Michigan Fan Expectations

The University of Michigan, the Wolverines, the Maize and Blue, the Winged Helmet, the Big House, the ‘MGoBlue” banner, the Victors, Desmond Howard’s “Hello Heisman”…it’s a national brand, a true college football treasure.

Michigan’s football program has a history to be quite proud of, one full of tradition, and such excellence that has allowed them to be well-known as one of the more successful programs from an all-time standpoint. These fans are very proud of their program which has 11 national titles, 42 Big Ten titles, 3 Heisman trophies, and not to mention the most wins of all time.

The most recent history of Michigan Football has been colorful, full of ups and downs, much like a roller-coaster. A lot has changed in Ann Arbor since 2008, but one thing that hasn’t changed would be the fan-base’s expectations for the program year in, year out.

Last Saturday, Michigan was upset by their in-state rival, MSU, in the Big House and fell to 4-1 on the season. Judging from the initial reaction to the loss on the Internet, on TV, on the radio, etc. you’d think that Michigan hasn’t won a game this season. Was it an ugly loss? Absolutely, this team, primarily the offense, evidently has work to do. I think the bizarre reactions would be ones that include fans calling for Harbaugh’s job.

As of late, Michigan hasn’t been the “leaders and best”. After seven seasons of mediocrity, three with Rich Rod, four with Brady Hoke, it’s no secret that Michigan fans are becoming inpatient with not beating their rivals, not winning Big Ten titles, not making the playoffs, and not winning a national title.

Michigan hasn’t won a conference title since ’04, and also hasn’t won a national title since ’97. The Wolverines have beaten their arch-rival, Ohio State, just three times this millennia (2000, 2003, 2011), current Buckeye head coach, Urban Meyer, is 5-0 in this rivalry game. MSU head coach, Mark Dantonio has beaten Michigan in eight out of eleven meetings, 2-1 against Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan program.

The thought of Harbaugh, the former Michigan quarterback, leaving the NFL to come back and coach his alma-mater was something for this fan base to dream about. Well, that dream is now a reality, and the reality is that whether you like what he’s done thus far or not, the man is a helluva football coach, and that’s not a question.

Through 31 games at Michigan, Jim Harbaugh is 24-7 with two ten win seasons, 1-1 in bowl games, 1-4 against rivals. Clearly the rivalry record isn’t ideal, and I’m sure that Harbaugh and his staff would agree.

Michigan has entered the 2017-18 season as the least experienced team in the nation based off losing over 40 seniors, and 11 NFL draft picks. Of course they’ve recruited well, Michigan is one of the easiest recruiting jobs in the country, but this is a young team, a talented young team, but still a young team. This is not an excuse by any means, it’s just a hard soil fact.

It’s fair to be critical over Harbaugh’s play-calling, the tenacity his teams bring to rivalry games, and the incompetence of the offense in year three. I’ll be the first one to tell you that if Jim Harbaugh doesn’t start winning these rivalry games, his seat is eventually going to get hot.

Right now, through 31 games, after he’s been the biggest reason for Michigan becoming nationally relevant once again, it’s not fair to say that his job is on the line. We’re allowed to have high expectations, but we need to have patience because building an NFL-machine, national title-winning, powerhouse of a program takes time.

The wins will come, and hopefully so will the conference/national titles. As a fan-base, let’s not run Jim Harbaugh out-of-town, criticize him when he may deserve it, but we can’t throw our coach under the bus. Any team in the country, college or pro, with an open slot at head coach would be thrilled to take Harbaugh off our hands, and that’s not what we want.

Michigan fans will always have high expectations, but keep in mind how bad their recent history has been, and also keep in mind that this program is trending upwards in terms of national relevance, recruiting, and winning. Patience is everything.

 

Advertisements

Honeymoon Over, Time to Win

In late December of 2014, Michigan fans had just suffered through, yet another, head coach’s tenure which consisted of mostly unwatchable, non bowl-eligible caliber football. The fan-base of the winningest program in college football history needed a change.

Bring in Jim Harbaugh: former Michigan quarterback, lengthy playing career in the NFL, the guy who resurrected the Stanford football program, the Super Bowl 47 runner-up, respected name in the coaching carousel.

Doesn’t get any better than Harbaugh, right? He’s been keeping Michigan in the headlines, he’s hysterically obnoxious on the sidelines, recruits in very unique ways, and he’s a Michigan man.

The head coach’s first two seasons with the program were simple: put UM back on the national relevance map, make waves on the recruiting trail, build a powerhouse program. 20-6 in the first two seasons, 1-1 bowl record, 1-4 in chief rivalry games (only win over a 3-9 MSU team), and back-to-back top ten recruiting classes.

You won’t find a head coaching job in America that expresses the importance of beating your rivals the way Michigan does.

Jim Harbaugh is 4-1 in early October for the 2017-18 season; after an ugly loss to in-state rival, MSU, some of the fan-base has officially began to give constructive criticism on their beloved head coach. Play-calling was a big issue in the eyes of many: the decision to throw the football as much as they did in a monsoon, failing to target Zach Gentry in the passing game, or giving Karan Higedon just 12 touches despite being the most productive back for Michigan (5.4 YPC).

On the defensive side of the ball, there really isn’t much you can ask for. When your offense turns the ball over five times and your defense only allows 14 points, that’s a championship defense.

In Jim Harbaugh’s third season, wouldn’t you think that Michigan should have, at the very least, a quarterback and an offense who can give enough ‘run support’ to win a football game if your defense shuts out a team in the 2nd half?

Michigan was out-coached, outplayed, and flat-out did not deserve to win this football game. Jim Harbaugh, and his staff get paid far too much money to lose a game like this one, there is no excuse to justify what happened in the Big House on Saturday.

For me, it wasn’t just that they lost, the way they lost is what really stung. Repeatedly shot themselves in the foot offensively, and could not capitalize on the opportunities given to them time after time. Michigan is a team that is evidently more talented that Michigan State — it’s obvious, look at the recruiting classes. Michigan isn’t a poorly coached team, but they were simply out coached by Mark Dantonio and his staff.

Michigan has everything needed to be a national powerhouse: a top-tier coaching staff with years of NFL experience, multiple top ten recruiting classes, endless hype and publicity that most programs strive to have. What is the missing recipe? Why can’t Michigan win these big games?

The seat isn’t hot for Jim Harbaugh, but how long before it starts getting warm? Beating Ohio State in November would change the picture, but a loss would mean Harbaugh’s rivalry game record falls to 1-5. When you’re paying a coach nine million annually, you expect them to win more than one rivalry game per every three seasons.

Maybe I’m part of the fan-base that’s overreacting, and maybe I just need to give Harbaugh’s program more time and have patience. Michigan fans demand a lot, they have very high expectations and standards; we’re all growing at least a little impatient after watching Michigan football from 2008-2014.

Bottom line is that pressure to win is more real than it’s ever been for Jim Harbaugh at Michigan. I won’t be able to stomach another off-season of Harbaugh making headlines for doing weird, quirky, recruiting tactics if he’s 0-3 against the Buckeyes. If you want to go to Rome, climb trees, sleep at recruit’s houses, jump off a diving board into a pool fully clothed, have a podcast, and to separate yourself from the other CFB coaches in the media…beat a rival, win a big game, win a Big Ten championship, make the playoffs.

 

Don Brown’s “Pressure of the Week” – Purdue

 

by Mark Edwards

I wasn’t around much last week but can anybody tell me if Purdue HC Jeff Brohm was discussed much?  Oh, he was.  Did they mention that he uses RPOs, misdirection movements and tempo to move the football?  No way…they did?  Okay, this column is dedicated weekly to Dr. Blitz, Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown.  Purdue got off to a quick start using skullduggery to move the ball on their first drive.  So, it’s only natural that our “pressure of the week” would come from the first drive (NOTE:  Although, I’m sure the carnage of the fourth quarter would have been a good choice.).

THIS WEEK’S PRESSURE

SITUATION:  3rd & 9, Purdue ball on Michigan’s 39 yard line

TIME:  13:29 left in the first quarter

WHY THIS SERIES:  Purdue had opened quickly and was on the verge of scoring range as they faced a 3rd and nine.  This was Michigan’s first third-down snap of the game and you knew that Dr. Blitz wasn’t going to play coverage.  Also, this was Purdue’s first chance to show their hand on a 3rd & long in the face of an almost certain pressure call by Michigan.

Screen shot 2017-09-24 at 11.49.17 AM

FRAME #1

OFFENSIVE FORMATION: Packers Right (Green Bay does this a lot with a stand up, number #3 receiver flexed off of the right tackle).

PURDUE  PERSONNEL: 11 (1 running back, 1 tight end)

DEFENSIVE BASE:  3-3

MICHIGAN PERSONNEL NOTES: In what is becoming Michigan’s base alignment vs. Spread formations, you have Rashan Gary #3, Maurice Hurst #73 and Chase Winovich #15 with their hands on the ground.  Gary is in a 5 technique (to the bottom of the screen) while Winovich is in a 4I technique which is inside shade of the left tackle (top of the screen).  The linebackers are shifted to the field with Noah Furbush (#59) showing a bump alignment over the #3 receiver (which is a TE).  Viper Khaleke Hudson (#7) has split the difference between #2 and #3 with his eyes in the backfield.  Inside linebackers Mike McCray (#9) and Devin Bush (#10) are aligned over the guards.  In the secondary, Michigan is showing a cover 2 shell (2 high safeties) and their corner bump alignment.

Screen shot 2017-09-24 at 11.49.34 AM

FRAME #2

What is Purdue doing here?  A couple classic offensive movements are taking place here.  The three wide receivers are releasing vertically down the field.  The #3 receiver for Purdue is setting the edge while making it look like a shallow cross (his job is to block the first inside linebacker that shows)  Purdue QB David Blough is taking a deep drop to entice the already aggressive pass rush.  The running back is fitting into the pass protection in the A gap.

What has changed:  Michigan is in man coverage underneath and what Blough thought he was going to get in his pre-snap read is no longer what his eyes tell him is happening.

Michigan’s pressure: Now that he ball has snapped, the Michigan defensive line has ripped to the boundary (their right) while Furbush (#59) is blitzing off of the edge.  Also, Bush is on a B gap blitz to the field.  It is a classic five-man pressure, which we are seeing  frequently with the 3-3 base alignment.  McCray is in the middle of the field looking for #3 to come back to him, which he will.

Screen shot 2017-09-24 at 11.49.48 AM

FRAME #3

What is Purdue doing here?  SCREEN!  They are releasing their guards and center in front of the running back to run a screen pass to the right.  Actually, it’s not a bad call by Purdue if you are expecting pressure.  Purdue has McCray blocked (or he soon will be) while the receivers are running off the corners.

What has changed:  The only change from Frame #2 is that Devin Bush has diagnosed that it’s a screen.  He has aborted his pressure to defend the screen.

Michigan’s pressure:  Hurst (#73), Gary (#3) and Furbush (#59) are all unblocked on their path to the QB.  Bush, as stated previously, he is the screen stopper.

Screen shot 2017-09-24 at 11.50.03 AM

FRAME #4

What is Purdue doing here?  It’s time to throw the screen.

What has changed:  Bush has been engaged by a blocker and the running back, led by the three Purdue offensive linemen, is not moving to the field.

Michigan’s pressure:  Michigan actually is not in great shape here.  If Bush doesn’t make a play, the only defender left is Hudson (#7), who is on the 31 yard line AND severly outnumbered.  It’s time for an athlete to make a play.

Screen shot 2017-09-24 at 11.50.16 AM

FRAME #5

What is Purdue doing here?  They have thrown the screen and all looks good.

What has changed:  Michigan’s pressure on Blough forces a “less than ideal” throw.  Bush saw the football and has jumped to attempt to pick off a woefully short throw.

Michigan’s pressure:  The defensive front got to Blough.  If they hadn’t, Purdue most certainly would’ve completed this pass and picked up a first down.

 

Screen shot 2017-09-24 at 12.31.12 PM.png

FRAME #6

What is Purdue doing here?  They have shown that pressure can bother their quarterback.

What has changed:  Michigan’s pressure took a good offensive call and made it a rushed throw.

Michigan’s pressure:  The difference.

Screen shot 2017-09-24 at 12.35.33 PM.png

FINAL THOUGHT:  Some will see this play and say that Michigan got lucky.  Others will say that Michigan made the play by executing the defensive call.  For me, this is always the line that Michigan is going to live on because of the heavy pressure approach.  If quarterbacks are less than 100% accurate under pressure like this, that bodes well for Michigan and is a part of Don Brown’s core philosophy.

Michigan Stadium Best Venue in CFB, According to Fan Poll

On Thursday, USA Today Sports released a College Football Fan Index Poll that resulted with Michigan Stadium, “The Big House”, receiving 33.33% of the votes, taking first place. Ann Arbor’s top venue holds a capacity of 107,601 seats, but holds records for the most people to attend a football game (115,109), a hockey game (105,491), and even a soccer game (109,318).

Ohio Stadium, and Kyle Field tied for 2nd place in this fan poll, receiving 16.67% of votes each.

The original capacity of “The Big House” was around 72,000, but of course there have been numerous renovations, and upgrades to enhance the stadium’s atmosphere, expanding most recently in 2010.

Michigan has hosted just three prime-time slot games at the “Big House”, 2011 vs. Notre Dame, 2013 vs. Notre Dame, and 2014 vs. Penn State. The Wolverines have satisfied their home crowds with three wins whilst playing under the lights. Rumor has it that 1-2 night games are in the works for the 2017 regular season.

To this day, college football fans recognize Michigan Stadium as a top atmosphere for college football, and crowds of 100,000+ will continue to pack the seats for many years to come.

 

Don Brown’s “Pressure of the Week” – Air Force

by Mark Edwards

With the unique and highly effective triple option offense of the Air Force Academy entering the Big House, Michigan Defensive Coordinator Don Brown must have felt like it was Halloween.  With his normal “heavy blitz” apparel being replaced by a “read-react disciplined approach”, this week I’m going to feature the discipline of the Michigan defense while also the speed of the back seven.

THIS WEEK’S PRESSURE

SITUATION:  2nd & goal, Air Force ball on Michigan’s 6 yard line

TIME:  8:16 left in fourth quarter

WHY THIS SERIES:  Michigan held a nine-point lead in front of an anxious Michigan Stadium.  Air Force had driven the ball to the doorstep of “full-blown” panic among the fan base who doesn’t understand why we should be upset with Dave Brandon for scheduling triple-option service academies.  It was at this point that Don Brown’s unit needed to step up and make a stand.

Screen shot 2017-09-17 at 2.02.14 PM

FRAME #1

OFFENSIVE FORMATION: Double Wing Ram (meaning you have four offensive linemen to the right of the center)

AIR FORCE  PERSONNEL: 32 (3 running backs, 2 tight ends)

DEFENSIVE BASE:  3-3

MICHIGAN PERSONNEL NOTES:  Michigan has three down linemen with linebacker Noah Furbush #59 standing up in the A gap.  Linebacker Devin Bush Jr (#10) is four yards from the ball while fellow linebacker Mike McCray (#9) is lined up in the B gap at three yeards.  This is obviously a reaction to the unbalanced formation from Air Force.  Note that cornerbacks Lavert Hill (#24) and David Long (#22) are one yard from the line of scrimmage in a contain shade.  Lastly, Michigan viper Khaleke Hudson (#7) is the spy at seven yards over the center.

Screen shot 2017-09-17 at 2.02.34 PM

FRAME #2

What is Air Force doing here?  Air Force has motion wingback #33 Tim McVey to the right, which is the motion for the triple option pitch back as well as their toss sweep motion.

What has changed:  While the ball hasn’t been snapped, Michigan S Tyree Kinnel (#23) is rotating back to the middle of the field.  Devin Bush Jr. is already running downhill to the weak side A gap.  Lastly, Hudson is rotating down to the C gap on the strong side, which is where the motion is headed.

Michigan’s pressure:  The only pressure is the Bush attack on the weak side A gap.  The secondary rotation is predetermined and was consistently used in the red zone in yesterday’s game.

Screen shot 2017-09-17 at 2.02.50 PM

FRAME #3

What is Air Force doing here?  Now that the ball is snapped, Air Force is running their power toss play.  It is called power toss because they are pulling the right guard (#74) , right tackle (#77) and the extra tackle (#60) to the top of the screen.  They have blocked down with their tight end, which is meant to set the alley for the RB to run through.  The wing back (#12) is arcing to the flat defender, which is Michigan safety Josh Metellus (#14).

What has changed:  The Michigan defensive line has been cut blocked on the bottom of the screen.  Air Force is attempting to “reach and run” to the top of the screen which let’s Hurst (#73) and Winovich (#15) to run wide to the top of the screen.  McCray is spying the fullback who stepped to the weak side.

Michigan’s pressure:  Bush Jr. has blitzed away from the play and is forced to redirect in pursuit.  Hudson is still coming downhill in an inside-out relationship.  Metellus is attempting to run wide as his job is to set the edge.

Screen shot 2017-09-17 at 2.03.03 PM

FRAME #4

What is Air Force doing here?  Air Force has lost the point of attack.  Michigan CB Lavert Hill has defeated the extra tackle (#60) and the Air Force RB is now going to be forced to bounce the play to the edge.  This play was designed to run up the hashmark much to the chagrin of every rocket football coach who tosses the ball the fast kid who runs around everybody.

What has changed:  Besides Hill, Hudson (#7) is now unblocked and running through the C gap while Metellus is still in position to force the run to go inside of him.  Why does Metellus do that?  His job is to make Air Force cut the ball back to the pursuit (Look at #73, #15 #7 and #9.

Michigan’s pressure:  While I don’t know if I would call it pressure, I’d say that the pressure come from Hudson because Hill’s technique/responsibility is so well-played.

Screen shot 2017-09-17 at 2.03.24 PM

FRAME #5

What is Air Force doing here?  They have lost 5 yards and left themselves with a 3rd & goal from the 11 yard line, which is what this offense is ill-suited to conquer.

What has changed:  Hill (#24) has defeated #60’s block and it is now a gang tackle, which is a true sign that you are defeating the triple option.  In the spread offense world, it’s all about the “1 on 1” match up.

PRESSURE OF THE WEEK DIAGRAM

Screen shot 2017-09-17 at 2.44.30 PM

FINAL THOUGHT:

I cannot tell you how impressed I was with Michigan’s defense and their ability to be disciplined.  I know that many fans left less than entertained but when you play a triple option offense, this is how you win.  Handling your assignment with physicality is exactly what you would expect from Don Brown’s defense and this play is a great representation of it.  This play led to a failed third-down conversion and a missed field goal.  Effectively, the game was over when that kick sailed wide.

Wilton Speight on the Struggle Bus

After two wins over #25 ranked Florida, and Cincinnati, Michigan has climbed to #7 in the latest polls.

If you looked at the twitter-feeds, online chat-rooms, and all other media speculation: you’d believe that Michigan is 0-2. All this negative feedback comes from one specific, singular, player — Wilton Speight. The quarterback who through nine games in 2016, looked like the best in the Big Ten conference.

After injuring his throwing shoulder in early November against Iowa, Speight would go onto lose the rest of his starts. Of course, he had that excuse at the time; no quarterback with an injury regarding his throwing shoulder, or arm, should be expected to deliver the same, tight, spiral as he could before said injury.

His performances caused for him to lose trust within the fan-base, a good amount of fans wanted anyone to start but him come 2017. If you’re like me, you saw him lead a team to 9-0 in an impressive regular season stretch, and knew that it only made sense for him to keep his job as the starting quarterback.

Now we’re here, after Wilton Speight made the first two starts, and people who were supporters of him weeks ago are now calling for his job.

Throwing back-to-back pick sixes, and under 50 percent completion percentage against Florida were just the beginning. Against Cincinnati, on paper, it doesn’t look like Speight had a horrible game. He tossed two scores, threw for 221 yards, close to 60 percent completion, and was interceptionless on the day.  However if you watched the game, you’d know that the tale of the tape certainly went in the opposite direction, and Speight did everything but impress.

On Saturday, Speight played like a true freshman quarterback. Disregarding downfield, open targets, horrid inaccuracy on very make-able throws, making bad reads, and his pocket presence that we normally notice, was non-existent. I started to watch his eyes every time he dropped back just to see what he was looking at, and I noticed that he doesn’t use his eyes — Speight has a target in mind every play, and more times than not, he sticks with his desired target despite other open options. He doesn’t look around, he doesn’t look down-field, he doesn’t use his eyes correctly. It baffles me to know that a Jim Harbaugh coached quarterback makes a classic rookie mistake of that caliber.

Jim Harbaugh took to the media on Monday to remind everyone that Speight is “the starter”, and he also went onto note that redshirt freshman, Brandon Peters, is “progressing”.

Are Michigan fans overreacting to these early season passing-game struggles? Do we need to give Wilton Speight more time to create chemistry with his young receivers? Do we criticize Jim Harbaugh? In this Michigan offense, you don’t have to be a Tom Brady to succeed. I think it’s important for Harbaugh to remind Speight that he is replaceable, and we need to expect more out of him because the way it’s being looked at right now: he’s the sole road block to a championship season.

John O’Korn came in for a series or two against Florida following the pick six fiasco, and it felt as if Harbaugh wasn’t comfortable with him in. Wilton Speight likely is the best quarterback we have on this Michigan roster, scary thought for fans everywhere.

As of today, my vote would be to trust the coaching staff, trust the process. If this trend continues, take affirmative action, and bench the kid. Fortunately for the Wolverines, they have a bit of time at this point in the schedule to work out the kinks before playing in a big game. The excuses are slim — the play-makers around Speight are young, but solid, the defense will do their job. It’s time for Wilton Speight to produce, and it needs to happen quickly, or Michigan will have to move on.

Harbaugh Looks to Go 3-0 In Home Openers vs. Cincinnati -Game Prediction

by Mark Edwards

It’ll be really difficult this Saturday to not look at the Cincinnati sideline and think “Bobby Boucher isn’t coaching the Bearcats.”  Why?  Not because UC will have a linebacker that is all over the place but because Luke Fickell is a doppleganger.  Seriously.  Take a look.

screen-shot-2011-09-03-at-10-53-00-pm.png

Movie reference aside, this week will answer a lot of questions.  Was the defense THAT fast?  Has Wilton Speight regressed?  Can Michigan clean up mistakes against a program that is in year one of a makeover?  Can Cincinnati “shock the world?”

Was the defense THAT fast?

The short answer is…YES.  Now, let’s distinguish speed from efficiency.  The Michigan defense can run.  What made last Saturday so eye popping is the inferred perception of the SEC.  How long have we heard the critics say “The teams in the north just aren’t as fast as SEC teams?”  The better part of a decade on ESPN has driven that narrative.  What Urban Meyer has known and what Michigan now knows is that the elite northern teams are every bit as fast as those in the south.  How does that happen?  Recruiting.  I know Sean Baligan has railed on the annual February focus on recruiting rankings and I believe he’s had good reason.  His thoughts only become irrelevant when you see speed go from HS to the top tier squads in non-SEC conferences.   Last week, that’s exactly what you saw.  The six sacks and numerous pressures made Florida’s passing ineffective until the last drive.  What I saw that I was most encouraged by is the fact that the run defense and it’s EFFICIENCY made the Gators one-dimensional.  I think that Don Brown & Co. will do the same thing this week.  The only pause for concern is that the Bearcats will be more adept in passing the ball than Jimmy Mac’s Gators.

Has Wilton Speight regressed?

I don’t believe that I can make that argument.  However, the troubling part of game one for Speight was the number of deep throws that he missed.  Actually, it wasn’t even the number.  As I watched it, it was apparent that those misses included balls that were thrown out of bounds.  If Speight is to regain his form, he’ll have to put those passes in a place where his receivers can go make a play.  I’ll go on the record and say that I believe he will be able to do that this Saturday.

Can Michigan clean up mistakes against a program that is in year one of a makeover?

This has been the staple of the Harbaugh regime.  I would list the mistake areas in order of importance:

1.  Right tackle pass protection

2.  Special teams getting back to being special (Obviously, I’m not talking about Nordin here)

3.  Passing game efficiency

4.  Defensive secondary technique improvement

Overall, I was okay with Nolan Ulizio’s first start at right tackle.  However, he had 6 misses in pass protection that can ultimately force a tight game to sway to the opponent.  However, I think Harbaugh and Drevno/Frey have earned the right for the fan base to trust their decision…and I do.  Getting a punt blocked certainly is “out of character” for Michigan since 2015 (one fumbled punt snap aside).  Actually, I think Jay Harbaugh and Chris Partridge have shown that Michigan’s special teams are among the nation’s most efficient.  I expect this to continue as the new faces become more comfortable in their roles.  The passing game cannot produce a 11 for 25 outing from Speight in big games.  Look for UM to want to get early completions against a Cincinnati defense that gave up 9.9 yards per completion to Austin Peay.  Look for Michigan’s number to be closer 12 yards per completion.  Lastly, the young defensive secondary had some lapses in their man-to-man technique that you rarely (Orange Bowl aside) saw from last year’s gang of Stribling, Lewis, Hill and Thomas.  Cincinnati is going to throw the ball around…a lot.  If you see separation on vertical routes between the receiver and the defender, it will be a sign of more work to do.  If you don’t see separation, you should get very excited.

Can Cincinnati “shock the world?

The answer is dependent upon Cincinnati.  It has everything to do with Michigan.  Was the emotional high of last week too much for a younger team to deal with?  Ay, there’s the question.  My answer is no.  Schembechler Hall has a way of keeping teams grounded.  It’s been the trademark consistency that Harbaugh brought to Ann Arbor.  Cincinnati’s best player is running back Mike Boone.  They’d be smart to feed him the ball but I don’t see the Michigan defense allowing that to happen.  If I’m right, then quarterback Hayden Moore will be under the gun of that pass rush, which I’m sure will include linebackers like Devin Bush.

Offensively, I think Speight will move the team up and down the field enough to calm the anxiety-ridden fanbase as we will see more tight end production as well as a breakout performance by one freshmen wide receiver.

FINAL SCORE:  Michigan 49, Cincinnati 10

PICKS TO CLICK:  Offense – Donovan Peoples-Jones, Defense – Mike McCray

CONFIDENCE LEVEL:  Confident (I would like to see this team stack performances of the highest level)

ONE THING THAT MAY SURPRISE:  Khaleke Hudson will be this week’s “Devin Bush Breakout Award” winner.  I anticipate a few sacks and a pick for #7.

ONE THING THAT MAY DISAPPOINT:  Running Backs not named Chris Evans.  Ty Isaac had a great game one and Karan Higdon scored a touchdown but I expect rushing numbers to be spread out (including McDoom).