In this battle of staple programs in the world of college football, it’s certainly fitting that the game will take place at “Jerry World” in Dallas. Have you ever been to the home of the Cowboys? The only redeeming quality (besides the 80 yard scoreboard that towers over the field) is the Walmart across the road where you can save yourself from the Texas heat. There it is…let’s talk about heat.
If you’re Michigan, you’ll inevitably feel the heat as you attempt a complete defense rebuild/reload. However, Don Brown always says, “solve your problems with pressure.” So, I expect Michigan to play really aggressively in terms of bringing more than the four-man pressure that is so vaunted (Gary, Hurst, Mone, Winovich). Much has been made of the inexperience in the defensive secondary. But think about this…If you can pressure the quarterback, you don’t have to cover for as long. So I do expect Michigan to be all over Gators quarterback (insert name of starter and replacements here). Offensively, I think Michigan will show a marked improvement from the Orange Bowl in terms of blocking a talented front, which I think Florida has. However, the trio of Evans, Higdon and Isaac will be far more difficult for the Gators to handle in comparison to the ‘Noles last December. It will be interesting to see how all of the backs are used. I also would count Eddie McDoom in that category as I’m sure he’ll have a nice part of the “Special Runs Package” that we always see from a Jim Harbaugh offense. Now, the worst kept secret in A.A. is that Wilton Speight will start at QB. That bodes well for Michigan as Speight can run the offense and distribute the ball to open receivers. I expect the passing game is the biggest surprise for Michigan fans. More spread concepts and a nice mix of youth and experience will see as many as seven wide receivers and four tight ends contribute. If you’re looking for a workhorse in the receiving category, Michigan isn’t that team yet. With the national media permeating the story of the lack of returning starters, remember that Jim Harbaugh played so many freshmen early last year in games because he was always planning for this game. I wouldn’t be shocked if Zach Gentry and Tyrone Wheatley Jr. had big games. This team is far more the 1999 Michigan Offense than it is the 2016 version.
If you’re Florida, the heat started to rise when Jim McElwain laid naked on a shark and smiled. Yeah, yeah…I know he says it isn’t him and while I agree, it’s close enough for the History Channel’s Amelia Earhart producers to start comparing photographs. Let’s not forget Doug Nussmeier, Florida’s Offensive Coordinator. Despite his one-year run at UM, Nuss has always been decent at coming up with an initial game plan. However, what doomed his 2014 here and what I think will hurt on Saturday is that his offense’s struggle to adjust to the defensive tweaks that the top coordinators (Don Brown included) always have in store. Shameless plug here but I will be posting a weekly column called “Don Brown’s pressure of the week” midweek starting after the opener. I expect Florida to attempt the run the ball because their playmakers on the edge are unproven. Big mistake. If Nuss has guts, he goes after those rookies on the back end of the Michigan defense. The problem with that is the Michigan pressure will become a big problem.
FINAL SCORE: Michigan 42, Florida 17
PICKS TO CLICK: Offense – Grant Perry, Defense – Chase Winovich
CONFIDENCE LEVEL: Fairly confident (Not sure you can ever go higher with a first game)
ONE THING THAT MAY SURPRISE: Devin Bush Jr. will look like a faster, trimmed down version of his 2016 version. I expect to see him in the backfield a lot.
ONE THING THAT MAY DISAPPOINT: Freshmen Wide Receivers. I think that Peoples-Jones, Black, Collins and Martin all play but none really light up the stat sheet. But that’s okay…all in due time.