By the Numbers: Game 5 @ Nebraska


The Wolverines stood tall after Rutgers came out swinging in the B1G opener.  Michigan scored 31 unanswered points after a poor start and salted the game away in the 4th quarter for a 31-7 victory over the Scarlet Knights.

NEXT UP: @ Nebraska: SP+ 59th, 1.9

PREGAME SP+: Michigan by 22.3, Michigan Win Probability 90%

While Michigan has climbed to the top of the SP+ rankings, Nebraska has a very similar profile to the Rutgers team that was just in Ann Arbor.  The Cornhuskers are also carried by a legitimate defensive unit and find themselves sitting 10 spots ahead of Rugers, for now.

Michigan Offense (13th) vs. Nebraska Defense (28th) 

For a second consecutive week, this matchup will likely play the biggest role in the final outcome of the game.  Nebraska has a stout, 3-man defensive line.  They also utilize a similar 3-3-5 scheme that has caused some blocking issues for Michigan’s run attack this season and last.  While the Cornhuskers have put up impressive defensive stats, Michigan’s offense will be the first significant test in the ground game. 

Through the air, JJ McCarthy had a solid bounce back performance last week.  Sherrone Moore schemed up a few beautiful chunk plays through the air early, but put those back into the garage almost immediately.  I think it would be wise to utilize the best designed plays early in this contest.  A couple early scores would be extremely valuable to take some of the starch out of that passionate Nebraska crowd. 

Michigan Defense (1st) vs. Nebraska Offense (85th)

As a program, Nebraska is going through a major transition as Matt Rhule tries to leave the Scott Frost era in the past.  Part of that transition appears to include a return to leaning on a running quarterback, and even some option looks.  In the first two games, both losses, turnover-worthy plays plagued quarterback Jeff Sims. Heinrich Haarberg has now taken over to lead the new QB rushing attack.

I would expect Michigan to be tested on the edges in this game.  I can’t imagine Nebraska trying to man up and block Kris Jenkins and the other defensive tackles.  Instead, look for the Cornhuskers testing Braiden McGregor, Josiah Stewart, and the other edge players with various option looks.  The three Wolverine linebackers will also be tested when Nebraska spreads their formation to isolate Haarberg with the LBs on draw plays. 

PREDICTION: Nebraska’s similarity to Rutgers is striking.  They want to lean heavily on a rushing attack that features the quarterback.  This is likely to keep the clock running, shortening this game yet again.  When there are fewer plays over the course of a full game, then the less talented team has a better chance to catch lightning in a bottle a few times to stay competitive.  

In terms of scheme, gameplan, and talent Michigan will have a huge advantage in each phase.  However, I do expect to see a somewhat sluggish start in the Wolverines’ first road trip.  In the past we’ve seen Michigan struggle early on the road, especially when moving out of the noon time slot.  This 3:30 kickoff in Lincoln poses the first mental challenge of this kind in the 2023 season.
Michigan 28 Nebraska 7 (PRESEASON Michigan 34 Nebraska 13)


  • SP+ Overall: 1st (↑2), 26.7
    • SP+ Offense: 13th (↑3), 36.8
    • SP+ Defense: 1st (↑1), 10.4
    • SP+ Special Teams: 16th (↓11), 0.3
  • AP Poll: 2nd (same), 1445
  • Coaches’ Poll: 2nd (same), 1495
  • CFP Rank: N/A

Michigan Football Podcast — We Bully Bullies – Game 4 Michigan 31 Rutgers 7

Phil and Clint discuss Michigan’s 31-7 victory over Rutgers. With Blake Corum, Junior Colson, and Jim Harbaugh.

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Podcast Summary

  • Michigan’s victory over Rutgers despite early struggles.0:00
    • Michigan defeats Rutgers 31-7, but concerns linger about their performance.
  • Michigan Wolverines’ dominant defense and offense.2:24
    • Phil Callihan and Clint Derringer discuss Michigan’s dominant defensive performance, with Callihan highlighting the opening score as a potential outlier.
    • Clint Derringer highlights Michigan’s defense, stating they were dominant despite giving up 200 total yards.
    • Derringer notes that Michigan’s offense also played well, using run concepts to keep the clock running and move the ball despite limited yards.
  • Michigan Wolverines’ offensive performance in a game against Rutgers Scarlet Knights.6:42
    • Clint Derringer notes that Michigan’s performance wasn’t as dominant as expected, despite holding a significant time of possession advantage.
    • Phil Callihan highlights Rutgers’ success in the first quarter, including a nine-minute advantage in time of possession, and wonders if this indicates more about Rutgers’ decent play than Michigan’s dominance.
    • Phil Callihan highlights Blake Corum and notes the increased passing to receivers, including Barner and Morgan, who scored a touchdown.
    • Clint Derringer agrees that the offense did a good job staying efficient, using their base plays and saving more complex plays for later.
  • Michigan Wolverines’ game strategy and player performance.11:31
    • Michigan’s offense relied on physical strength and power to grind out yards against a tough defense, with a key play being a back shoulder fade to true freshman receiver Semaj Morgan in the endzone.
    • Clint Derringer and Phil Callihan discuss Michigan’s game strategy and balance between running and passing plays.
    • Clint Derringer believes Michigan has already achieved their objectives in the non-conference games, as they are successfully ticking off items on their list and showing improvement in key areas such as balance and explosiveness.
    • Derringer notes that Michigan is 50% run and pass in non-garbage time, with a higher success rate and greater yards per play compared to last year.
  • Michigan Wolverines football team’s performance and player analysis.18:25
    • Coaches prioritize player health and balance in offensive game plan.
    • Phil Callihan highlights JJ McCarthy’s impressive touchdown catch and confidence, despite an outlier game versus Bowling Green.
  • Michigan football team’s performance and coach Jim Harbaugh’s return.22:04
    • Clint Derringer explains that Michigan’s offense is averaging 12 fewer plays per game this season, resulting in fewer yards and points scored.
    • Blake Corum and the team are focused on improving each week, despite their success, and are excited for the opportunity to take over on the road.
    • Blake Corum and Clint Derringer discuss Coach Harbaugh’s return to the sidelines and the team’s relief and happiness at having him back.
    • Coach Harbaugh’s energy and playfulness are noted, and the team’s excitement is evident in their comments.
  • Football game strategy and team resilience.27:53
    • Jim Harbaugh is proud of his team’s resilience and ability to bounce back from setbacks, as seen in their 94-yard drive and the way they didn’t flinch after a tough play.
    • Clint Derringer notes that Harbaugh’s demeanor has changed from lighthearted to serious as the game approaches, but he’s still happy and proud of his team’s performance.
  • Michigan football team’s success and coach’s demeanor.30:46
    • Callihan reflects on Michigan football’s success and camaraderie, despite Harbaugh’s suspension.
    • Phil Callihan observes that Ryan Day’s demeanor after a big win doesn’t match his success, contrasting with Jim Harbaugh’s joyful reaction.
    • Jim Harbaugh praises the officials’ decision to waive off a penalty, citing good sportsmanship and mature play.
  • Michigan Wolverines football team’s culture and improvement.35:45
    • Phil Callihan praises Coach Harbaugh’s authenticity and enthusiasm, feeling the team has hit a rhythm under his leadership.
    • Coaches prioritize creating a positive team culture, leading to improved player performance.
    • The hosts believe the team is building towards something positive, with a strong foundation and potential for growth, despite some losses.

Michigan 31 Rutgers 7 – Game 4 Recap


Final Score: 31-7, Michigan by 24 over Rutgers
SP+ Projection: Michigan by 28.6 (-4.6)
CD Projection: Michigan by 17 (+7)


WEEK 4 RECAP vs. Rutgers

A longing feeling still remains with the offense.  It’s not very easy to put a finger on, but we can certainly feel like there is more potential remaining untapped.  But, Michigan gained over 400 yards, and again eclipsed 50% success rate in the run game.  We got an early peek at some creative play calling in the first quarter with a reverse flea flicker.  I also enjoy the two-running back formations that the Wolverines put on film today.  But, after those schemes were successful, they went back into the garage and the Wolverines methodically trampled the Rutgers defensive front.  Blake Corum finished with 97 yards and 2 touchdowns.  JJ McCarthy was cleaner today, going 15-for-21 through the air for 214 yards and a touchdown.

The defense had an unfortunate missed tackle on Rutgers’ first series of the day.  A 69-yard touchdown pass on the third snap sucked the energy right out of the building.  However, the Michigan defense flexed after the start of the 2nd quarter.  The Scarlet Knights only gained 122 yards in the final three quarters of the game.  Junior Colson led on the stat sheet with six tackles.  But, the most electric moment of the game was a 71-yard pick six by captain Mike Sainristil in the 3rd quarter.  Rutgers never seriously threatened to score again.

The kicking game also left something to be desired.   James Turner narrowly missed a 42-yard field goal wide.  Also, Jake Thaw wasn’t aggressive on an early punt and let it roll out.  The result was a 75-yard field punt that flipped the field position.  There is still no alarm to panic about, but this team will need to improve their special teams execution to win the biggest games on the schedule. 

Overall, the Wolverines have held serve through these opening four home games.  Now, Michigan must pack a few more improvements into their suitcases and travel for the first time in 2023 next week.  We’ll keep an eye on exactly how good a win this ends up being over Rutgers.  I think that team should head to a bowl this season, and might surprise one or two B1G teams, also.  Onward!