Friday, September 3, 2010

UConn Preview

Thus begins the make-or-break year for the Wolverines and Rich Rodriquez: opening the renovated Big House against a contender for the Big East title in the midst of NCAA controversy, secondary armageddon, and the greatest influx of freshmen the world has ever known. What was once supposed to be something great is teetering, heading for a Husky-looking iceberg, and we're all hoping Rich Rodriguez has the good sense to guide it in the right direction. But let's put doom and gloom aside...

The numbers from last year:
Passing88th nationally
235.92 YPG
61st nationally
216.54 YPG
Rushing45th nationally
132.85 YPG
39th nationally
170.69 YPG
Scoring48th nationally
23.62 PPG
27th nationally
31.15 PPG
Passing67th nationally
221.42 YPG
81st nationally
198.33 YPG
Rushing91st nationally
171.92 YPG
25th nationally
186.17 YPG
Scoring77th nationally
27.50 PPG
41st nationally
29.50 PPG
Which is to say not totally promising with a veteran group returning for UConn and a whole lot of uncertainty on Michigan's side of things. Last year, UConn finished 8-5, with three losses coming against ranked opponents (#19 UNC, #23 WVU, #5 Cincinnati). And in their five combined losses, the Huskies only found themselves the inferior by a total of 15 points. Their wins were not so close save for a double overtime win over Notre Dame. The point is, UConn was a good team last year that returns a lot of starters and is looking to make a serious push this year. Beating a should-be-improved Michigan team on the road in the season opener would be a big win for them. Then again, with a veteran team, UConn's production probably won't spike significantly this year as we're expecting Michigan's to.

The point being, UConn is going to be a technically proficient squad, one that's not going to make a lot of mistakes (except maybe by their interception-prone senior QB Zach Frazer). If Michigan wants to win this game, they're going to have to stop the run first, not give up a lot of crippling 80-yard touchdown passes (I can haz secondary?), and not beat themselves with turnovers.

For Michigan, you know the story. You've heard it all summer. Denard Robinson will very likely lead a now-experienced offense onto the field. Rich Rodriguez teams have typically torched the Huskies due primarily to their speed--SEC-hyped speed that I'm convinced Michigan might approach this year. And the defense is a mish-mash of youth, a lack of recruiting hype, and a whole bunch of prospects that we're all hoping are ready to play football before they should reasonably be asked to. Confidence is for the foolhardy but this game looks winnable.

Prediction: I don't know, man. A key tenant last year that repeated itself in nearly every game preview was that if Michigan wins the turnover battle, they should probably win the game. That rarely if ever happened. And throwing out The Turnover Machine as the team's starting quarterback seems ominous, despite all of the obvious improvement he's made in the last year. Hold on to the football, don't beat yourself, and Michigan should have a chance to win this game.

Defensively? I don't know, man (again). This is the real question mark. I honestly have no idea what this defense is going to look like. There are so many players that we've never seen in game time circumstances that projecting their production is a fool's game. So long as they don't let up too many crippling seam routes to tight ends (MOEAKI!!!), I think Michigan fares OK here. But given the youth and UConn's pounding ground game, I bet we see at least one play action seam route go completely undefended for a touchdown.

But I'm going type numbers here that are going to make me look stupid. Michigan 38-31


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