This Saturday, August 30th, marks the 2014 season opener for Team 135 of Michigan Football versus Appalachian State. The Wolverines have won five consecutive home season openers in the Big House and seek to add another win this Saturday.
What to watch out for
Lets be honest, Michigan’s offensive line was terrible last season. The Wolverines ranked 112th in adjusted sack rate in the Football Bowl Subdivision and while some of the blame can be placed on quarterback Devin Gardner, it really was the o-line’s lack of protection. The offensive line was young and inexperienced last season, but this year they should have a little more motivation and experience to prove to fans that they can be a good position for this team. Keep an eye on Mason Cole #52, Erik Magnuson #78, Jack Miller #60, and Ben Braden #71 during this game. Fans can see for themselves just how much this position has improved … if it has.
As previously mentioned in Michigan Football: Improvement and progress, Coach Brady Hoke seemed more confident in the defensive line than any other position while discussing them during the media conferences last week. The experience of the players in this position, such as seniors Brennan Beyer #97 and Frank Clark #57, will give more security and confidence in this position than the offensive line. Keep a lookout for sophomore Taco Charlton #33 during this game as well. Although he’s not an upperclassman, he still has experience. He appeared in eight games as a freshman last year and showed a lot of potential. I believe he will be a potential breakout player for the defensive line and will have a huge impact on this position this season.
Also, keep an eye out for five star freshman Jabrill Peppers, #5. He is a tremendous athlete and has been announced as the starting punt returner. I’m interested to see how this true freshman performs in his first game in the Big House. Will nerves get the best of him? Watch and see.
The return of Appalachian State to the Big House gives fans an uneasy and bitter feel. Seven years ago, the Mountaineers stunned Michigan fans by beating the Wolverines, 34-32, in their house, marking the first time a Football Championship Subdivision team had ever beaten a ranked FBS opponent. It was completely unexpected, yet what people didn’t realize is that Appalachian State had won three straight national championships in the FCS. I wasn’t there, but I can only imagine the silence of Michigan fans leaving the stadium, not knowing what to do.
Other notable stats and news
The Wolverines have been working hard during fall camp to come back as an improved team this season. Michigan will be returning 16 of their 22 starters this season, while adding on some talented freshmen. The Wolverines ranked fifth in the Big Ten and 29th in the NCAA in rush defense last season, allowing an average of 140.2 yards per game.The returning starters from defense include:
Defensive ends Brennen Beyer #97 and Frank Clark #57, defensive tackle Willie Henry #69, linebackers Jake Ryan #47, Desmond Morgan #48 and James Ross III #15, free safety Jarrod Wilson #22, and cornerbacks Blake Countess #2 and Raymon Taylor #5.
The returning starters on offense include:
Quarterback Devin Gardner #98, left guard Erik Magnuson #78, center Graham Glasgow #61, right guard Kyle Kalis #67, wide receiver Devin Funchess #87, tight end Jake Butt #88, and fullback Joe Kerridge #36
Although the Wolverines lost their last matchup against Appalachian State, I believe Michigan will come through to win this one. Over the three home-opening contests at Michigan Stadium, Coach Hoke’s teams have averaged 41.3 points per game while allowing an average of just 14.7 points per game. Those games included wins against Central Michigan in 2013 (W, 59-9), Air Force in 2012 (W, 31-25) and Western Michigan in 2011 (W, 34-10).
Coach Hoke is 2-0 all-time against Sun Belt Conference foes, and with Appalachian State being the newest member of the conference, Hoke will look to make it 3-0. This game will be more about satisfying the fan base for Michigan, as well as holding onto Hoke’s job security.
You can catch this game on ESPN2 at noon on Saturday and be sure to read the game recap on the Michigan Football team page.
Check out the Game-by-Game predictions by the team of Michigan Football writers.