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Michigan Wolverines vs. Connecticut Huskies: Complete Game Preview

Phil CallihanContributor ISeptember 17, 2013

Michigan Wolverines vs. Connecticut Huskies: Complete Game Preview

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    The No. 16-ranked Michigan Wolverines (3-0) play the Connecticut Huskies (0-2) at Rentschler Field. The Wolverines barely escaped Akron last week, and this will be their first road game of the season. 

    Saturday’s game at Connecticut marks the first time that Michigan has played a non-conference game on the East Coast since playing at Boston College on September 16, 1995.

    Date: Saturday, September 21, 2013

    Time: 8 p.m. ET 

    Place: Rentschler Field (40,000), East Hartford, Conn.

    Series vs. Connecticut: 1-0

    Television: ABC

    Radio: Michigan IMG Sports Network

    Spread: Michigan by 17.5 TheSpread.com

    Live Stats: MGoBlue.com

    Last Meeting vs. Connecticut: September 4, 2010

    This will be UM’s second meeting with Connecticut. The first-ever encounter between the Wolverines and the Huskies came at the re-dedication of Michigan Stadium on September 4, 2010 with Michigan earning a 30-10 victory.

    Source: University of Michigan Wolverine Game Notes

Video Preview

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    Expert predictions for the entire 2013 Wolverine football season. 

Michigan Keys to Victory

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    Remember the Zips

    Last week the Wolverines let Akron hang around until the fourth quarter and very nearly suffered an embarrassing defeat at home. The Zips rolled up yardage late but failed to score a touchdown twice deep within the red zone, their final pass falling incomplete in the end zone as time expired. The Wolverines need to maintain focus and hammer the Huskies for a full 60 minutes.

     

    Grow up

    The Wolverines are 17-0 at home under Brady Hoke but have not fared nearly as well on the road. Michigan needs its young players to handle the extra distractions of traveling and playing in a hostile environment. 

     

    Forget Notre Dame

    Perhaps a letdown after playing the Fighting Irish was to be expected, but the Big Ten season looms ahead. The Wolverines want a crisp showing against the Huskies before heading into their bye week to prepare for conference play. 

Connecticut Keys to Victory

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    Throw the ball

    Notre Dame and Akron have shown the blueprint on how to attack the Wolverine defense: Throw the ball downfield and dump it quick when the Wolverines bring blitzes. The Huskies will need to pass the ball well to compete in this game. 

     

    Attack the middle

    The interior of the Michigan offensive line has been vulnerable to stunts and blitzes. Force Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner to scramble, and he makes mistakes. Twice in the last two game he has given up a pick-six at crucial stages of the game. The Huskies need to bring the house early and never let up.

     

    Slow the Wolverines down

    The Huskies need to survive what surely will be a highly motivated Wolverine squad, bent on washing away the memory of the Akron game and looking to show they can dominate on the road. Keep it close until halftime, and maybe a young Michigan team will feel the heat.

     

Michigan Players to Watch

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    Quarterback Devin Gardner

    Which Devin will show up: the nearly flawless version who slashed Central Michigan and Notre Dame, or the Akron version who turned the ball over four times? The Wolverines need Gardner to rise above the pressure of playing on the road and quickly bounce back from any mistakes.

     

    Offensive tackle Taylor Lewan

    Lewan, the anchor of the Wolverine offensive line and probable future NFL first-round draft pick, briefly left the Akron game after suffering a leg injury. He was wearing a walking boot during the team's Monday press conference but is expected to play this week. The Wolverines cannot afford to be without their offensive captain during their first road game.

     

    Defensive back Blake Countess

    Countess has been one of the bright spots on the Michigan defense so far this season, and he'll have an opportunity to add to his interception totals against the Huskies. He looks fully recovered from the season-ending injury which happened last year against Alabama.

    Full Michigan Depth Chart

Connecticut Players to Watch

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    Quarterback Chandler Whitmer 

    Whitmer has completed 61 percent of his passes and averages 278 yards per game. He'll need to improve those numbers dramatically against Michigan for the Huskies to compete in this one.

     

    Defensive tackles Julian Campenni and Shamar Stephen 

    The Wolverine offensive line has been porous at times this season, and the Huskies will need to exploit that weakness. Campenni and Stephen will need to play big to put pressure on the Michigan offense.

     

    Punter Cole Wagner

    Wagner is one of the top punters in Connecticut history, and he'll have plenty of opportunities in this game. Michigan quarterback Gardner has floundered when starting in the shadow of his own end zone, and Wagner will need to put him there to give the Huskies defense a chance to make big plays.

    Full Connecticut Depth Chart

What They Are Saying

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    Connecticut head coach Paul Pasqualoni via the News Tribune:

    "...We're amped to play Michigan...Beating them would be a huge step in overcoming the first two games that we had."

     

    Connecticut head coach Paul Pasqualoni via the News Tribune:

    "For our program — from a recruiting standpoint, from an excitement standpoint, from a notion that you come to UConn, you're going to have a chance to compete against the best and be the best — I think it's important ... So, I'm pretty excited."

     

    Michigan head coach Brady Hoke via the News Tribune:

    "It doesn't matter whose there watching. It really matters about how we prepare, how we get ready and how we play."

     

    Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan via the Detroit Free Press:

    “That is truly embarrassing for Michigan that we came out like that...It’s not fair to the fans, it’s not fair to the people who are associated with this program, it’s not fair to the freshmen who are not playing. This is the seniors’ fault, this is the captains’ fault. We will not come out like this again."

     

    Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner via the Washington Post:

    "...It’s embarrassing, and we are going to respond." 

Prediction

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    The Wolverines unleash an offensive flurry and determined defense to erase the memory of their near-debacle against Akron.

    Final Score: Michigan 41 Connecticut 6

     

     

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