Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and Nebraska coach Scott Frost will walk tall into their Big Ten Conference matchup Saturday.
After recent months of ridicule, doubts and even calls from irate fans that both should be fired, there is reason for hope with both programs.
Both Harbaugh and Frost were expected to elevate their respective alma maters to heights seen during glory days, but despite still not meeting those expectations, No. 9 Michigan and Nebraska are trending in the right direction entering the game at Lincoln, Neb.
Unranked to start the season and with lower-than-usual expectations, Michigan (5-0, 2-0 in Big Ten) is coming off its most impressive performance of the year.
The Wolverines went on the road and dominated Wisconsin last week, leaving with a 38-17 win and feelings they could finally make the conference championship game at the end of the season for the first time in program history.
“This group is different,” Harbaugh said. “They don’t flinch.”
Through its first four games, Michigan used a dominant rushing attack to earn victories, but the win over Wisconsin showed the Wolverines can have success through the air as well.
After throwing just 53 total passes in the first four games, Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara went 17 of 28 for 197 yards and two touchdowns against the Badgers.
“We really believe in our quarterbacks,” Harbaugh said. “We believe in our receivers and tight ends. We believe we can throw the ball well and we believe we can run it well. We can do both.”
Having similar balance will be essential against Nebraska, which has seemed to find itself on both sides of the ball after a slow start.
In their past three games, the Cornhuskers (3-3, 1-2) played unbeaten Oklahoma tough on the road before losing by a touchdown, outplayed unbeaten Michigan State on the road before mistakes on special teams led to a 23-20 overtime loss, and then destroyed Northwestern at home 56-7.
“We’re a lot better team than we have been,” Frost said. “We have a lot of work to do still. (Northwestern) was one game. This is a world of exaggeration and hyperbole. This was one game. But this is what I know this group can do.
“We have talented guys in a lot of places. It’s a good first step, but we still have a lot of work to do. We can still get better.”
Saturday’s game will feature the top two rushing offenses in the Big Ten.
Michigan enters No. 1 in the conference at 255.0 rushing yards a game, while Nebraska is right behind at 237.5 yards, but they’ve had success in different ways.
Michigan has ridden the tandem of Blake Corum (521 yards, seven touchdowns) Hassan Haskins (373 yards, six TDs), while Nebraska relies on dual-threat quarterback Adrian Martinez, who has rushed for 412 yards and nine TDs, whole also completing 66.7 percent of his passes for 1,463 yards and six TDs.
The last meeting between the teams came in 2018, when Michigan walloped visiting Nebraska 56-10.
–Field Level Media