Brady Hoke's Wolverines cut their teeth Saturday vs. the Central Michigan Chippewas.
Smashed, squashed, hammered, pulverized or annihilated.
Pick a word that portrays a vicious beating, and you'll have one that accurately describes what Michigan is most likely going to do to Central Michigan starting at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at The Big House.
The game shouldn't be close for long.
There will probably be floods of freshmen and second-teamers taking the field early in the third quarter.
That being said, it's not exactly going out on a limb by predicting a 49-10 triumph—or better—for the Wolverines, a heavyweight challenger for a Big Ten championship this season. The Chippewas are essentially a sacrificial lamb for coach Brady Hoke, who's yet to lose a game on his home turf.
Michigan is 3-0 versus Central Michigan and won 42-17 in 2006, the most recent meeting.
In this slideshow, statistics for key Wolverines starters and others likely bound for meaningful playing time will be examined and forecast.
Devin Gardner has played much stiffer competition than CMU.
If Devin Gardner were to play four quarters Saturday, he'd probably set a career-high in every passing category.
Despite a five-game resume, Gardner, a redshirt junior, has played elite competition, ending the 2012-13 season with a 26-21 loss to Ohio State and 33-28 Outback Bowl loss to South Carolina.
The Buckeyes are ranked No. 2 in the AP Top 25. The Gamecocks are No. 6.
Think back to Gardner's six-touchdown performance during Michigan's 42-17 dismantling of Iowa this past season, which, statistically, was his finest college showing. He completed 18 of 23 attempts for 314 yards and three touchdowns. And for good measure, he added nine carries for 37 yards and three touchdowns.
His quarterback rating was an astronomical 227.3.
Michigan has talented underclassmen waiting for their shot, most notably Shane Morris, a 4-star super frosh who was named the No. 2 quarterback this past week. The Wolverines need a Plan B for Gardner, so expect Morris to see plenty of action.
Don't expect to see a ton of Gardner past halftime. That's Morris Time.
|Brian Cleary (So.)||3-for-5||20||0||0||Late 4th|
Fitz Toussaint returns from injury to a full backfield.
Fitz Toussaint is the No. 1 running back, but the rest of the picture is uncertain. Saturday, Michigan will likely use at least four runners in an effort to help narrow down a list of top two or three options.
Chased by freshmen Derrick Green and DeVeon Smith, juniors Thomas Rawls and Justice Hayes and by redshirt sophomore Drake Johnson, Toussaint, a senior coming off leg surgery, will have to get a quick start if he wants to remain on the field.
In all likelihood, coach Brady Hoke just wants to see a quick, in-and-out cameo so that younger backs get carries. In 2012, Toussaint had 15 carries for 85 yards in a 63-13 throttling of UMass. Due to the score, Rawls, Hayes and Vincent Smith came in for their touches.
That scenario could hold true against the Chippewas. Look for the underclassmen to get reps and frequently spell one another.
|Toussaint||13||75||2||Quarters 1-3 (may rotate later)|
Finishing somewhere in the 170-yard range on the ground and 400 yards of total offense isn't out of the question. It's just a matter of balance. Depending on offensive coordinator Al Borges' wishes, the Wolverines may choose to pound the ground, or, they may attack the air.
Michigan senior WR Drew Dileo
Gaudy stats are likely for all involved.
If Gardner shines Saturday, the receivers and tight ends will get their offensive production taken care of, too.
Sophomore Amara Darboh, the former No. 2 option, is out for the season due to a foot injury sustained in fall camp. Al Borges, the offensive coordinator, probably wants to quickly find the next in line, so look for plenty of action for Jeremy Jackson, Joe Reynolds and Jehu Chesson, a trio supporting senior starters Jeremy Gallon and Drew Dileo.
“We have some capable replacements thank goodness," Borges told Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press.
|Gallon||8||90||2||Quarters 1-3 (may rotate)|
|Dileo||6||70||1||Quarters 1-3 (may rotate)|
The Wolverines coaching staff is working back toward playing power football rather than the spread. Filling a much larger role this season, sophomore tight end Devin Funchess could be one of the key elements in Michigan's return to knock-'em-down football. Powerful tight ends are necessary for Borges' pro-style offense. They may not always reel in catches, but they're essentials in the blocking game.
|Funchess||6||70||1||Quarters 1-3 (may rotate)|
|A.J. Williams (So.)||3||20||0||Rotate|
|Jake Butt (Fr.)||2||15||0||Rotate|
Blake Countess adds speed and great coverage to the secondary.
After suffering a torn ACL against Alabama in Week 1 of 2012, Blake Countess is finally back to claim his spot as Michigan's top corner.
Countess said the following about his recovery to Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press:
I felt 100% during spring ball.They [coaches] wanted to be a little more careful with me, so I wasn’t doing any contact during spring ball. But I worked at it all summer, and I feel good. I would say sometime during spring ball and shortly after spring ball. I’m feeling good, and I don’t think about it
Countess was missed for most of this past fall, but the secondary held up thanks to solid play from Courtney Avery, who is expected to miss two weeks due to knee pain, and Raymon Taylor. Ever improving under coordinator Greg Mattison, the boost provided by the secondary provides strength to the rest of the defense.
Expect to see Thomas Gordon and Jarrod Wilson manning the safety positions. But also keep an eye out for true freshman Dymonte Thomas, who could see the field as a nickelback, depending on the coverage.
Redshirt freshmen Jeremy Clark and Allen Gant also could play.
Central Michigan's Cody Kater makes his first collegiate start Saturday.
Chippewas coach Dan Enos told Tyler Parsons of Chippewa Country (subscription required to view) that the junior signal-caller must remain calm and play within himself at The Big House.
Easier said than done, coach.
Kater should get a rude welcoming to the college starter ranks. A young and inexperienced quarterback facing a large deficit often forces throws and makes critical mistakes, such as throwing interceptions, misreading coverage and fumbling the ball.
Pressure won't give, and the Wolverines should capitalize on several miscues.
|Furman (in for Avery)||2||1||0||Quarters 1-3 (may rotate)|
|Taylor||2||0||0||Quarters 1-3 (may rotate)|
|Gordon||1||0||0||Quarters 1-3 (may rotate)|
Frank Clark is a key DL for Michigan.
Opening the season against a non-conference opponent has its benefits, and Michigan will most certainly take advantage of those luxuries by giving several up-and-coming defensive players a chance to play Saturday.
Anchored by Jibreel Black, Frank Clark, Keith Heitzman and Quinton Washington, the defensive line could change by the quarter if Mattison so desires. Expect to see the trio play for most of the game, just to establish an early tone of dominance.
Taco Charlton could see the most action out of any freshman based upon his reviews from camp and potential. At 6'6" and 265 pounds, he's ready for the Big Ten today.
Mario Ojemudia, Ondre Pipkins and Matt Godin could see snaps, too.
Linebacker is a deep position for the Wolverines, and there is a distinct possibility that up to five or six could play Saturday. Joe Bolden, Desmond Morgan, Brennen Beyer and Cam Gordon, among others, figure to split reps in Week 1.
Other than running back Zurlon Tipton, the Chippewas don't have too many offensive weapons. In 2012, Tipton ripped off seven straight 100-yard games and finished the season with more than 1,500 yards.
With an emphasis on Tipton, Michigan could easily derail Central Michigan's offense.
Brady Hoke is 14-0 at The Big House.
Hopping out to a 28-0 lead within the first half is an attainable goal for Michigan, which fields an offense that averaged 29.8 points per game and a defense that surrendered 19.8 in 2012.
This past season, Central Michigan averaged 28.8 points per game but gave up 32.4. And that was against MAC teams, not Big Ten competition. The Chippewas offense could sputter without former All-American left tackle Eric Fisher, who was selected No. 1 overall in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Need to Know
Dennis Norfleet wasn't mentioned with running backs or receivers. He's pegged to play the slot and could be Michigan's top big-play threat now that Denard Robinson is with the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Detroit native is fire on wheels. That means he's fast. One bubble screen to him could easily go 60 or 70 yards for a touchdown. He's returned punts in the past, so watch for him to make an impact in two areas of the game Saturday.
Jeremy Gallon, the No. 1 receiver, is also one return away from six points. He's elusive and has breakaway speed. Gallon plus screens equals a mess for Central Michigan.
According to ESPN, multiple betting sites list Michigan as 30-point favorites.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81