Football is a funny thing. We've been anticipating this trip to Ann Arbor ever since we first beat Michigan in Autzen back in 2003. When we looked at our schedule before the season started, this was THE MARQUEE game on our schedule. Then, in a flash, its not so different from any other game. In fact, it goes from a "I hope we play well" to a "we better win this thing." The potential upside is gone. You win, and you only beat the team that lost to a 1-AA team. You lose, you lost to the team that lost to the 1-AA team. Its like finally getting that date with the girl you've had a crush on all throughout college, only to find out that she's spent a lot of time whoring with the Bong Hits 4 Jesus Club. The upside of having the hot girlfriend is completely gone and, if you should decide that you still want to play, if you can't close the deal, you look downright pathetic. Well, Oregon doesn't have any choice about playing this weekend. That mean's there's a lot of pressure to close the deal and win this game.
However, there is still a lot to be concerned with about Michigan. And there is a reason that everybody is picking Michigan to win that game. There's a reason that they were #5 in the nation heading into the season. On offense, at least, they have a ton of talent. And, perhaps worse for the Ducks, Michigan is a Big 10 team, which means pound `em football.
Yes, Mike Hart is a great running back. Four year starter. Two 1500 yard seasons. Just the kind of player that can cause problems for Oregon. I doesn't get any easier at the other skill positions. QB Chad Henne was a preseason Heisman candidate (I bet he's not anymore), and WR Mario Manningham is a big play threat who caught a whopping nine touchdowns last season. If Michigan has a problem, its on the offensive line, where youth left the QB susceptible to pass rush problems against Appy State.
Michigan defensively got worked by Appy State's spread offense, which is eerily similar to Oregon's. Linebacker Shawn Crable is probably their best defensive player. But Michigan had trouble covering the middle of the field, which likely means a lot of yards for Jaison Williams, and had a lot of trouble containing a mobile quarterback, which means a lot of yards for Dennis Dixon.
In all, the returning offensive talent is why this team was ranked so highly coming into the season. Nobody thought that the D would be as bad as they were against Appy State--they're Michigan recruits, after all. Chances are, they'll be a bit better against Oregon. But will that be enough?
Sorry, I know this is a bit skimpy. But we are going to be doing a lot with a couple of Michigan blogs over the next couple of days, I just wanted the causal fans acquainted with the basic names.