Nebraska defensive coordinator Bill Busch has another challenge on his hands this week.
The Huskers, currently on a three-game losing streak, travel to face No. 3 Michigan this weekend. The Wolverine offense is top-five in the country in scoring, averaging 42.2 points per game.
“We’re playing a fantastic football team, the number three in the country, and deservedly so,” he said at Wednesday’s press conference. “They could easily be one in the country. So I have a lot of respect for their head coach and how he has built his team and how they handle things and how his offensive coordinator calls a game and has built his team. So a lot of work ahead.”
Just as was the case with Illinois and Minnesota the past two weeks, Michigan’s biggest strength is the ground attack. The Wolverines are the top rushing offense in the Big Ten in yards per game, yards per carry and rushing touchdowns. The leader in that department is Blake Corum, who is second in the conference in rushing yards and first in touchdowns on the ground.
“I never want to just name and rank someone that he’s one, two and three. But I know this, there’s no one better (than Corum),” Busch said. “He might be even with some people but there’s no one better than what he is. So my respect for him is very high.”
The defensive coordinator praised Corum for his durability, just as he said about Chase Brown ahead of the Illinois game. He added that Corum “doesn’t miss cuts,” and generally does everything well.
Nebraska fared decently against the rushing attacks of Illinois and Minnesota, despite struggling against a relatively worse Purdue run game prior to the most recent bye week. The Huskers held both teams below their typical rushing output, although Brown had 149 yards and a touchdown and Mohamed Ibrahim had 128 yards. Each got in the endzone twice.
Those games have helped prepare Nebraska for Saturday’s challenge, according to Busch.
“Obviously we have our hands full, we’re kind of used to that now,” he said. “Seems like every week that we have our hands full with someone in that nature right there.”
The Michigan offense has more talent than just Corum, as players like backup running back Donovan Edwards, quarterback J.J. McCarthy and wide receiver Ronnie Bell have put together productive seasons.
While the Huskers have to take that talent into account, Busch said his defense can’t get wrapped up in that.
“If you do something really extra based just on talent and just not on how they’re lining up scheme-wise, that’s when you’ll get yourself in a lot of trouble,” he said. “So with our guys, you have to be able to have answers against these guys. You want to be able to answer it very clear so they know it. And so it’s like, what happened? Here’s what happened. Here’s how it’s fixed. Got it.”
Nebraska will also be without one of its top safeties when it lines up against the Wolverines. Myles Farmer was suspended for Saturday’s game after being arrested and cited on suspicion of DUI. Busch acknowledged that the sophomore made a serious mistake and the team won’t take it lightly.
In Farmer’s absence, players such as Phalen Sanford and DeShon Singleton will be asked to step up. Busch also mentioned true freshman Jaeden Gould. Singleton has appeared on defense in six games so far, while Sanford has seen action in every game. The latter played extensively against Purdue while Marques Buford Jr. dealt with an injury, and recorded three tackles.
“We feel good with where we’re at,” Busch said. “And like I said, we have guys that are ready to go but it’s a great challenge for them.”
The Huskers will need the contributions of those defensive backs and the rest of the defense in the upcoming game. Nebraska is 30.5-point underdogs currently, a massive number for the matchup between an expected playoff team and one near the bottom of the Big Ten. That fact hasn’t impacted the way the team is preparing, though.
“We’re not watching Hoosiers or something before the game,” Busch said. “We’re just gonna get 11 guys out there and line up and play defense.”