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October 26, 2012During the span of the fifth-year seniors' careers (2008-present), the Michigan football team has played Big Ten road contests at Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota (the Gophers have since moved to a new home, TCF Bank Stadium), Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin, compiling 6-11 in conference games away from the friendly confines of The Big House.
This weekend presents a new challenge.
The Wolverines will play their first game in Lincoln since 1911 - and their first at Nebraska as Big Ten foes - when they travel to play the Cornhuskers' in a heated Legends Division battle Saturday night.
"I really can't wait," redshirt junior safety Thomas Gordon said. "As a team, we can't wait. I've never been to Nebraska before. You hear a lot of stories about the Sea Of Red at Nebraska and things like that. And you just have to look forward to going into environments like that. It's going to be really hostile. That's where going down to Dallas and play at Notre Dame will really help us as a team."
Gordon said he has looked up videos on YouTube of Nebraska home games and admired the fan support the team receives in Memorial Stadium.
Gordon was also impressed last season, watching the Cornhuskers' night game victory over Ohio State.
"I do remember their night game last year and how crazy it was rocking," he said. "I'm looking forward to getting down there and experiencing that atmosphere. It's going to be a lot of fun."
Since Michigan coach Brady Hoke took over in 2011, the Wolverines have a 3-2 Big Ten road record, with wins over Northwestern (42-24 in 2011), Illinois (31-14 in 2011) and Purdue (44-13 in 2012) and two losses last season (28-14 at Michigan State and 24-16 at Iowa).
And Nebraska's home crowd may be the rowdiest they have faced in the last two seasons.
The Cornhuskers have sold out every home game since the 1962 season, an NCAA-record streak that has spanned 315 games.
In that stretch, Nebraska has posted an unbelievable 273-42 (.866 winning percentage) home record and are a perfect 4-0 at home so far this year.
The Cornhuskers have had one home loss since joining the Big Ten last season, a 28-25 stunner to Northwestern in 2011.
"I've been to a lot of the stadiums in the Big Ten, and this will be a pretty neat one," fifth-year senior center Elliott Mealer said. "I guess the 'Sea or Red' is the biggest phrase used to describe it. As a team, we're excited to go play there. It will be a great atmosphere and whether we're home or away, we try not to let the crowd affect us too much. It will be fun to experience but at the same time we'll have to play Michigan football."
Although Memorial Stadium certainly has a hostile crowd, offensive coordinator Al Borges says the Wolverines have been in this situation before.
And they practiced with simulated crowd noise all week, per usual, to get a feel for the difficulties of communicating on the field in that situation.
"We even do that for home games," he said. We practice crowd noise for home games. But truth be told is you really can't create that the way it really is. So we'll find out. We'll go down there and some adversity will hit, I'm sure, because it does every football game, and we'll preach to them about how important it is to maintain your composure, and hopefully it'll take."
The Wolverines are expecting a fight in Memorial Stadium, especially on defense.
Nebraska is No. 1 in the Big Ten in scoring offense (41.6 points per game), total offense (5212.4 yards per game) and rushing offense (279.0 yards per game) and third in passing offense (233.4 yards per game).
"They're a really explosive offense, probably one of the toughest offenses we have seen so far this year," Gordon said. "It's really going to test us as a defense, because it will all come down to our technique and fundamentals. It's what we preach in practice, everyone getting to the football. Taylor Martinez is a really explosive quarterback, and he has really gotten better as a passer since last year. Everyone knows that. You have good running backs and receivers on the outside like Kenny Bell that can take it the distance."