Saturday, September 5, 2009
It's game day at Michigan Stadium
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- After a week of turmoil, Michigan can finally focus on what really matters, the action between the lines.
Greetings from Michigan Stadium, where the construction is much further along than the last time I visited. Head coach Rich Rodriguez can only hope the same holds true for his program later today.
After losing the openers in 2007 and 2009, the Wolverines try to snap the streak, this time against Western Michigan, an on-the-rise program expected to contend for the Mid-American Conference title. We’ve got absolutely perfect weather right now, 75 degrees with a light breeze out of the East.
Two hours before kickoff, let’s take a look at three keys for each team.
1. Pressure quarterback Tim Hiller -- Hiller typically gets rid of the ball extremely fast, and Western Michigan will do everything it can to take Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham out of the equation. Michigan needs its “quick” end Brandon Herron to be exactly that and find ways to get in Hiller’s face.
2. Respond -- Is Michigan a splintered football team? Today provides the perfect opportunity for the Wolverines to prove they are not. Adversity always arises in football, especially with young players, and Michigan will use plenty of them in this game. How the Wolverines respond from the first sign of trouble will go a long way toward determining the outcome.
3. Controlling the line of scrimmage -- The Wolverines’ offensive line should have an edge today, as Western Michigan loses several stars on defense, including Louis Delmas. Establishing a run game with or without Brandon Minor will really help true freshman quarterback Tate Forcier, who gets the start.
1. Strike early -- Michigan is the team under pressure today, and Western can make things even tougher with an early touchdown. The Wolverines have some question marks in the secondary, particularly at safety, so look for Hiller and his talented wide receivers to make a big play right away.
2. Stop the run -- Freshman quarterbacks typically make mistakes, and the Broncos need to put Forcier in difficult down-and-distance situations. Michigan’s strength is unquestionably its run game, and Western Michigan looks a bit iffy in the front seven.
3. Head West -- Senior Brandon West is a game-changer, both as a runner and a return man, so the Broncos need to get him going early. If Michigan has to respect the Broncos run game and bring extra players in the box, Hiller will get more 1-on-1 coverage opportunities in the secondary to exploit.