No. 17 Nebraska Cornhuskers (8-2 SU, 3-6-1 ATS) at No. 20 Michigan Wolverines (8-2 SU, 7-3 ATS), Saturday November 19th, 2011. 12:00PM EST. College Football Week 12, Michigan Stadium Ann Arbor, MI
By Jay Horne, College Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Neb +3/Mich -3
Over/Under Total: 51
A pair of 8-2 teams will collide inside the "Big House" this Saturday when the no. 20 Michigan Wolverines host the no. 17 Nebraska Cornhuskers. For the Cornhuskers, they still have an outside chance at taking down the Legends division and making it to the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game. Michigan State currently owns the top spot in the division but another loss would give Nebraska the edge due to their head to head win over 'Sparty' earlier this year. Therefore, the Cornhuskers will have a lot riding on the line when they make their first trip to Ann Arbor for a Big Ten Conference showdown.
For the Wolverines, they also have a lot on the line this Saturday. Even though Michigan only has a very small chance at winning the division, they are at the 8-2 mark with a chance to close out the year with two straight wins and reach the 10 win regular season plateau. That would be a huge accomplishment for Coach Brady Hoke in his first season in Ann Arbor and give Michigan fans reason to be very excited about the future. The Wolverines opened as slight 3 point favorites at most online bookmakers. While Nebraska may be the more popular pick for the betting public, the Wolverines have yet to lose inside the "Big House" this season and that is a big reason they will enter this Saturday as slight favorites.
For spectators this game will feature two of the best rushing offenses in the country. Both Nebraska and Michigan sport top 15 rushing offenses averaging over 230 yards per game on the ground. If you had to choose the better of the two rushing teams, the edge may have to go to the Cornhuskers. Nebraska has the more dynamic rushing team that is capable of controlling a game start to finish. The Cornhuskers run an option style attack with QB Taylor Martinez and running back Rex Burkhead. Burkhead ranks 3rd in the conference with 1,072 yards on the season and 14 touchdowns on the ground.
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Burkhead had a big game last week rushing 25 times for 131 yards in the 17-14 win over Penn State. Along with Burkhead, Martinez is also a great rusher as well. Martinez averages 5.0 yards per carry and has racked up 768 yards with 9 touchdowns on the year. Martinez has not thrown the ball considerably well this season completing 57% passing with 10 scores and 7 picks. However, the Cornhuskers offense has rarely had to rely on their passing attack to be successful. Still, the Cornhuskers would be more dangerous if a few plays could be made through the air but expect them to stick with grinding out their rushing attack this Saturday against the Wolverines.
While Nebraska may be the more dynamic rushing attack, Michigan definitely has the most explosive rushing attack. QB Denard "Shoelace" Robinson is a true game changer in the running game. Robinson leads the team with 864 yards on the ground and 12 touchdowns. Robinson has averaged 5.7 yards per carry and he is more than capable of making big time plays. Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint has also been successful running the ball. Toussaint has also averaged right at 6 yards per carry while racking up 673 yards and 5 touchdowns on the season. Together both guys have the ability to keep the Michigan offense moving.
However, the offense is best when Robinson is throwing the ball well and making plays with his feet out of passing situations. On the year, Robinson has only completed 52.4% passing for 1,611 yards with 13 scores and 13 picks. The interceptions have definitely been a concern in the passing game but the Wolverines are not scared to keep attempting passes down the field.
A noteworthy fact for both Michigan and Nebraska's passing attacks is that they complement their offenses well. Both Michigan and Nebraska passing offenses are used to complement their ground game. When either team is forced in situations where they have to rely on their passing game to move the ball is when both teams struggle. Therefore, the team that can jump out front this Saturday could really put the other into pressure situations from playing from behind.
Jay's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Michigan is undefeated at home and I believe they will make the big plays to win this game. Nebraska has not been impressive in recent weeks and I believe it catches up with them this Saturday.
My bet is Michigan -3.
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