SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Michigan coach Lloyd Carr does not consider
the Alamo Bowl a comedown for a program with Rose Bowl appearances
the last two years and nine straight New Year's Day berths.
Instead, he thinks about the opposition -- Nebraska.
"You look back at the last 30 years, and they've won more
national championships than anybody in the country," Carr said.
"We have a history with Nebraska going back to the (1986) Fiesta
Bowl and, of course, the '97 co-national championship."
He thinks those factors have been a genuine asset for the
Wolverines as they approach the game Wednesday night. Motivation
has been an issue for 20th-ranked Michigan (7-4), as high as No. 3
before losses to Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Minnesota dropped the
Wolverines to 3-3.
A 25-21 regular season-ending defeat to Ohio State left Michigan
with four losses by a total of 17 points.
Quarterback Chad Henne said he and his teammates are out to make
the best of a season that went awry.
"It's a difference," he said of being in San Antonio. "But to
be up against a great opponent like Nebraska has got to spike our
eyes up because they have so much tradition and pride in their
These aren't the Cornhuskers most college football fans envision
when they think of Nebraska, which has won or shared five national
titles since 1970, including three in the '90s.
The Huskers (7-4) are still trying to find their way back to
national prominence under Bill Callahan. Nebraska is 12-10 since
Callahan replaced Frank Solich, 10-10 against Division I-A
Last year's 5-6 finish ended an NCAA-record bowl streak that
dated to 1969, and this season their bowl eligibility was in
jeopardy after losses in four of five games. They beat Kansas State
and Colorado to reach the Alamo.
Callahan, who has played 29 freshmen or sophomores this season,
said the Michigan matchup is a warmup for next year's games against
the two teams vying for this season's national championship,
Southern California and Texas.
"This will be a great learning experience," Callahan said.
Though it's a matchup of 7-4 teams, Michigan and Nebraska are
giants of college football, with the Wolverines first in all-time
wins (849) and the Huskers fourth (793).
With Nebraska missing the postseason last year, Michigan now has
the longest active bowl streak at 31.
"You don't need much motivation to play in a game like this,"
Nebraska quarterback Zac Taylor said.
Michigan running back Mike Hart should play a lot, but it's
undecided whether he'll start, offensive coordinator Terry Malone
said. Hart has been plagued by ankle and hamstring injuries, and
has appeared in only seven games.
He has run for 588 yards this season after a 2004 campaign in
which he had 1,455 and was chosen Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
The Huskers have lost three starting linebackers this season,
including Bo Ruud to a broken arm last week. Little-used Lance
Brandenburgh will start in his place on the weak side. Wali
Muhammad, who rotates at defensive end, will miss the game after
being suspended for violating team rules.
The game's key matchup is Michigan's offensive line against a
Nebraska defense that has 46 sacks.
"We've played some very, very fine defensive fronts, and I
think this is the best we've played," Carr said. "They lead the
nation in sacks. I think that alone tells you the challenge we
With Hart hurt, the Wolverines have struggled to maintain a
consistent running threat. Kevin Grady has run for 466 yards as the
second option to Hart.
"We're going to have to do a good job defending the run,"
Callahan said. "They are a power football team whenever they want
to be, and that's a real challenge to our defensive front and front
seven. They have the ability to knock you off the ball and to
dominate the line of scrimmage."