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Posted on Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Nebraska's successful entrance into Big Ten sets up marquee matchup with Michigan football team

By Kyle Meinke

It's been 49 years since the Michigan football team played Nebraska in the regular season. Now, it'll do it every season -- starting with a game that has a possible BCS berth on the line.

My, how the times have changed.

The Cornhuskers have two games left in their first tour through the Big Ten after making their much-anticipated leap from the Big 12 this year. And, although they have not been the defensive force many expected, they still have impacted the league in a significant way.

No. 17 Nebraska currently sits in a second-place tie in the Legends Division with No. 20 Michigan. Both teams are 8-2 overall and 4-2 in league play heading into their matchup at Michigan Stadium on noon Saturday on ESPN.

"Nebraska presents a challenge unlike any other team in the Big Ten," senior defensive lineman Ryan Van Bergen said. "The only other team that presents a challenge like them would be us, I think, as far as they line up in the shot gun, pistol and they run the ball.

"We have to focus and buckle down and think about what kind of statement we want to make."


Michigan and Nebraska have played just six times in their history. A rundown of those results, with location:

Oct. 21, 1905 (Ann Arbor): Michigan 31, Nebraska 0
Nov. 25, 1911 (Lincoln, Neb.): Michigan 6, Nebraska 6
Oct. 27, 1917 (Ann Arbor): Michigan 20, Nebraska 0
Sept. 29, 1962 (Ann Arbor): Nebraska 25, Michigan 13
Jan. 1, 1986 (Fiesta Bowl): Michigan 27, Nebraska 23
Dec. 28, 2005 (Alamo Bowl): Nebraska 32, Michigan 28
Nebraska's already made its statement, and left its footprint on the typically staid Big Ten.

The Cornhuskers are the first addition to the Big Ten since Penn State was added in 1993, but their entrance has had far-reaching effects. Most notably, it's precipitated a divisional split and the addition of a championship game for the first time in the league's 115-year history.

In turn, that realignment has intensified the conference race, as more teams now have a stake in playing for the Big Ten championship with two weeks remaining in the season.

"I think we’re all adjusting to that, with the championship game," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said this week. "That always is going to be something that’s out there."

Those teams include both Michigan and Nebraska, which trail Michigan State (8-2, 5-1) by a game in the Legends Division, although the Wolverines would be a long-shot to make it to Indianapolis. Michigan needs to sweep its final two games and have Michigan State lose its last two to qualify for the game.


Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead (22) celebrates a touchdown during a win over Michigan State ... a win that gives the Cornhuskers outside hope for a Legends Division title in their first Big Ten season.

AP photo

Nebraska, by virtue of a win against the Spartans, needs Michigan State to lose only once, provided it wins out.

Even if neither wins the Legends Division, though, the winner of this game still would be the favorite to secure the Big Ten's second-best bowl draw -- including a possible BCS bowl, should the league receive an at-large bid -- if it wins its finale.

Each Big Ten team already has at least two losses, so the loser of the Big Ten title game will have at least three. That means Michigan or Nebraska, should it win out and finish 10-2, would be a game better than the title game loser.

Nothing like making a strong first impression for Nebraska -- particularly considering the challenges inherent to facing an entire slate of unfamiliar teams.

Penn State faced a similar test in 1993. Once ranked in the top five and unbeaten in non-conference play, the Nittany Lions finished 6-2 in the Big Ten.

Now, Nebraska is 4-2 in the league, despite the challenge of facing an unfamiliar team each week. The film study required to keep pace, in addition to the game planning, has been burdensome for Cornhuskers coach Bo Pelini.

"It has been a challenge for us," Pelini said. "We've seen a variety of different offenses, and like I said, offenses we're not real familiar with. We're not familiar with a lot of the personnel we're playing against, but that just comes over time and you make changes over time.

"It's been an interesting year, to say the least, but I think it'll all settle down over time."

Pelini has a little more familiarity with the league than his players, because he grew up in Ohio and played for Ohio State. He's also coached three times against Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges when he was the defensive coordinator at LSU and Borges was at Auburn.

And Borges knows what to expect from Pelini, particularly a Pelini defense.

"They take your guys away," Borges said. "They cover you. They’re one of those defenses, like a couple we’ve played this year, that really want to take it all away.

"There’s no bend but don’t break in their style. They just know what they’re doing."

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.


Lorain Steelmen

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 7:15 p.m.

Theos' Brother.... Heck ya! Are you kiddin'? No way I'm gonna miss your mom's apple pie. By the way, I got some great new plays for you guys to check out! But we should call Big Al, and see if he can come over......He'll love 'em! Maybe we can just get this offense rollin' after all!!!!!

Theo's Brother

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 8:09 p.m.

That will work! But if my brother invites anyone else this may turn into a potluck :-)


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 6:11 p.m.

Among my circle of friends and any Big 10 fan. I lobbied for Nebraska for years. Everyone cried for Notre Dame. Sure Notre Dame needs a conference.....but my first choice was Nebraska. I was and still excited the Big Red Machine is part of the Big10,11,12..... I have to laugh at how many Big10 coaches are spread round 1A Programs.... Go Blue....


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 6:25 p.m.

As long as Notre Dame has the NBC contract they don't need a conference. If they ever again go 12-0 regular season it's a lock they'll be in the BCS championship. Agree that Nebraska was a GREAT add to the Big 10. Perhaps the best first choice.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 5:46 p.m.

M will win if: 1. Offensively they use a short game ( ball/clock control ), shotgun, single back with a slot receiver and quick hitch route sets more than the under center I-formation sets early in the game. This puts more weapons on the field; DR, FT, RR, JH, JG, or MO and KG. M need to score in this one to help the D. 2. Defensively they have a good game. I think M's DB's are good enough to cover N's receivers 1 on 1 to load the box and fill the running lanes, slow down the run and force TM to pass. ( like MSU did M ) 3. And they're at home. M will lose if: 1. Offensively they go under center, I-formation with the run and heavy on the long, slow developing, low % pass. M need to stay in a 3rd and short situation. Also, DR need to be a threat in the run game to make FT more productive. 2. If the D struggles with the spread option attack. That's why the O needs be productive. 3. Repeat 1 & 2. This will be a great win for the team, the program and BH & Co. Let the Dogs loose, no experimenting!!! UM: 28 - UN: 17 GO BLUE!!!

Theo's Brother

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 4:21 p.m.

Rex and Taylor can not match The thunder and lightning in Mattison's hatch Pelini will forever remember the day When Hoke and Co. came to play. -Theo's Eccentric Brother '11 P.S. Once again Theo, mom wants to know if Lorain, Tater, and the King will be coming to Thanksgiving dinner.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 6:38 p.m.

Anything for you, my friend, you offensive mastermind, you. Breaking news: Norman Scwarzkopf will also be attending.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 6:23 p.m.

I'm a vegetarian ... I want a Tofurkey. Can she handle that?

Theo's Brother

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 5:58 p.m.

Sweet! Thank God mom can cook or we would lose some friends!


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 5:14 p.m.

Yes, bro. (Quit eating my mac + cheese, by the way). And tell Mom they're ALL coming, PLUS willievrine, portagelkblu, our new pal DonAZ, Barry Switzer, and Eli Zaret.

jeff blue

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 3:35 p.m.

This is the definition of a great college football game -- a big meeting of two traditional power programs that have not met in a long time. It will be a truly historic game at the big house. I disagree that "Michigan cannot hang with Nebraska physically". Think about it: Northwestern beat Nebraska in Lincoln, and Nebraska didn't dominate MSU physically, as MSU ran well on Nebraska and should have run a lot more. Where Nebraska beat MSU was in pass coverage and this will not happen to Michigan's offense -- take it to the bank. All we have to do is watch Northwestern game tape and we can win this battle. The real key is running effectively for Michigan to beat Nebraska, and we can do this well. And our defense is much, much better than Northwestern's. We are at home and it is obvious why we are favored to win!!! JEFF


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 1:47 p.m.

Taylor and Rex, faking and scheming. Can Borges outdo 'em? You gotta be dreaming. Gonna root like mad for all the King's Men, but, as usual, the best offense will win. Oh what could have been...


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 6:22 p.m.

Brilliant! Genius! Love the twist with Denard in the Nebraska uniform! Talk about misdirection!! For the victory cigar ... I like a good boxed Onyx.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 5:09 p.m.

Love the play, Don! But let's go with ZERO linemen and have DRob hike it to himself (linemen are too slow). Also, DRob will tuck his hair under his helmet and have a tear-off uni and a Nebraska uni underneath (imagine the mayhem). Lastly, as part of the play, DRob scrambles out to the golf course and the gasping crowd watches in amazement on the video screens. (Then you and I, Donny, put our feet up, smoke a victory cigar, and enjoy an ice cold 16 ounce can of Blatz).


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 4:13 p.m.

can render ineffective good OFFENSES I really, really, really, really, REALLY wish this comment tool allowed updates and edits.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 4:11 p.m.

"but, as usual, the best offense will win" In all seriousness ... that's not true. A more precise way of phrasing that is "the offense best capable of overcoming the opposing defense will win." That's why the game actually does start with defense. A shutdown defense can render ineffective good defenses (witness LSU). A poor defense (witness 2010 Michigan) means the same team's offense has to play near perfect football to compensate. And even the best offenses have trouble with that.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 3:54 p.m.

Hey Theo ... I e-mailed Borges with a play I have in mind ... tell me what you think: o Robinson lined up in shotgun (duh ... of course!) o Robinson will have amped up on 12 cans of Red Bull before the game o We'll only have 3 men on the line of scrimmage ... that's a violation of the rules, but the officials will understand because the play is just too awesome to throw a flag on o We'll 7 wide receivers. We'll put Roundtree and Hemmingway up in the stands ... maybe row 60 or 70 on both sides ... as a way to spread the field even more o At the snap the receives start screaming like wild animals and run helter skelter all over the field. Robinson takes off in some crazy direction. The defense gets confused and starts to cry. Robinson then takes off down field with all the receivers juking and jiving, doing flips and cartwheels down the field. Touchdown! Can't miss. Whatcha think?


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 2:56 p.m.

Well Theo at least you are consistent in your undying love. My question to you is, how long do you think it would have taken RR to bring on a defense like we have seen this year???? Most of us love offense but defense is a required element of the game.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 12:30 p.m.

Nebraska is big and physical and they dominated MSU. I agree, ohio...this will be the toughest game so far.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 11:56 a.m.

This is going to be the hardest game this year. Win this one and carry over to next week and kick some Buckeye butt! GBTIM