Central Michigan vs. Michigan: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time, More
The Michigan Wolverines enter the 2013 college football season ranked No. 17 in both major polls and will open up their schedule at home against in-state Mid-American Conference foe Central Michigan.
Former Chippewas offensive tackle Eric Fisher was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, but with his departure combined with that of quarterback Ryan Radcliff and previous receptions leader Cody Wilson, the underdogs will have a hard time keeping up in the Big House.
Meanwhile, Devin Gardner takes over as the full-time starter under center in the Wolverines' pro-style attack. Gardner has a strong arm, sharp downfield accuracy and incredible mobility, which, combined with a solid, power running game, should make Michigan a dangerous team.
This should not be too difficult of a game for the Wolverines to manage if they are truly meant to contend for the Big Ten this year, but it could contribute to at least a flat beginning.
No. 14 Notre Dame comes to Ann Arbor for the second game of the year, where the returning Michigan players will undoubtedly be seeking to avenge 2012's 13-6 loss.
Here is a closer look at the game, including TV information, spread, updates on the latest injuries and when things get kicked off, along with a player to watch from each team and a final score prediction.
When: Saturday, Aug. 31, at 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich.
TV: Big Ten Network
Live Stream: BTN2go.com
Spread: Michigan (-31.5) via Covers.com
Injury Updates (h/t USA Today)
DL Jabari Dean: Probable (Hip)
WR Amara Darboh: Out for Season (Foot)
LB Jake Ryan: Out until mid-Oct. (Leg)
Central Michigan Player to Watch: Zurlon Tipton, RB
There is little question as to who will be the focal point of the Chippewas' offense. With the three-way quarterback competition that's been marinating, CMU doesn't necessarily have a surefire answer at the most important position.
Tipton will be pounding the rock and seeking to keep the dynamic Wolverines offense off the field and open up opportunities for play action.
At least some hope exists that this strategy could work because Tipton, a senior, is a savvy veteran who ran for just under 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns last season.
Plus, the fact that Tipton can catch the ball out of the backfield (24 receptions, 287 yards and a TD in 2012) makes him a threat on all three downs.
Josh Norris of NBC Sports and Rotoworld.com suspects that Tipton, despite a history of injuries and a tendency to run too high for his 6'0", 221-pound frame, could emerge as a surprise breakout player:
One senior runner who could surprise this season is Zurlon Tipton from CMU. Long injury history and runs high, but I've been impressed.— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) July 28, 2013
Then again, the presence of Radcliff as the signal-caller may have had quite a bit to do with Tipton's prior success. The good news is that the Wolverines were stronger defending the pass than the run last year and return several of the same players from that unit.
Michigan Player to Watch: Devin Gardner, QB
Another candidate for this designation is highly touted freshman running back Derrick Green, who figures to push senior Fitzgerald Toussaint for playing time. However, given the depth in the backfield— which includes fellow first-year player De'Veon Smith—let's focus on the QB.
Gardner averaged nearly 9.7 yards per attempt in five significant games of action last season. That's remarkable when considering that he played much of the year as a wide receiver.
In that context, it's no surprise that his Heisman Trophy odds seem to be perpetually dropping:
Heisman odds for Michigan QB Devin Gardner are 25-1: Devin Gardner's chances of winning the Heisman Trophy are... http://t.co/9K4307gYed— DetroitNews U-M (@detnewsUM) August 19, 2013
Now that he's gone through camp as the clear No. 1 quarterback, there's no telling what Gardner can do in this system designed by head coach Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges.
Even setting aside the impressive stable of backs, reigning lead receiver Jeremy Gallon and Gardner were an explosive tandem when Gardner took over the reins from Denard Robinson last year.
Also in the fold as potential X-factors are the speedy and sizable redshirt freshman Jehu Chesson, who Hoke specified as having a terrific camp, and sophomore tight end Devin Funchess, who led the team with five touchdown grabs a season ago.
There is plenty of promise here, and when Gardner faced non-elite competition last year, he did nothing but light it up. Expect something similar in this contest.
Prediction: Michigan 34, Central Michigan 17
Even if the Wolverines do come out a bit flat, it shouldn't be enough to make the damage done anything more significant than a halftime scare.
The explosiveness that Gardner alone provides should be enough to net the offense multiple touchdowns, while the stable of running backs Michigan has in Toussaint, Green, Smith and others should eventually chip away at the Chippewas.
Tipton may have a strong performance, but eventually Central Michigan will have to put the ball in the air, which is where the plethora of Wolverine pass-rushers can apply pressure.
Look for true freshman Taco Charlton to be among those wreaking havoc:
If there is a more impressive true freshman DE in the nation than Taco Charlton, I want to see him. Can't wait to see him in a year.— Tom Dienhart (@BTNTomDienhart) August 10, 2013
Michigan's phenomenal offensive tackle tandem of Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield will keep Gardner upright all game long, keying an offensive onslaught and a victory in the Big House.
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