Michigan Wolverines vs. Central Michigan Chippewas: Complete Game Preview
The Michigan Wolverines start the 2013 campaign with numerous questions on offense, but a newly constituted offensive line and quarterback Devin Gardner are expected to unveil a return to power football in Ann Arbor.
Central Michigan is trying to build on 7-6 campaign in 2012 that culminated in a 24-21 victory over the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Last year's winning record took some of the heat off of head coach Dan Enos and CMU fans are hoping that he has turned the program around.
Time: 3:42 PM ET
Place: Michigan Stadium (109,901), Ann Arbor, Mich.
Michigan vs. Central Michigan: 3-0
Michigan vs. MAC: 31-1
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: Michigan IMG Sports Network
Spread: Michigan by 31.5
Last Meeting vs. Central Michigan: U-M 41, Central Michigan 17
Behind a strong rushing attack, Michigan defeated Central Michigan, 41-17, at Michigan Stadium on Sept. 9, 2006. On a wet day that featured a 60-minute weather delay, the running game carried the load offensively, accumulating 252 yards and four touchdowns on 50 rushing attempts. Junior running back Mike Hart paced all rushers with 116 yards on 19 carries and tied a career high with three
touchdowns. The Wolverines proved equally as effective on defense, holding the Chippewas to 16 yards rushing on 21 attempts while recording eight tackles for loss, forcing two fumbles and returning one interception for a touchdown.
Michigan Wolverines' Video Preview
A video overview of what to watch for from the Wolverines offense in their home opener. Key players are highlighted along with a X and O breakdown of potential plays.
Michigan Keys to Victory
Strong play from the offensive line: The new starters in the middle of the offensive line of center Jack Miller, left guard Graham Glasgow and right guard Kyle Kalis need to jell and allow the Wolverines to run downhill, as Brady Hoke converts the offense from a hybrid spread to a power pro set. Expect the Wolverines to run all day long behind left tackle Taylor Lewan.
Steady play from Devin Gardner: Gardner finished last season as the starting quarterback. With no experienced backup behind him, Gardner needs to be the leader of the offense, as the running game and receiver positions sort themselves out.
No injuries on offense: The Wolverine offense is lean at quarterback and wide receiver. An injury to Devin Gardner would be devastating while an injury to Jeremy Gallon would be equally devastating to the deep passing game.
Central Michigan Keys to Victory
Starting QB Cody Kater needs to have a great game: The Chippewas' battle for starting quarterback was a shootout between Kater (the only QB with previous CMU game experience) and redshirt sophomore Alex Niznak. Kater will need to make smart decisions and minimize turnovers to have a chance against a stout Wolverines' defense.
Surprises on Defense: CMU will need to have a significant push on the line of scrimmage and attempt to disrupt Michigan's offense to have a chance in this game. If the Wolverines can break out offensively, this one will get out of reach quickly.
Players to Watch for Michigan
LT Taylor Lewan: If the Wolverine are serious about converting to a pro set offense and "running downhill" then expect them to follow Lewan a lot.
LB Cam Gordon: With Jake Ryan out rehabbing an injury until early October, the strong side linebacker duties fall to Gordon. Word in fall camp is that his play has been amazing.
QB Devin Gardner: An offense with a suspect game running game and few deep threats at wide receiver will require Gardner to be on his game as those situations solidify. Smart decisions mean limiting turnovers and staying out of situations that would expose Gardner to injuries.
Players to Watch for Central Michigan
Starting QB Cody Kater. Kater has limited experience, but he did lead Grand Rapids Community College to an 11-0 record in 2011. He'll need to show that he can compete at the highest level of college football for CMU to have a chance in this game.
Linebacker Justin Cherocci. Cherocci led the team in tackles last season and will need to help bottle up the run to stop the Wolverines. Expect him to bring pressure to try and force errors in the Michigan passing game.
Linebacker Shamari Benton. Another solid performer on defense and perhaps CMU's best run-stopper, Benton should have a lot of opportunities against Michigan. He will need to force some turnovers.
What They Are Saying
Michigan head coach Brady Hoke:
It's game week and that's exciting. Our players, staff and everybody involved has worked very hard since January to get to this point. We're excited about the opportunity to really see where this team is. We talk about never getting a second chance to make a first impression. It's going to be exciting on Saturday.
U-M senior offensive tackle Taylor Lewan on his final season opener at Michigan:
I won't feel anything other than focusing on the game. I'll worry about the emotional stuff after the season is over. I'm not here to watch "P.S. I Love You" and cry myself to sleep. I'm here to play football. So when Saturday rolls around I'm here to play a football game. It's not about me, it will never be about me, it's about the team.
CMU head coach Dan Enos, via the Detroit Free Press:
We’re looking at it as obviously a challenge. We draw back on our experiences of walking into a Big Ten stadium and winning, because we played well and because we persevered and drew on each other. Does that mean we’re going to Michigan and win? No. That (Iowa) game and this game have nothing to do with each other. But there certainly was a large portion of our team in the meeting room today that walked into Iowa when nobody gave us a chance to win.
What college football player wouldn’t want to play in front of 100,000 people on national TV?
Enos on Michigan, via Chippewacountry.com:
They are very good and very well-coached. They have a very athletic quarterback in Devin Gardner who I thought really played well for them last year. Defensively Coach (Greg) Mattison does a great job schematically with getting guys in the right spots. And then you have to go there and play, which I think our players are looking forward to. What college football player wouldn't want to play at Michigan Stadium? But they're a pretty good football team, I think they are ranked in the Top 20 preseason rankings and picked to win their side of the Big Ten as well. It will be a huge challenge, but that's why these guys came to Division 1 football for games like this and these types of opportunities.
Expect Michigan to run most of the time in this one and to pound the ground while giving its offensive line a workout.
Final score: Michigan 27 Central Michigan 6