Thursday, July 8, 2010
Scouting Week 1: Michigan vs. Connecticut
By Brian Bennett
Since I'm handling this blog for Adam today, I thought I'd offer up an early preview of the Big Ten/Big East matchup awaiting us in Week 1. Let's see what Michigan faces in its opening game against the Connecticut Huskies.
Coach: Randy Edsall (12th year, 66-65)
2009 record: 8-5 (3-4 Big East)
Returning starters: 16 (8 offense/ 8 defense)
About the Huskies: No team in college football had a more tumultuous 2009 than UConn.
The Huskies dealt with the tragedy of losing captain Jasper Howard, who was stabbed on campus after a midseason game. They lost five games by a total of 15 points, including three straight heartbreakers following Howard's death.
Then Connecticut rebounded to beat Notre Dame on the road in overtime, beginning a four-game winning streak that culminated with a victory over South Carolina in the Papajohns.com Bowl. UConn was playing as well as any team in the Big East at the end of the year, and Edsall brings back the vast majority of last season's team and may have the deepest, most experienced roster of his tenure.
The offense is led by Jordan Todman, who compiled a 1,000-yard season despite splitting handoffs with the departed Andre Dixon last season. Quarterback Zach Frazer struggled early and then was hurt, but the former Notre Dame transfer hit his stride late and looked good this spring. The receiving corps lacks a proven No. 1 guy but has depth, while the offensive line is the heftiest in the Big East and one of the most underrated units in the country.
Defensively, the Huskies are led by senior linebackers Scott Lutrus and Lawrence Wilson, the latter of whom finished among the national leaders with 140 tackles a year ago. The defensive line is undersized but tries to counter that with speed. The secondary is the team's glaring weakness right now; UConn was the worst in the Big East in defending the pass a year ago, and its two best defensive backs graduated.
Random factoid: When Rich Rodriguez was at West Virginia, he beat Edsall's UConn teams by an average of 28.8 points and never by fewer than 12 points.
My totally unscientific percentage chance that Michigan wins this game: 47.5 percent. Sure, I'm the Big East interloper here, so you may consider me biased. It certainly won't be easy for Connecticut to open the season in the Big House and come away with a victory. Just about every one of Michigan's players was a higher-rated recruit than UConn's guys, and the Wolverines will have a serious size advantage at some key positions.
But underestimate the Huskies at your own peril. This is a deep, veteran and fundamentally sound team that I think deserves to start the year in the Top 25. Given the Wolverines' struggles of late and the pressure they will be under to get off to a good start for the sake of Rodriguez's job, this could be a game that UConn just might steal on the road.