After waiting 246 days since the announcement of the hiring of Jim Harbaugh as head coach, it is finally time for the 2015 Michigan Wolverine football team to take the field! There has been so much hype leading into this season, and so many questions about who will play at each position. We are only hours away from getting these answers, so here is your last look at everything you need to know before kickoff!
What: Michigan Wolverines (0-0) vs Utah Utes (0-0)
When: Thursday September 3, 2015. Kickoff will be at 8:30 PM
Where: Rice-Eccles Stadium Salt Lake City, Utah
Channel: Fox Sports 1
Last year the Utah Utes came into the Big House and beat the Wolverines 26-10. Michigan out gained Utah in total yards, but it was the four late turnovers that buried them in the end. Overall the Michigan defense contained the Utes run game, and limited their scoring drives to only field goals. The Wolverines had opportunities drive after drive, but only found the end zone once. Needless to say, Michigan is looking for revenge.
Players To Watch For Michigan
The whole world wants to know who will line up behind center. Either Jake Rudock or Shane Morris will get the start, but I believe both players will see action on the field at some point during the game. Whoever gets the majority of the playing time will be the biggest player to watch for the Wolverines. In order to win, the signal caller will have to provide consistent and error free play throughout the game. Whoever starts at QB needs to step in right away and lead the team by making smart decisions. I think it will be Rudock who gets the start Thursday night. He has more game experience and was able to limit the turnovers last year.
Another player to keep an eye on is defensive back Jabrill Peppers. Everyone is excited to see what he can do on the field after injury disabled him from play early last season. He is set to start at the safety position, but we can also expect to see him active on special teams. Players and coaches raved on what a tremendous athlete he is and how much of an impact he will have on the defense this year. I am excited to see him play once again.
Players To Watch For Utah
Running back Devontae Booker will be Utah’s most explosive offensive weapon. The 5-foot-11 back rushed for over 1,500 yards and 10 touchdowns last year. He has been mentioned by some as a dark horse for the Heisman trophy. The good news, Michigan was able to lock him down last year. They held him to just 34 rushing yards. Will they be able to do the same again this year?
Dual-threat quarterback Travis Wilson will also draw a lot of attention from the Michigan defense. He played very well in last season’s matchup before he left the game with a facial injury. However, Wilson did return in the second half to lead his team to a victory. He has the arm to make big throws and the legs to run all over the field. Michigan will have to account for his skill set if they want to stop this offense.
I believe the matchup that will determine the game for the Wolverines will be its offensive line versus Utah’s defensive line. If the Michigan line can open up some holes for the running backs early and get the run game established, that will help take some pressure off of the quarterback. Coach Harbaugh loves to establish a power running game , something the Wolverines couldn’t find a year ago. This years line has the size and ability to be great for both the run and pass game, it will just be a matter as to whether or not they can compete as one. They have to find a way to allow Rudock and Morris time to get comfortable in the pocket during this first game. If the Utah defensive line creates enough pressure, the confidence in the quarterbacks could fade early in the game. Look for left tackle Mason Cole to hold down his side and shut down any pass rush that Utah will bring on his side of the line. He had a great year against top defenders last season and will continue to get better. I cannot wait to watch the battle in the trenches.
Unfortunately, I see Utah winning this one 21-17. As much as I want Michigan to win on Thursday, it’s only the first game, so I don’t believe we will see the team firing on all cylinders just yet. Because of the offense being unproven, it is hard to see Michigan put up a lot of points. We are yet to see if the running game will exist or if the quarterback will be consistent enough to win ball games. This offense needs to prove that they are not as turnover prone as they were last year. Michigan’s defense will play well but could grow tired if the offense does not find a way to keep them off the field.
Now go prove me wrong Team 136!