by Mark Edwards
Finally…the Big Ten opener is upon us! The beginning of conference play always seems to bring a heightened anxiety level to fans and considering that some are in the stratosphere already, I’m worried. When I say worried, don’t confuse that with a lack of confidence. I’m confident that Michigan gets the job done and looks good doing it.
In 1989, a VHS tape was released called “Vintage Bo.”
The 30-minute video is the precursor to any “Hard Knocks” or “Training Days” production that football fans clamor for like it is a right of passage. In the video, the camera crew follows a 42-year old head coach named Glenn E. “Bo” Schembechler in 1971 as he prepares his Michigan squad to take on Iowa on November 6, 1971 in Michigan Stadium. They have footage of Bo at home with his family, on the practice field, in the locker room and on the field during the game. Michigan won 63-7 that day and left Michigan with only two games left in the regular season. Obviously, “The Game” was last on the 1971 schedule but there was a trip to West Lafayette, Indiana to take on Purdue sandwiched in there.
In the victorious locker room, Bo gave his team this warning:
“DON’T THINK PURDUE WON’T BE TOUGH DOWN IN WEST LAFAYETTE. YOU KNOW THEY WILL.”
If Bo was still with us today, that would be his message for Coach Harbaugh, the team and the fan base. I expect his words to be correct again.
Is this the week that it happens? Can Michigan put it all together and emerge from the shadows of one of the top defenses in the country? Can Wilton Speight march the offense up and down the field? Will the WRs show up? Basically, can the fan base have last year’s offense back?
Purdue’s defense comes into Saturday’s matchup (4 p.m. FOX TV) with the same type of look as Michigan’s offense. They’ve been good enough to beat Ohio (not that Ohio) and Missouri (not old school Missouri) but gave up 524 yards to Louisville in the opener at Lucas Oil Stadium. Purdue will play inspired and their effort will be really good.
How does Michigan move the ball on the Boilermakers?
The answer has to be “however Michigan wants to move the ball on them.” I’m not being disrespectful but it’s time for Michigan to impose their will on a defense (and I’m sure Bo is smiling down on that mantra). Whether it be Michigan’s toss sweep game or their shotgun inside zone running attack, I think Michigan will be very efficient is that part of it. Ironically, Michigan needs the three-headed attack to be lethal. The three heads are:
- Base run game
- Special schemed runs (jet sweeps with McDoom & Peoples-Jones)
- Intermediate passing game
If Michigan can accomplish those three, I think the offense not only moves the chains (which they have been doing more than fans want to acknowledge) but we finally see a red zone offense that reminds us of the first 10 games last season. Did you ever think we’d miss Peppers as our wildcat QB? Well, we have missed him (See #2 above). I think Jim Harbaugh, Tim Drevno and Pep Hamilton have focused on getting the ball to playmakers in the red zone this week. Look for Peoples-Jones, Gentry and Grant Perry to be called upon in the red zone.
NOTE: Losing Tariq Black will be compensated for by the infusion of Peoples-Jones and Nico Collins.
When you hear Don Brown say “Oh, we’ve got a lot left”, you have to smile. Dr. Blitz will return to his comfort zone as I expect a heavy amount of blitz on Purdue QB David Blough in first-year coach Jeff Brohm’s offense. The mission…make Purdue one-dimensional. Do you want Purdue to be the team who ran for 51 yards vs. Louisville or 223 vs. Ohio? Survey says…Louisville in the #1 answer. If this happens, the focus then gets shifted to the coverage of the secondary. Michigan has far exceeded a “solid” label in the back half of the defense. Can Hill, Long, Watson, Kinnel and Metellus lock down the Purdue passing attack?
How does pressuring the QB help this defense?
Count to 4…1, 2, 3, 4! Boom! That’s how long the UM secondary needs to cover if the Gary, Hurst, Winovich, Bush wrecking crew can get home vs. a Purdue offensive line that gave up four sacks to a mediocre Louisville defense. Get home…get home…get home. I don anticipate Michigan to roll safeties down in to the pressure, which is only made possible because of the Khaleke Hudson skill set.
If Michigan can get Purdue to be one-dimensional by execution and score of the game, I would expect the big Michigan contingent that travels to West Lafayette to be happy come 7:30. If Michigan cannot get the job done, this game turns into a 50/50 “free for all” that puts more pressure on the offense than any game this schedule.
FINAL SCORE: Michigan 34, Purdue 14
PICKS TO CLICK: Offense – Wilton Speight, Defense – Maurice Hurst
CONFIDENCE LEVEL: Confident but uneasy
ONE THING THAT MAY SURPRISE: Michigan will win the turnover battle by at least 3 turnovers (+3).
ONE THING THAT MAY DISAPPOINT: Purdue will hit one trick play that drives the fans nuts. So if you find yourself thinking “How could they fall for that?”, I’m talking to you.