Anxiety ensued when Denard was the first to line up under center. He didn't disappoint.
There was a lot of hype surrounding this year's UConn Huskies team—they finished last year 8-5, including a win over South Carolina in the Papajohns.com Pizza Bowl, snagged a big road win over Notre Dame, 33-30 in double overtime, and their five losses came by a combined total of 15 points. Head Coach Randy Edsall described last year's team as "the closest" he has ever coached after coping with the loss of CB Jasper Howard, and a team that wanted to continue winning.
After three consecutive bowl games, the Huskies are gaining traction in the national scene. They received their highest Big East preseason ranking in the Big East at third and the discussion of Connecticut being a contender for the Big East crown only intensified after conference favorite Pittsburgh dropped their opener last Thursday.
Sports writers and media polls took the bait—Rivals.com ranked UConn No. 20 and Athlon Sports 2010 College Football Annual ranked them there as well, while CBSsports.com ranked them No. 27, they were No. 31 in the AP Poll, No. 32 in the Coaches Poll, and 30th in the ESPN Power Rankings and 28th in their fan rankings.
Meanwhile, Michigan ranked No. 47, 74, 47, No Votes, No Votes, 41, and No Votes in the respective polls.
Expect that to change after Michigan's nearly flawless performance against UConn: Denard Robinson was 19-22 for 186 yards, throwing one TD and no INTs. He also broke the school record for most rushing yards for a quarterback at 197 yards, rushing for an additional TD. The defense was energized by forcing UConn to a three-and-out on their first possession and doing a stellar (by the bleak preseason outlook) performance. The offense punted only once.
Expect to see Michigan picking up a couple votes in the AP and Coaches Poll, but they will not crack the Top 25 in either. Michigan will move up in ESPN's power rankings, like to the high 20s, but still not getting into the Top 25 quite yet. What will be most interesting is where the ESPN fan poll will put the Wolverines—for the preseason, Michigan didn't receive votes.
Now, as established, Michigan played an excellent game—but it has yet to be determined as to whether or not they are a top-tier team. Did Michigan play to an unusually high level? Did UConn just have an off-day? Was Michigan's success just due to emotions from preseason ceremonies and Brock Mealer?
The kicking game looked—horrendous at times, was it just the wind or should the Wolverines be scared? Can Robinson handle 29 carries and sustain that many hits per game all season? Is UConn even that good of a team in the first place? After all, the preseason polls are about as useful as a cork on the Titanic.
While Michigan took a significant step forward yesterday, the flaws in a team do not disappear after one game. The kicking game is in trouble, and the defensive backs are still young. Notre Dame will provide a very good measure (better than UConn did, anyways) as to whether or not this Wolverines team is worthy of being called a Top 25 team. They will take their young team into a hostile environment where Brian Kelly has already shown his team is very capable of running his version of the spread.
All things considered, Michigan is playing about No. 26-31 football. There's much to be determined, and we'll know a lot more at around 7 pm on September 11th.