Michigan fans, get used to seeing that guy in the picture. His name is Jordan Todman and he is planning to run wild through Michigan's defense. With the UConn offensive line, he should have plenty of holes to get through, too. Unfortunately for Michigan, the first game of the season is no cream-puff. UConn is for real. They could very well win the Big East this year, and Michigan—in my mind—should be the underdog for this match-up.
UConn's offense versus Michigan's defense.
UConn returns just about everyone on offense. That experience will only make an already good offense even better. The only thing to stop them is Michigan's defense. I cringe as I write this. With Michigan's defense we're talking about a group that just lost three of their best players in Donovan Warren, Brandon Graham, and Stevie Brown. This is also a group that gave up 154 yards rushing per game in 2009!
Now there are some positives...we finally have consistency at defensive coordinator. This is the first time a lot of these guys have had the same D-coordinator for consecutive seasons. We're also talking about a more experienced group on the defensive side of the ball, and if there's one thing I like it's less freshmen messing their pants. Still, UConn's offense easily bests Michigan's D.
Michigans' offense versus UConn's defense.
It's about time. Michigan should actually be competitive this year because of their offense. It doesn't really matter what guy Rodriguez puts at QB, they're all capable. Michael Shaw was recently cleared academically to contribute at RB and he will be one great option in a stable of equally great RBs. At WR Michigan has the kind of guys Rodriguez needs to make his system work, too. And then there's the O-line. Wow. This line could cause some serious damage to opponents. We've got guys who know the system well and who are actually competing for their jobs because of the depth. Michigan's line is strong! Look out UConn.
Now I'm not saying UConn is weak defensively...quite the contrary, they're very strong. But Rodriguez has owned UConn over the years, and a lot of that "owning" has come from Rodriguez's bread and butter: the offense. This year Coach Rod finally has an offense that the Michigan faithful can be proud of. Let me stress this: it's about time!
When you look at these matchups one thing should stick out to you: SHOOTOUT!
Michigan, and I've had quite a lot of Koolaid today, can win shootouts. Their defense won't stop UConn, and to be honest, I don't see their defense stopping a lot of opponents (they're a year away there). Their offense will make up for it though. If the Wolverines can get into a shootout, they should win. Throughout the season look for games where both teams are over 30 points to go in Michigan's favor. The games under 20 points? Not pretty.
With UConn, I think we're looking at a shootout. Michigan should still be considered the underdog here, but the game is going to be held at home in Michigan's new stadium with all the emotion and excitement that comes with the first game of the season. Rodriguez needs the win, if not for his job then for his sanity. And I think he can get it. Barely. Maybe. Hopefully.
I will happily admit this for all to see, "I was wrong". Michigan came out strong and never truly let up. The Michigan D surprised me... they weren't as great as I think they can be, but they were very good. My expectations for this season are tempered, however, because UConn made a lot of errors offensively that were unforced. This will not always be the case. When Michigan faces an opponent who consistently puts the ball on the receivers chest, will they fare as well? Keep it in mind while being optimistic for success. Michigan looks strong, they look angry and most of all they look ready. This could be a magical season, but 'this' was just one game. One really, really great game!