Posted: Wednesday December 21, 2005 3:04PM; Updated: Wednesday December 28, 2005 5:15PM
Bowl Breakdown: Alamo
No. 20 Michigan (7-4) vs. Nebraska (7-4)
Dec. 28, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
SI.com's Cory McCartney analyzes the matchup.
Breaking down Michigan
Thanks in part to Chad Henne, Michigan's in a bowl game for the 31st consecutive season, the longest active streak in the nation.
Four losses by a combined 17 points have the Wolverines playing in their first December bowl game in 10 years, and that has put some heat on coach Lloyd Carr. Offensively, the Wolverines have one of the nation's steadiest receivers in All-Big Ten first teamer Jason Avant, who has hauled in 74 catches and eight touchdowns this season, and a strong-armed (but streaky) quarterback in Chad Henne (2,256 yards, 20 touchdowns). Without a healthy Mike Hart -- who injured his ankle in the second game of the year -- the Wolverines struggled to run the ball all season. The sophomore is expected to play against Nebraska.
Michigan's defense, led by massive defensive tackle Gabe Watson, has improved throughout the season and is 22nd in the nation in points allowed (19.3 a game) and 42nd in total defense (347.6 yards per game). The Wolverines have been at their best against potent offenses, beating three of the Big Ten's four spread attacks, and holding high-scoring Northwestern to 17 points.
Breaking down Nebraska
The Cornhuskers are back in the postseason after missing their first bowl game since 1968 last year. Coach BillCallahan's West Coast Offense has shown signs of productivity in Year 2 with quarterback Zac Taylor at the helm. In the last two games, Taylor has 612 passing yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. The rushing game, though, has been dismal and is 110th nationally, averaging just 91 yards a game.
Defense has been Nebraska's saving grace all year. Behind defensive linemen Adam Carriker and Barry Turner and linebackers Stewart Bradley and Corey McKeon, the Black Shirts lead the nation in sacks with 46, are 12th in passing defense (103.9 yards a game) and rank 24th in total defense (326). The unit did take a hit recently, as weakside linebacker Bo Ruud broke his arm at practice.
Callahan, who is 12-10 in two seasons in Lincoln, needs to cool talk that he's worn out his welcome, while Carr's Wolverines are trying to avoid becoming the first Michigan team since '84 to lose five games. The Cornhuskers' defensive front may be able to put pressure on Henne, but the Wolverines have far too many weapons for Nebraska.