The Michigan Wolverines will host Air Force in their home opener on Saturday afternoon at the Big House. The game will kick off at 3:35pm and be televised on ABC. Michigan enters the game as a 21 point favorite.
A little about Air Force
The Falcons cruised to a 49-21 season opening win over Idaho State last week. They rolled 626 yards of offense, including 484 rushing yards. Their defense surrendered 431 yards to the Bengals. During that game, Air Force lost their starting center, Michael Husar, to a season ending injury. Falcons head coach Troy Calhoun said the injury was devastating.
Air Force was generally picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the Mountain West Conference. They are led on offense by senior QB Connor Dietz and on defense by senior linebacker Alex Means. Senior running back Cody Getz amassed 218 yards and 3 TDs against Idaho State, on just 17 carries.
Brady Hoke faced Air Force twice while he was the head coach at San Diego State. He posted a 1-1 record. On Monday, Hoke talked about the challenges of playing against Air Force’s offense;
“The biggest thing is you have to really do a great job at the line of scrimmage of frictioning the blocks and keeping your linebackers a little more clean and then taking your rotation of fullback-quarterback pitch, just over and over, and then they’ll have ways when you line up one way, they’ll have ways to attack you. It will take us a little bit of time to get used to the speed because we don’t have a quarterback who can run like theirs besides our quarterback, but he’s not going to run scout team this week.”
Air Force is not a particularly big team. Their heaviest player checks in at just 265 pounds. Air Force graduated 27 seniors and return only three starters on offense and two on defense.
Michigan looking to get back on track
The Wolverines will be looking to get back on track after a season opening 41-14 loss to Alabama. Michigan fans shouldn’t over react to that loss, which I put in perspective here: The aftermath of Michigan’s loss to Alabama. They also shouldn’t over estimate Air Force’s offensive explosion, it was against an FCS foe, Idaho State. Michigan will be able to move the ball on the Falcons and will score a hearty amount of points.
It had been assumed that Ricky Barnum would start at center and Elliott Mealer at left guard. Instead on opening night, Mealer was in at center and Barnum slid back over to his natural position at left guard. ”He did a pretty good job,” Hoke said when asked about Mealer’s performance. “He hung in there. He was pretty physical at the line of scrimmage. I think all his gun snaps were good, and he did a nice job.” Mealer will remain at center this week.
Good news on the offensive line, Taylor Lewan is fine. He got dinged up at the end of the Alabama game, but said he is good to go for Saturday. Lewan said he had a chat with his fellow o-limemen after the game last week. He emphasized with them that they need to perform better and be tougher. ”We just need to be tougher,” he explained. “This team needs to be tougher. We can’t have another game like that.”
Fitz Toussaint and Frank Clark will play this week. That’s good news for the running game and provides the defense with another playmaker. Toussaint is Michigan’s best running back and he takes a lot of pressure off of Denard Robinson.
Robinson came under fire for his passing against Alabama. This is another case where it would be wise not to over react. Yes there were some bad throws, but there were also some really good ones; the 71 yard pass to Jeremy Gallon, the 44 yard TD to Devin Gardner and a 19 yard strike to Gallon in the 4th quarter. His running game was bottled up by the Crimson Tide’s defense, but he will continue to be a dangerous runner.
Michigan’s defensive line remains a work in progress. ”We didn’t get off blocks,” Brady Hoke explained when asked about the D-line. ”I didn’t think we handled the point of attack as well as we can. I think there was inconsistency.”
Losing starting cornerback Blake Countess to a season ending knee injury definitely sets the defensive backfield back a bit. Courtney Avery will take over as the starter, which will thrust two youngsters, sophomore Raymon Taylor and freshman Terry Richardson, into more prominent roles.
Against the Crimson Tide, safety Thomas Gordon led Michigan with 7 tackles and a forced fumble. Raymon Taylor notched 5 tackles and recovered the fumble that Gordon forced. The defense recorded two sacks against Alabama, one by William Campbell and another that was shared by Craig Roh and true freshman linebacker James Ross III.
Prediction: Michigan will rack up some serious yardage and score 40+ points. The defense might struggle with the Falcons offense at times, but for the most part they will contain the Air Force ground game. Michigan rolls 45-10