The Division a Two Team Race
Michigan has been a surprise on defense this season, mainly because their offense has not been the story. Before the season began, it seemed as if there would be multiple teams in the race for top offense in the conference. The Huskers have by far surpassed the rest of the conference in scoring and yards. And while Michigan State leads the conference in total and scoring defense, the Wolverines leaned on their defense to keep the lead in the Legends division.
Out of the Legends, Michigan's combination of stout passing defense, key running by QB Denard Robinson, and ease of schedule meant the clearest path to the conference championship game. With a 3-0 lead in the division, the teams left for them are the Huskers, Minnesota, Northwestern, Iowa, and Ohio State. Not exactly murderers' row. The Wolverines hold all the cards and a win this Saturday for them can mean a relaxing last four weeks of the regular season.
Needless to say the Huskers have to win this game to continue to be in the discussion. Even after a win against the Wolverines, the Huskers would have both scrappy Michigan State and Penn State to contend with. And the manufactured rivalry against Iowa will have Iowa City buzzing.
Iowa's 2-1 conference record matches Nebraska this week into the season, and a win against Northwestern for them will mean they will also keep themselves in the race. But having to play both Michigan and Nebraska narrows the chances that they come out of the rest of the season with only one conference loss. A two conference loss Iowa team likely means a tie-breaker against one of these two teams, and not one they would win.
If the Huskers can maintain the momentum picked up at the end of last week, then the similarly built Michigan team would have to play from behind in both the game and the conference. Pressuring Denard and forcing him to make mistakes can mean the difference between the Huskers jockeying for a better bowl position and taking control of the division race to the championship game.