Hail To The Victors!
One of the most intriguing matchups of opening weekend is Randy Edsall's UConn Huskies traveling to Ann Arbor to face Rich Rodriguez's Michigan Wolverines. UConn ended last year by winning the Papa Johns Bowl to cap off a four game winning streak.
The Wolverines on the other hand limped to a pathetic 1-7 finish after starting out 4-0.
Both teams return about the same amount of starters, but Michigan is favored by three points. You better believe this does not sit well with the veteran Huskies. They will be fired up!
Of course the Wolverines also have a HUGE chip on their shoulder. None of the players or coaches would have ever expected that Big Blue would endure two of the most horrifying seasons in the proud history of Michigan football.
Kickoff is just one day away! This article examines the different matchups that will take place when Michigan has the ball. Since most football games are won and lost in the trenches, let's kick things off by looking at the Michigan O-Line against the UConn D-Line.
One of the biggest strengths of the 2010 Michigan Wolverines football team is the deep and talented offensive line. Make no mistake, this line will receive a stern test in the first game of the year.
UConn features a 4-3 alignment that is anchored by a couple of highly experienced guys on the inside of the D-Line: Run stuffers Twyon Martin and Kendall Reyes and are both 290+ pounds. Having been at UConn for 4 and 5 years respectively, they are extremely strong and know the system like the back of their hands.
Thankfully, Michigan has some total studs on the interior of the O-Line. Left guard and senior co-captain Steve Schilling lines up at a hulking 6’5” and 308 pounds. Schilling was a freshman All-American and has the potential and drive to get back to that elite level this year.
At right guard, Patrick Omameh really started coming into his own at the end of last year. Now in his 3rd year in the Barwis system, Omameh has added a massive 50 pounds of muscle to weigh in at 299 pounds and is out to maul anyone in his way. Pancakes anyone?
Center David Molk, is the glue that holds the entire line together. Although “only” 285 pounds, he’s known as one of the strongest guys on the team. Michigan’s offense was much more efficient before Molk went down with an injury last year.
While I don’t see the Wolverines consistently opening huge gashes right up the gut, I fully expect Schilling, Omameh, and Molk to neutralize the Huskies’ big fellas. Remember, Michigan’s guys have had to practice against the beast that is Mike Martin for all of camp, so they will be ready for whatever UConn’s boys can throw at them.
UConn’s defensive ends are sophs Trevardo Williams and Jesse Joseph. Joseph checks in at a respectable 255. However, Williams, who is only about 225 pounds, had about 20 less tackles than all three of the other linemen last year.
Williams is going to be lining up directly across from upperclassmen Mark Huyge and Perry Dorrestein – both of whom are well over 300 pounds (Dorrestein is almost 100 pounds bigger than Williams). Look for Huyge and Dorrestein to be able to bash the smaller Huskies and get to the second level to spring some big running plays.
The strength of UConn’s D is their highly experienced linebacking corps. The group is headlined by two 4 year starters: Scott Lutrus and Lawrence Wilson. Lutrus is the guy who makes sure that everyone is in the right place on the defense. He’s a tough LB with a nose for the ball. Speaking of a nose for the ball, Wilson was the Huskies leading tackler last year with 49 more tackles than anyone else on the defense.
The Huskies are also getting a huge boost with the unexpected early return of senior middle linebacker and run stuffer Greg Lloyd. Lloyd tore his ACL in November and was expected to miss possibly the entire year. Not only do the Huskies get back an excellent tackler, but Lloyd's early return to the middle of the D also gives them a major emotional boost.
Even more so than usual, Michigan boasts a stable of very talented and diverse backs. Vincent Smith, Mike Shaw, and Mike Cox all pose a completely different set of problems for the Huskies. Smith is the quickest and shiftiest of the three, Shaw is a burner, and Cox is a big physical runner who also possesses good speed. With all the different problems each one of these backs pose for opposing defenses, look for at least one of them to really find a groove and have a big day.
If UConn’s linebackers are allowed to just run free, then it will be a very long day for our running backs. However, I fully expect the Wolverines’ O-Line and tight ends to be able to get out in front of our backs and open up some big plays.
Up to this point, we haven’t even talked about the guy that I believe is going to be the best player on the offense this year. Look for Robinson to reap the benefits of some of these big plays in the running game.
UConn's experience at linebacker and D-Line means they should be better against the run this year. There's been a lot of chatter about how good UConn's D is, but I think the praise is overblown. Last year, they gave up over 220 yards on the ground against Pitt, WVU, and Cincinnati . South Florida also racked up 193 yards on the ground against them.
Look for Shoelace's blazing, burning, lightning speed to break off some major big plays.
The similarities between the UConn and UM safeties are uncanny. Just like the Wolverines, the Huskies have a safety who used to be a wide receiver (Mike Lang) and a guy that struggled as a freshman last year (Jerome Junior). Cam Gordon and Jordan Kovacs anyone?
They also have two young corners, Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Dwayne Gratz, who had solid freshmen seasons last year. These guys performed admirably after being thrown into the fire due to the tragic mid-season murder of starting DB Jasper Howard.
Although it’s a decent UConn group, Michigan is extremely deep and dangerous at wide receiver. We have several major threats with experience.
Junior Hemingway, Darryl Stonum, Roy Roundtree, and Martavious Odoms have all shown flashes of excellence as underclassmen. As upperclassmen, these guys look primed to take advantage of such an inexperienced secondary. Look for at least a couple of 40+ yard plays for the Wolverines' receivers.
As you know, RichRod is considered the Godfather of the spread offense. Michigan will truly be spreading the Huskies out all over the place. While UConn's linebackers are going to be sucked up towards the line of scrimmage trying to stop the run, their secondary is going to be running all over the place trying to catch up to Michigan's fleet of receivers.
As such, look for talented veterans Kevin Koger and Martell Webb to use their experience to find soft spots underneath and make a handful of big plays. In particular, on play action passes, these upperclassmen know how to take advantage of a spread out defense.
To sum it up, UConn is a good defense. They play hard and are well coached.
On the flip-side, the Michigan offense should be downright explosive this year. As long as Michigan doesn't beat itself with turnovers, UConn just doesn't have the speed, depth, and talent to bottle up the Wolverines.
The Huskies' D struggled last year against the better running offenses they faced. Look for that trend to continue on Saturday at the NEW BIG HOUSE (wow - I just got major chills up and down my back as I wrote that).
Final Prediction: Michigan 37 UConn 24