Chad Finley is a weekly football contributor to The Big House Report. Check out his column on the opening game of the season after the jump.
The Michigan Wolverines (0-0) host the Appalachian St Mountaineers (0-0) this Saturday. Although this is not the rematch of the century, I am anxiously awaiting seeing the Wolverines run out of that tunnel, touch the banner and play some great football. Remember these are not the same teams as in 2007, this is not a revenge game but just game one on the schedule. Let’s take a look at the two teams and how they match up.
Both teams enter the contest outside of the top 25 and are coming off of a disappointing 2013 season. Michigan head coach Brady Hoke expects a Big Ten Championship for every year, so last years 7-6 record is unacceptable. This brought about a change in the offensive coordinator position which now is held by Doug Nussmeier. He will bring a more run based offense and hopefully the run game will be drastically improved. Changes have been made to the offensive line and this group will be under a lot of pressure since this was a big weakness last year. Michigan runs a 4-3 defensive scheme and a few coaching moves were made in the offseason that should help the secondary.
The most watched man for the Wolverines will be quarterback Devin Gardner. Which Gardner will we see more this year, the one who racked up over 400 yards passing against Ohio St or the one who had less than 100 yds passing vs Akron? If he throws the ball well and the offensive line comes together, we should see Gardner on the north side of 250 yards passing on Saturday. Also everyone wants to see true freshman defensive back Jabrill Peppers. Coach Hoke said Peppers will not only play defense but also get time as the punt returner. How exciting would it be to see the freshman take one back to the house in his first game?
Second year Mountaineers head coach Scott Satterfield will try to recuperate after a 4-8 season last year. It seems like an uphill battle when you have to start by going into the Big House. This season will be the first year that App St will be in the FBS and the Sun Belt Conference. They had many successful years in the FCS, so we will see how they matchup against their new opponents.
The Mountaineers run a spread offense led by quarterback Kam Bryant. The Wolverine secondary will have to play good because Bryant’s passing accuracy percentage was over 70 percent and had over 2,700 yards. Running back Marcus Cox accumulated over 1,200 yards and 15 touchdowns last year but had knee surgery during the offseason. On the defensive side, the Mountaineers run a 3-4 scheme led by 330 lb nose tackle Tyson Fernandez. Michigan’s offensive line better be physical with this guy or he could cause some havoc in the backfield.
Appalachian St is the only team on Michigan’s schedule that they have a losing record to, so don’t think the coaching staff is overlooking them. Michigan will be prepared because they are tired of hearing about 2007. Do not expect a repeat.
My prediction is this game will be over by halftime and the Wolverines will win 45-10.