Michigan Football 2021 Schedule Countdown: No. 6, Nebraska
Here is part seven of a 12-part series in which we count down Michigan Wolverines football's 2021 strength of schedule from the easiest game (12) to the most difficult contest (1). Checking in at No. 6 is Nebraska, Michigan's Oct. 9 opponent in Lincoln.
Head Coach: Scott Frost (4th season) — 11-20 (.355)
2017 — 20th
2018 — 21st
2019 — 15th
2020 — 17th
2021 — 18th
2020 Record: 3-5
Like Michigan, Nebraska lobbied hard to play a 2020 season, but it didn't turn out the way the Cornhuskers would've wanted. They had a tough schedule, which started out with a loss to Ohio State (52-17), before they fell in a close game at Northwestern (21-13). The Huskers beat Penn State (30-23), then dropped two straight to Illinois (41-23) and Iowa (26-20), before beating Purdue (37-27), falling to Minnesota (24-17) and defeating Rutgers (28-21) to end the year.
Frost is now entering his fourth season back at his alma mater and has yet to post a winning record, making his seat just a bit warm. The Huskers haven't enjoyed a winning season since 2016, and have gone over .500 only six times over the last 11 campaigns (since 2010).
Did You Know?
• Michigan leads the all-time series with Nebraska (5-4-1), with the last meeting coming in 2018, when the Wolverines beat the Huskers, 56-10. The last meeting before that came in 2013, when Nebraska won 23-17 in Ann Arbor. Michigan and Nebraska are 2-2 head to head since the Huskers joined the Big Ten in 2011.
• Frost's UCF team came to The Big House in 2016 and were destroyed by a final score of 51-14. The next year, he anchored a 13-0 Knights team that won the American Conference and beat Auburn in the Peach Bowl.
• Frost was the starting quarterback for the 1997 Nebraska team that split the national title with Michigan. He was vocal in lobbying for the Huskers to receive first-place votes in the coaches poll. They ultimately got enough, while Michigan was the leading vote-getter in the Associated Press poll.
Take what you knew about Nebraska football in 2020 and apply it once again to 2021. Give or take some departures and arrivals (transfers in and out, freshmen incoming, graduations), the Huskers will look very similar to how they did last season, with 18 starters returning on offense and defense, nine on each side of the ball.
Junior quarterback Adrian Martinez will lead the offense for a fourth straight season, and is without the competition of Luke McCaffrey (brother of former Michigan quarterback Dylan McCaffrey) in the room — he transferred to Louisville this offseason after being used as a running quarterback last season.
Martinez and the rest of the offense have work to do when it comes to the passing offense, with Nebraska gaining just 190.1 yards per game through the air last season (103rd nationally).
The good news for Frost and Co. is that, while leading receiver Wan'Dale Robinson is gone, Martinez has a steady, veteran target to throw to in redshirt junior tight end Austin Allen, who was second on the team in both catches (18) and receiving yards (236) last season, while scoring one touchdown. Joining the receiving corps is fifth-year senior wideout Samori Toure, a University of Montana transfer who earned first-team All-America honors in the FCS in 2019 and racked up 155 receptions for 2,488 yards and 20 touchdowns in his three years as a Grizzly.
Veteran is an understatement when it comes to Nebraska's defense, especially up front. A trio of sixth-year seniors headline the front seven — defensive end Ben Stille, outside linebacker Jojo Domann and inside linebacker Will Honas. Stille notched 27 tackles, three tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and three quarterback hurries last season, while Domann led the team in tackles (58) and Honas notched 57. Domann and Honas were tied for the team's lead in stops for loss, each with 6.5, while Honas also posted three sacks and two hurries.
The secondary is highlighted by junior cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt, a second-team All-Big Ten pick last season who registered 28 tackles, three tackles for loss, four pass breakups and two interceptions.
Why No. 6 In The Countdown?
Nebraska has underachieved in a big way in each of Frost's seasons, and there are not many out there willing to go out on a limb to say this is the year for the Huskers. But, they do have the distinct advantage of being able to play Michigan at home. The Huskers are likely to be similar in quality to Washington, which checked in at seventh on this countdown, but since this game will be played in Lincoln, we are considering it a tougher test.
Michigan will be coming off a tough game at Wisconsin, too, meaning the Wolverines will have to be sharp and ready to go for another road contest before they get their bye the following week.
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