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October 27, 2012

Michigan keys to victory and HOL predictions

The Michigan Wolverines come to Lincoln on Saturday for a game that will ultimately decide the Legends Division race in the Big Ten.

As things get closer to kickoff here are today's keys to victory for Nebraska. The Huskers enter tonight's game as a 2 point favorite over Michigan. The HuskerOnline.com staff, along with KETV's Andy Kendeigh and 1620 the Zone's Mike'l Severe predict tonight's game and other top match-ups around the country.

Containment of Robinson

For Nebraska, this is easily the biggest key for their defense. When you have a chance to bring Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson to the ground you have to do it. If you miss a tackle on Robinson he has the potential to flip the field on one play.

The other thing the Huskers have to do is deliver some early shots to Robison. The weather is going to cold, which means it's going to be difficult to get up after you take a few hard hits. When Nebraska has the chance to deliver a shot to Robinson they have to make it count.

Identify the blitz

One of the things Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison does very well is disguise his blitz packages, particularly on third down passing situations.

Mattison will mix things up with three and four man fronts, which can make it hard to know where the pressure is coming from.

Husker quarterback Taylor Martinez will have to do a good job of identifying the blitz and not get caught by surprise on any blindside hits that may lead to turnovers.

Win special teams

The deciding phase of this game will probably be special teams. Nebraska has struggled mightily in really all phases of special teams this season.

The biggest thing that needs to happen is NU has to get better field position on their kickoff returns. If they start inside the 20 yard line on kickoff returns, it's unrealistic to expect Martinez to consistently drive it down the field 80+ yards against this Wolverine defense that's ranked second in the Big Ten.

Convert third and shorts

The area not having running back Rex Burkhead probably hurts the most is on the third-and-short situations.

Burkhead was nearly automatic in a third-and-two situation, and he was also very valuable in a 6 minute offense where you are trying to chew clock at the end of a game.

This is something Nebraska is going to have to figure out on Saturday, because without Burkhead the Huskers have struggled at times picking up third-and-short plays.

Strike early

It's a major advantage for Nebraska being at home tonight. The Huskers have won their last 10 night games and they've only lost five night games since 1986.

With that said, playing at Memorial Stadium at night is special. I've had several people tell me that night games at Memorial Stadium are as loud as any in the country. Nebraska has to take advantage of this. They Huskers need to strike first and get the crowd going with some big plays on offense and create some quick three-and-outs on defense.

Callahan's weekly predictions

The Wolverines will test Nebraska with their defense, but I also don't think they've seen any offense close to the level of Nebraska's since their loss to Alabama to start the year. I expect the Huskers to put together a complete game and come away with a huge win in the Legends Division.

Nebraska 27 Michigan 23
Penn State 27 Ohio State 24
Wisconsin 20 Michigan State 16
Northwestern 30 Iowa 24
Oklahoma 23 Notre Dame 17

Season Record: 26-8 overall; 24-10 vs. points

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