Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 10/22/12
The Spartans have been beaten. Now Michigan can get serious. Beating Michigan State 12-10 was a huge step forward for the Wolverines, but not just because it ended a record-tying four-year losing streak. The win also put Michigan on top of the Legends Division as they go for their first berth in the Big Ten Championship Game (televised by FOX). "It's a great rivalry game, and it was important to win it for several reasons," Brady Hoke said Monday. "One of those reasons is that you win championships in October and November. That's why we have to take a 'Who's next?' mentality. Every game is really a championship game in the Big Ten season." Hoke's players echoed the sentiment less than 48 hours after beating Michigan State. "It was a great feeling, we celebrated as a team for 12 hours and now we are moving on to Nebraska," said defensive lineman Will Campbell. "It was a team win and now we move on to another championship weekend." Michigan certainly can't afford to take a mental break after the emotional victory over the Spartans. On Saturday night, they play at Nebraska, a team that has become their biggest rival for the Legends Division title. "We're facing a good opponent that has won 18 of its last 20 at home, and they are 4-0 there this year," Hoke said. "Lincoln is a neat place to play, because of the passion of the fanbase, but it is also a tough place to play." The Cornhuskers might have moved to the Big Ten, but they still play the same kind of hard-nosed football that they played in the Big Eight and the Big Twelve. Quarterback Taylor Martinez is a threat both with his arm and his legs, and running backs Ameer Abdullah and Rex Burkhead are combining for an average of over 180 yards per game. "Taylor Martinez is playing his best football, and that's a big reason that Nebraska is leading the league in scoring," Hoke said. "Burkhead is a guy who is very physical, and as good a back as we have in this league. Abdullah is a little different in running style, but he complements the other guys and what they are doing with their offense." Campbell knows that one of the secrets to beating the Cornhuskers will be neutralizing their massive offensive line. "They've got great running backs and a seasoned quarterback, but the offensive line is one of the best we've played this season," he said. "They lead the Big Ten is just about everything, so we're going to have a tough game ahead of us." Michigan's defense has become more of a strength as the season has gone on, and they were a key in the victory over Michigan State, which was accomplished without scoring an offensive touchdown. Safety Thomas Gordon thinks it is a case of defensive coordinator Greg Mattison continuing to believe in his squad after they were routed in the season opener by Alabama. "I think it comes down to restoring our confidence," Gordon said. "Coach Mattison had our back through everything, and I think we've become a band of brothers. It has definitely shown up on the field." Nebraska is 2-1 in the Big Ten, a game behind Michigan, but it hasn't come easily. They beat Wisconsin by a field goal, rallied for a one-point win over Northwestern, and were routed 63-38 by Ohio State. If Michigan can beat them at Memorial Stadium, it would give them a commanding two-game lead in the Legends Division. "There's no denying that this is a big game for us," center Elliott Mealer said. "We control our own destiny, and this is going to be a big game and it is going to be an exciting atmosphere. This is going to be a pretty neat game a sea of red is how most people describe it but we're going to have to go in there and play Michigan football."
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