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Why Michigan Will Win

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This is part of a collaboration with our Michigan affiliate, Maize n' Brew.  Maize n' Brew Dave wrote this piece for ATQ. See my piece on Maize n' Brew here.

When Dave suggested doing this initially, it sounded like a good idea.
I'd get to trumpet Michigan's offensive line, the speed of the new
defense, Mike Hart's running ability and Henne's emergence as a top
tier quarterback.

Now? Not so much.

After what has simply become known as "the debacle," there's little
room for confidence if you root for the Maize & Blue. The offensive
line was exposed as slow and mistake prone. The Defense couldn't stop
a three year old from a four yard run. The defensive backs?
shutter I don't wanna talk about that.

However, when you lose to D1-AA team, no matter how good or bad that
team really is, the only thing you can do is get better. (At least I
hope).

On Offense I expect a heavy dosage of Mike Hart and Brandon Minor. The
Oregon defense is built against a passing attack. The Ducks defensive
backfield is among the best in the country, however the Ducks
defensive line is, well, not.

Michigan's offensive line was a huge disappointment last Saturday. It
was a serious step backwards for a group that is pegged by just about
every professional scouting outfit as one of the best in the country.
Despite the line's inability to keep ASU's smaller faster defenders
out of Henne's helmet last Saturday, they were very good at opening
holes for Hart and Minor. In fact Michigan ran for 246 yards against
ASU to the tune of 6.2 a carry. Three rushing touchdowns and a couple
of long runs for Hart. Minus the score, not a bad day on the ground.

Conversely the Ducks gave up an obscene 315 yards on the ground
against Houston. I'll repeat that. Houston. Michigan lost to
Appalachian State. I know. But they only gave up 160 yards on the
ground and 233 in the air, out gaining the Mountaineers by almost 100
yards. Oregon was outgained 545 to 473 by a team they beat by
21. Strange statistic, no? It's one that I know bugs Dave, and sure as
hell bugs the Oregon coaching staff. Unless Oregon can drastically
improve its run defense, Michigan will run all over the Ducks
and grind out a ball control game. Hart is one of the best backs in
college football. He had 180 last week in basically three quarters of
work. If Hart is healthy, and that is a big question both throughout
his career and after the ASU game, he should have a huge game against
the Ducks.

I think the Ducks pass defense and Michigan's talented receivers
should be a wash. I expect a pick or two from Oregon's defensive
backs, but I also expect a touchdown or two from Manningham, Arrington
or Mathews. There's too much talent on both sides of the wings for
them not to be a factor, but I think they'll offset one another. If
there's a receiver that will make a difference it will be Michigan's
tight end Mike Massey or Carson Butler. The Rover defense Oregon plays
will open up opportunities for short dump off passes. If the tight
ends step up, it'll open up the rest of the passing game.

On defense, I really don't have a reason Michigan will win other than
at some point they have to play well against a mobile quarterback.
Seriously. The law of averages eventually works in their favor. The
unfortunate thing about playing a team like Oregon is that it is
eerily similar to Ohio State's from last year (and sadly, ASU's spread
offense). Oregon has a fast, sickeningly tall receiver in Jaison
Williams who is bad, bad news for Michigan's secondary that was
torched by ASU's not-so-heralded receivers. I got nothing here.

Dixon is truly the wild card. While Oregon showed a lot of the
defensive flaws it had last season against Houston, Dixon looked
pretty good. If he plays as well against Michigan as he did against
Houston, Oregon's in business. If he plays like he did the last
quarter of last year, the Ducks are in trouble. To counter him, I
expect Michigan will put Shawn Crable on Dixon as a spy. Contain
Dixon. Because of Michigan's history, you have to understand that's
our biggest fear.

If there's one place where Michigan should improve on defense it's the
running game. Michigan gave up 160 yards to ASU, but surrendered less
than 4 a carry (granted they gave up 3.8 and 3.6 a carry). There are
plenty of space eaters on the Michigan interior line and they should
turn in a far better performance than they did against ASU. Whether
that's enough to slow down Jonathan Stewart is another question, but I
do think Michigan's run defense will be improved. I think Stewart will
get his yards, but I'd expect his numbers to be in the 120-130 range,
maybe less if Michigan can control Dixon.

Another thing to take away from Michigan's loss is the fact the
defense played substantially better after the half. They gave up 28
points in the first half, so it's hard to do worse, but they only gave
up 6 points in the 2nd half. Yes. 3 of those points were turned over
in the last 2 minutes. Regardless, if Michigan's defense comes out
against Oregon the way it did in the second half, we might actually
have a story line other than "Look how many points they scored!"

At this point it appears to be a "Who has the ball last" kind of game.
Two potent offenses. Two suspect defenses. However, if either defense
can slow the opposing offense even a tad, it'll be a huge momentum
swing.

By all accounts Michigan couldn't have played worse in a loss and
Oregon produced the worst 21 point win in history. This Saturday
determines which was a fluke.

Because of the embarrassment factor and that the game is in the Big
House, I'm picking Michigan to pull this one out and even their
season.

Thanks, Maize n' Brew Dave. Here's to a good, injury-free game on Saturday.

GO DUCKS!!!

--Dave