By: Aidan Champion
The questions regarding No. 9 Michigan football’s status in the Big Ten can be put to rest now. It was unclear where the Wolverines stood among its conference peers after four-straight home against against unranked teams, but last Saturday’s victory for Jim Harbaugh made it evident that they are no pretenders.
Michigan marched into Madison and soundly handled one of the best defenses in college football in Wisconsin. The Badgers went into the matchup with the best rushing defense in the nation, forcing the Wolverines to transition to a passing game it had not been very reliant on in weeks prior. But quarterback Cade McNamara embraced the test, throwing for 197 yards and two touchdowns on 17 completions.
It turned out to actually be the Wolverines’ rushing defense that shined in the conference matchup, as it held Wisconsin to just 43 rushing yards.
Michigan simply outplayed the Badgers. A 13-10 halftime lead made things interesting, but a strong defensive performance in the third quarter and dominate display of offense in the fourth ultimately showed that the Wolverines are miles ahead of a Wisconsin team that’s been viewed as a challenge on many teams’ schedules.
The Badgers have been dealt a bad hand through the first five weeks of the season, having faced three ranked teams in its first four contests. This team is going to win more games and is a lot better than its record suggests.
Now the Wolverines are faced with the task of traveling to Lincoln to compete with a tough Nebraska team.
Much like Wisconsin, Nebraska’s 3-3 record doesn’t nearly reflect its performance so far this season. The Huskers proved to be a test for one of the nation’s top teams in Oklahoma, and they were just minutes away from beating a Michigan State team that is now 5-0 and No. 11 in the AP rankings.
Nebraska comes off a huge conquering of Big Ten opponent Northwestern, having held the Wildcats to just a TD.
Husker QB Adrian Martinez has been a problem for a number of defenses this season. The program’s first ever three-time captain threw for 202 yards and a TD while also scoring three rushing touchdowns in Saturday’s victory.
Running back Jaquez Yant also had himself a day, as he rushed for 127 yards and averaged 9.8 yards per carry.
Michigan should feel confident in its ability to stop the run after last Saturday’s game, but Martinez poses a threat to the Wolverine secondary and the rest of the defense.
This Nebraska team would love nothing more than to knock off a Top-10 team in front of its home crowd after coming up short in its two matchups with ranked opponents. But if Michigan continues on the successful trend it’s been on, the win would be one more check mark in its quest to claim the Big Ten East.
Saturday’s matchup between the Wolverines and Huskers starts at 7:30 p.m. and can be watched on ABC.
Written by: Aidan Champion
Aidan is an MSU Journalism Student and Spartan Football writer for: impact89fm.org
Photo Courtesy of The Lincoln Journal Star