Nebraska and offensive coordinator Tim Beck come into this weekend's match up with Michigan leading the league in rushing offense, total offense, and scoring offense. But they don't expect to run into a Wolverine defense with a basic game plan.
“They know how people are trying to attack them. Their defensive package has grown," Beck has noticed this season. "They’re doing more things out of it. And they’re veteran players. They seem to have found a gear.”
Last season, Michigan's defense (which had improved over a hundred spots under Greg Mattison since 2010) held the Cornhuskers to just 9 completions on 23 attempts for 122 yards, and 260 total yards of offense when it was all said and done. Beck credited their offensive struggles against the Wolverines to defensive coordinator Greg Mattison's creative looks and alignments.
“It’s like facing a knuckleball pitcher, it’s weird because you haven’t seen it.” Beck explained of the looks they got last season.
To remedy that, during the offseason Beck and the staff prepared some creative looks for the offense to run against, often imitating schemes and alignments that teams, like Michigan, did throughout the 2011 season that gave them trouble.
The extra preparation seems to have helped. Compared to 2011, Nebraska has played three common conference opponents at this point through the season (Wisconsin, Ohio State, Northwestern), and have eclipsed last season's point total in two of those three contests, while also putting up more yardage against each of those opponents than they had in 2011.
Against Wisconsin last season they put up 335 yards of total offense in a 31 point loss. This year Nebraska put up over 100 more total yards (440 yards of total offense) and earned a close 30-27 victory.
Against Michigan at 8pm ET on Saturday night (on ESPN2), Beck and the offensive staff will have their guys better equipped to handle the knuckleball.