Thursday, June 27, 2013
Nonconference primer: Michigan
By Brian Bennett
The 2013 season will be upon us before you know it -- just nine weeks from today until kickoff. With that in mind, we're taking a page out of the Pac-12 and Big 12 blogs' playbooks and offering you a primer on each Big Ten team's nonconference opponents.
Second in this series: Michigan
Central Michigan, Aug. 31
Coach: Dan Enos (13-24), fourth year
2012 record: 7-6, 4-4 MAC
Offensive headliner: Senior tailback Zurlon Tipton ran for 1,492 yards and 19 touchdowns last season. He had at least 100 yards in each of the Chippewas' final seven games.
Defensive headliner: Senior safety Avery Cunningham had 88 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions in 2012.
The skinny: Central Michigan made a bowl game for the first time since 2009 and beat Iowa on the road last season. They lost left tackle and No. 1 overall NFL draft pick Eric Fisher, but former Michigan State quarterback Enos has this program on an upswing
Notre Dame, Sept. 7
Coach: Brian Kelly (28-11), fourth year
2012 record: 12-1, lost in BCS title game
Offensive headliner: Theo Riddick moved back to running back from receiver last year and led the team with 917 rushing yards. He also had 36 catches for 370 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensive headliner: With Manti Te'o gone, junior defensive end Stephon Tuitt likely becomes the star of the defense. Last year, he had 12 sacks and three forced fumbles.
The skinny: You know the deal here. Notre Dame is coming off an undefeated regular season and championship game loss to Alabama, and starting quarterback Everett Golson was booted from the team this spring. The defense should be stout, so there will be a lot on Tommy Rees's shoulders at quarterback.
Akron, Sept. 14
Coach: Terry Bowden (1-11), second year
2012 record: 1-11, 0-8 MAC
Offensive headliner: Junior RB Jawon Chisholm ran for 953 yards and five touchdowns in 2012. He needs 86 more yards for 2,000 in his career.
Defensive headliner: Sophomore defensive lineman Cody Grice had a nice freshman season, recording 47 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss.
The skinny: Bowden is trying to resurrect a program that has lost at least 11 games in each of the past three seasons. The Zips put up some yards last year in their spread offense but will have a new quarterback this season. And the defense was one of the worst in the FBS in '12.
at Connecticut, Sept. 21
Coach: Paul Pasqualoni (10-14), third year
2012 record: 5-7, 2-5 Big East
Offensive headliner: Senior RB Lyle McCombs led the team with 860 rushing yards, a modest total that perhaps will be improved because all five starters return on the offensive line.
Defensive headliner: LB Yawin Smallwood registered 120 tackles and 15 TFLs last season. He's one of only five returning starters on defense.
The skinny: Since making a surprise run to the Fiesta Bowl and losing Randy Edsall to Maryland, UConn has posted two straight 5-7 seasons under Pasqualoni. The Huskies usually play solid defense but lack threats on offense -- they averaged fewer than 18 points per game in 2012. Quarterback Chandler Whitman threw 16 interceptions and only nine touchdowns last season.
That schedule sure looks a lot easier without Alabama around, doesn't it? The Wolverines should have no trouble dispatching Akron, and they will be heavy favorites in the opener against Central Michigan. Their trip to UConn will undoubtedly be the biggest game in the history of Rentschler Field, but the Huskies don't appear to have the athletes to pull off the major upset at home. Not surprisingly, the nonconference schedule really revolves around that Week 2 game against Notre Dame under the lights in the Big House. Win that one, and Michigan will have a fantastic shot at being 4-0 and possibly carry a top-10 ranking into the start of league play.