When I first thought about writing a keys to victory to defeat a team that Michigan is a 45 point favorite against, I will admit I laughed and really wanted to just say “don’t get hurt during warm-ups and Michigan will win”. I was quickly reminded as I saw ULM versus Arkansas highlights one more time (Arkansas was a 30 pt favorite) and even more when I thought back to Appalachian St. (sorry to remind all of you) that this is football and anything can happen. I also thought back to my coaching days where I would tell my players to not focus on the scoreboard, but instead execution and doing things the right way. In a nutshell, every game Michigan is trying to become a better football team regardless of the opponent. This game is no different.
Keys to Victory
1. Establish the run game.
Michigan’s Offensive Line outweighs Umass’ defensive line by 30+ lbs. Time is running out for
Michigan’s running backs to get going. As Taylor Lewan pointed out, when Denard runs that is part of
the running game and it actually does count as rushing yards. But the reality is one of Michigan’s running backs needs to step up. In fairness to those backs, we need to give them more than seven or eight attempts to get going. Michigan’s offensive line must become a cohesive unit and establish a rhythm right from the start. It is a veteran group that needs to show it is ready to compete in Big Ten play and the running backs need to fall in behind them (pun intended).
2. Take care of the football
When playing an opponent who you are a 45 point favorites against, the last thing you should do is
give them any more opportunities. UMass believes it can win this game and any turnovers will be a
confidence booster, and the last thing you want to give an underdog is confidence.
3. Wide Receiving core and Denard need to continue to progress
Games like these are perfect for working on the little things. I believe the passing game for Michigan
is closer to being potent than most think. Roundtree will be unleashed in due time (most likely Big Ten
play), but for now he is playing a limited role allowing Gardner, Funchess, Gallon, Clark, and company to get better with route running and to gain chemistry with Denard. UMass will provide opportunities for Michigan. It is up to Michigan to capitalize upon them.
1. Will the DL please stand up (in my best Eminem voice)? Ok let me rephrase that, will the DL
please get low (in my best Lil Jon voice).
The defensive line has faced two great obstacles in weeks one and two. Alabama and its
massive All-American filled group and last week against Air Force and its unique cut blocking
scheme. Against UMass, I expect to see Will Campbell, Washington, Pipkins, and Black to
be dominant. I realize the depth is not there yet, but the first group needs to be a disruptive
force against UMass.
2. Create Turnovers
That opportunistic defense that we saw last year get a lot of turnovers just has not showed up yet. It
could be that they might have not been given the opportunities, maybe they are waiting on Notre
Dame (they are sure to give us a couple), but in the meantime good defenses create their own
opportunities. I would really like to see Michigan’s defense force a couple of turnovers this game and
really get confidence going.
3. Freshman Progression
Michigan has played a lot of freshman on defense this year and I look forward to seeing this growth
against UMass. Athletes rarely get better by sitting on the bench. Sure, you can work on mental reps,
but nothing replaces physical reps. The more Bolden, Pipkins, and Ross (just to name a few) get
better prepared, they should be ready for Big Ten play.
Michigan is facing an opponent they should easily beat. This is a game that should be less about the
scoreboard, but more about improvement and overall competitiveness of a team. It is easy to compete
and do your best when you’re playing against a tough opponent. The real challenge comes when a team has to compete within themselves to do the best job they can. To not rely on the scoreboard, but
rather internal fortitude to get better every play regardless of scoreboard. This week Michigan is playing
against themselves and UMass should just be a speed bump getting in the way.