As we’ve tried to do every week this season, TBHR reached out to a reputable writer covering Michigan‘s opponent, and this week we were happy to have Shane Roberts of SBNation’s BlockU.com. I asked Shane four questions regarding what Utah has done this young season, as well as the perception of Devin Gardner, what Michigan’s defense can do to stop the Utes’ explosive offense, and more.
1. Utah has scored at will against its first two opponents (56 on Idaho State and 59 on Fresno State), in large part thanks to a healthy quarterback in Travis Wilson, who is distributing the ball very efficiently. But what else is it in Utah’s offense that is making it so explosive?
Wilson being back is first and foremost the most important change, but the addition of new offensive coordinator Dave Christensen has helped as well. Christensen is most famous for his time at Mizzou and having Chase Daniel at quarterback. He’s brought a higher level of discipline and execution than the Utes haven’t had in some time. Also, there are players other than Wilson that are back from injury, namely wide receiver Kenneth Scott and tight end Westlee Tonga. Both of whom can catch almost anything, and are constant threats to move the chains, with Scott also being a great deep threat opposite of Dres Anderson.
2. I’m sort of piggybacking off my first question, but what is the most important thing Michigan’s defense can do on Saturday to slow down the Utes’ offense.
Putting pressure on Wilson will be the most important thing. Utah’s o-line, while improved, hasn’t been tested. That was really the downfall of Utah’s offense last year, the o-line was a swinging gate and led to Wilson’s injuries. If Michigan can make Wilson uncomfortable, that will go a long ways to slowing down the offense of Utah.
3. I’m assuming you’re at least aware of the struggles of Devin Gardner, and you’ve probably seen the criticism. From the outside looking in, what do you see in Gardner as a quarterback?
I see Gardner as a good quarterback, but an underachiever. He was getting a ton of pub a year or two ago, but has fallen on hard times. Many Ute fans will prefer Gardner to beat them with his arm opposed to the ground game, especially with the Michigan o-line being questionable. I’m worried about him getting cheap yards and first downs with his legs, Utah at times can have a quarterback sneak out on them.
4. There has been all this talk of Michigan’s offensive line still coming around as a unit. Will Utah be able to expose that this week? If so, how?
Utah’s d-line has been one of the best the last two seasons in the nation in sacks and tackles for loss – and if Michigan’s o-line is questionable at all, the Ute front four and seven will be in the backfield all day. Utah has a ton of speed up front, and they are very deep. The defensive line has been the strength of Utah’s defense, and if they smell blood in the water, they will be coming after Gardner all afternoon.
5. What’s your prediction for the game?
My prediction is Utah’s speed at wide receiver and d-line will help them push over the top. I’m taking the Utes 35-24.