs.) leads the team with 23 tackles, followed by senior safety Omar Brown (6’1″, 200) with 22 and junior linebacker John Bullock (6’0″, 220) with 22 also. Those rushing defense numbers are even more impressive when considering that the Cornhuskers are pretty average in tackles for loss (#55 overall), led by junior nose tackle Nash Hutmacher (6’4″, 330) with 3.5 TFLs so far. The Huskers have been consistent this year, not allowing any team to average more than 2.19 yards/carry in any game this year. I think Michigan is going to have some tough sledding on the ground.
Advantage: Nebraska

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Michigan is #70 in passing offense (237.5 yards/game) but #14 in yards per attempt (10.2) and #11 in passer rating. Quarterback J.J. McCarthy is #1 nationally in completion percentage at 79.8%, and if not for an ugly game against BGSU in week three, the hype for him would be at a fever pitch. Wideout Roman Wilson is one of five receivers nationally to have 6 touchdowns, which puts him on a current pace for 18 scores in the regular season. He’s #63 in yards per catch (17.87) and teammate Cornelius Johnson (17.23) is not far behind. Tight end Colston Loveland (14 catches, 168 yards) and Edwards (11 catches, 100 yards) are also frequent targets. The team is tied for #8 in sacks allowed with just 0.75 allowed per game. Nebraska is #103 in pass defense (251.8 yards allowed/game) but a respectable #42 in passing efficiency defense. They’re tied for 69th in interceptions (3), but they put good pressure on the quarterback as they rank #12 in sacks (3.5 per game). Four players have notched at least 2 sacks, led by senior linebacker Luke Reimer (6’1″, 225). Considering Michigan’s ability to run and Nebraska’s ability to stop it, it would seem like a heavy dose of play action passes may be in order.
Advantage: Michigan

Michigan is #13 in rushing defense, giving up 80 yards/game. They give up 2.76 yards/carry, which is good for #19 nationally. Straight-up running has not been much of an issue against them, but when teams are throwing the ball when trying to catch up from large deficits, some quarterback runs or draws can be effective. That might be especially important in this one, as both Nebraska quarterbacks are decent-to-good runners. Michigan is led in tackles by LB Junior Colson (21), LB Michael Barrett (17), and LB Ernest Hausmann (14). The Wolverines have taken a little hit with the absence of DT Mason Graham, who is out for a few weeks with a hand injury. Nebraska is also hurting in the running game, because two of their top running backs (Rahmir Johnson and Gabe Ervin) are out for the year and starting QB Jeff Sims has been dinged up. Fill-in QB Heinrich Haarbarg (6’5″, 215) is 40 carries for 255 yards and 2 touchdowns over the past week. Senior RB Anthony Grant (5’11”, 210) is second on the team with 38 carries for 208 yards and 2 scores. Nebraska likes to collect ginormous offensive tackles, so 6’9″, 315 lb. Bryce Benhart will line up at right tackle. He’s probably their best lineman, but everyone up front is between 305-315. Haarbarg has impressive athleticism for a walk-on, so if Michigan isn’t disciplined, he could create a big play or two.
Advantage: Michigan

Michigan is #7 in passing defense (151 yards allowed/game) and #21 in passing efficiency allowed, despite having allowed just 1 touchdown and notching 4 interceptions so far. The most recent interception was a 71-yard TD return by Mike Sainristil on a screen last week. The Wolverines have been the victims of a couple chuck-it-and-pray successes by other teams where good coverage has been negated by lucky bounces/amazing plays, but I suppose that happens to every team once in a while. Last week it seemed Michigan was willing to allow short completions, knowing that Rutgers’s skill guys were unlikely to turn short catches into big plays . . . unless, I dunno, one guy falls down and the safety playing for the first time all year flails wildly in his first live action. Michigan is tied for #60 in sacks, which is meh. Nebraska is tied at #74 for sacks allowed (2.25 per game). Meanwhile, they’re #129 in passing offense (124.5 yards/game), #116 in yards per attempt (6.0), and #110 in passer rating. Haarbarg (51.1% completions, 4 TD, 0 INT) is a one-read-and-run type of guy, while Sims (58.8%, 1 TD, 4 INT) is a more experienced passer, but one who doesn’t mind throwing it to the other team. The Cornhuskers’ leading receiver is Billy Kemp IV (5’9″ ,180), who has just 13 catches for 132 yards and 1 touchdown this year. The biggest matchup issue might be junior TE Thomas Fidone II (6’6″, 250), who has 7 catches for 84 yards and 3 scores, but he had just 1 catch last week in this offense, which isn’t great at getting the ball to the perimeter or downfield.
Advantage: Michigan


  • Players from the state of Michigan include: DT Ru’Quan Buckley (Wyoming Godwin Heights) and LS Camden Witucki (Grand Blanc)
  • Nebraska players who were recruited by Michigan include WR Demitrius Bell, OT Bryce Benhart, CB Dwight Bootle II, DT Ru’Quan Buckley, WR Malachi Coleman, TE Thomas Fidone II, TE Arik Gilbert, DT Elijah Jeudy, RB Rahmir Johnson, OT Teddy Prochazka, LB M.J. Sherman, S Rahmir Stewart, WR Marcus Washington
  • Nebraska DT Riley Van Poppel is the son of former MLB pitcher Todd Van Poppel


  • On November 12, 2022, Michigan beat Nebraska by a score of 34-3. Michigan holds a 5-4 overall record against the Cornhuskers.
  • J.J. McCarthy went 8/17 for 129 yards and 2 TD
  • Blake Corum ran 28 times for 162 yards and 1 TD
  • C.J. Stokes ran 8 times for 68 yards
  • Michigan held Nebraska RB Anthony Grant to 11 carries for 22 yards


  • Michigan 34, Nebraska 10

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