||Saturday, Sept. 3
||6-6 (5-3 MAC)
||Michigan 5 – Western Michigan 0
||2009 : Michigan 31 – Western Michigan 7
||Offense: 6 Defense: 7
Junior QB Alex Carder leads the Broncos as an All-MAC candidate
Michigan’s first opponent, Western Michigan, brings a solid aerial attack to Ann Arbor, led by a second-year starter at quarterback, Alex Carder. The junior completed 63 percent of his passes for 3,334 yards, 30 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions in his first season as a starter in 2010. Last season, Carder was able to rely on two talented receivers, Jordan White and Juan Nunez, who each racked up over 1,000 yards, but only White remains this year.
White will be a tough man to stop for Michigan’s much-maligned secondary. White, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility due to sitting out the 2006 and 2008 seasons with injuries, caught 94 passes for 1,378 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, setting the school’s single-season receiving record.
Aside from White, the Broncos will need seniors Robert Arnheim (89 career receptions for 994 yards and 5 touchdowns) and Chleb Ravenell (48 rec., 513 yards, 0 TDs). Ravenell was highly touted coming out of junior college in 2009, enjoying a fine season as the Broncos’ number three wideout, but was forced to redshirt last season with a groin injury.
In the backfield, sophomore Tevin Drake is the leading returning rusher with just 40 carries for 405 yards and four touchdowns, but the Broncos have two other decent backs with experience. Senior Aaron Winchester (92 for 271 last season) and sophomore Brian Fields (56 for 362 and 3 TDs last season). Fields broke out at the end of the season with 107 yards and three touchdowns against Eastern Michigan and 132 against Kent State.
The weakness of the offense will undoubtedly be the offensive line, which ranked 91st in the nation in sacks allowed (30) last season, paved the way for an average of just 126 rushing yards per game, and returns just two starters. One of those returning is Michigan transfer Dann O’Neill, who started last season at right tackle. Aside from O’Neill, only senior left guard Anthony Parker has started more than four games for the Broncos, which could mean big things for Michigan’s experienced defensive line.
Defensively, Western Michigan returns seven starters from a unit that ranked 73rd in total defense (387.8 ypg) and 52nd in scoring defense (23.8 ppg) a year ago. The unit will be lead by senior linebacker Mitch Zajac, who led the Broncos with 97 tackles last season.
||at Northern Illinois
||at Eastern Michigan
||at Miami (OH)
Unlike the offensive line, the defensive line is the unit with the most experience on the team. Senior tackle Drew Nowak is a force in the middle, having recorded 42 tackles last season, including 3.5 for loss. Perhaps the most promising player on the defense is junior defensive end Paul Hazel, who tallied eight sacks last season. A third-team All-MAC performer out of of Miami, Fla., Hazel racked up seven tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and two sacks against Notre Dame last season.
In the secondary, WMU returns two starters, senior safety Doug Wiggins and sophomore back Lewis Toler. Wiggins is talented player who originally went to Miami as the fourth-rated safety in the country. After transferring to WMU, Wiggins has racked up 102 tackles, three pass breakups and six forced fumbles in two seasons. The star of the secondary, however, is Toler, who led the Mid-American Conference with 14 pass breakups last season and picked off five passes as a redshirt freshman.
Both kicker John Potter and punter Ben Armer return from solid seasons a year ago. Potter hit 10-of-12 field goals and has connected on 72 straight extra points. Armer ranked second in the MAC with an average of 41.2 yards per punt.
Overall, Western Michigan will be a stern test for Michigan in Brady Hoke’s first game at the helm, but by no means should Michigan lose this game. The duo of Carder and White will give Michigan’s secondary fits and be a good test for Troy Woolfolk’s return from injury, but Michigan’s experienced defensive line should be able to get to Carder and keep the Broncos from scoring enough to hand Michigan a loss.