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Posts Tagged ‘Western Michigan’

Michigan 73 – WMU 41: Wolverine defense shuts down Broncos

Friday, December 7th, 2012


Final 1st 2nd Total
#3 Michigan (8-0) 35 38 73
Western Michigan (6-2) 21 20 41

Entering Tuesday night’s match-up against in-state foe Western Michigan, Michigan was getting by teams with their powerful offense, shooting 52.4 percent from the field and 43.2 percent from downtown. In the 32-point romp over Western, however, defense was all the Wolverines needed to cruise to their first 8-0 start since the 1996-97 season.

The Broncos certainly weren’t setting the nets on fire before traveling to Ann Arbor, making only 43.9 percent of their shots and 37 percent of their long-range looks, but it was a new low for Steve Hawkins’s squad Tuesday. Michigan’s length and athleticism seemed to give Western problems all night long, challenging every shot and forcing Western to pass the ball around the perimeter to no avail for extended periods of time on a number of possessions. The Broncos ended the night making a dreadful 13 of 45 attempts from the field (28.9%) and only two of their 17 shots from behind the arc (11.8%).

Trey Burke led Michigan with 20 points and seven assists (Tony Ding, AP)

Michigan was also not at its best, but the Wolverines still managed to make half of their 58 attempts from the field and eight of their 21 three-pointers. Trey Burke carried the offense with 20 points, seven assists, and zero turnovers in another All-American type performance while Nik Stauskas and fellow freshman Mitch McGary chipped in 11 and 10 points, respectively.

There seemed to be a lid on both baskets for the better part of the first half, as the teams struggled to get going, but Trey eventually led the way with 10 first half points. The two teams found themselves tied at nine points just over seven minutes into the first half when Tim Hardaway, Jr. threw down a vicious one-handed slam to get his team going. Michigan never looked back from there, taking a 14-point lead into the break and extending that cushion early in the second stanza.

As mentioned in our short preview of this game, the key to stopping Western Michigan is stopping their inside-outside forward duo of Nate Hutcheson and Darius Paul. What may have been the real difference, however, was Bronco center Shayne Whittington’s foul trouble throughout. The big man has been a beast on the boards so far and asserted himself in the first half, grabbing three offensive and three defensive boards, but was limited to just nine minutes because of a couple early fouls.

Four Broncos in all picked up two fouls in the first half, including Paul as well, and by the time halftime came, it was already too late for Western to fight back. Paul did end up leading the team with a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double, but it took him 12 shots to get there and no one else really stood out. Hutcheson, Western’s leading scorer coming in, managed only six points on 3-of-11 shooting, including 0-4 from downtown, to go with his three turnovers.

The name of the game in the first half was Western Michigan’s sloppiness with the basketball. The Broncos coughed it up an astounding 13 times against the Wolverines’ strong defense while Michigan recorded five turnovers, leading to a 17-2 points-off-turnovers advantage for Michigan.

All in all, neither team looked particularly good, but it was apparent that Michigan knows how to win, and win big, even when shots aren’t falling like they normally do. Despite Hardaway, Jr. and Glenn Robinson III, two of Michigan’s biggest scorers and best players to date, having rough nights with nine and seven points, respectively, the Wolverines’ balance gave them everything they needed, as six guys scored at least seven points and eight played double digit minutes.

Prior to the win, this game seemed like it could be a potential trap for Michigan, a chance to get lazy after a solid four-game stretch, but Beilein just would not let it happen. The Wolverines put forth their best defensive effort of the season so far to ensure that nothing out of the ordinary would happen.

As Michigan continues to roll, the chances of an undefeated non-conference season become more and more apparent. Arkansas will make the trip to Ann Arbor for a Saturday afternoon match-up in which the Wolverines will be looking for revenge and the Maize and Blue will travel to New York in mid-December to take on a struggling West Virginia squad, but it’s tough to see a possible loss anywhere else.

Obviously the Big Ten is the best league in the country this year, or is at least looking like it so far, and Michigan is a big reason that is the case. The season is still young, but this seems to have all the makings of a special year in Ann Arbor. With conference play starting just after the holidays, things should become much clearer very soon.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
01 Glenn Robinson III* 3-10 0-3 1-1 2 3 5 2 7 2 1 0 1 28
52 Jordan Morgan* 4-6 0-0 0-0 1 7 8 1 8 0 0 0 2 25
03 Trey Burke* 8-11 2-4 2-3 1 2 3 0 20 7 0 0 3 31
10 Tim Hardaway Jr* 3-10 1-3 2-3 0 3 3 2 9 3 2 0 0 31
11 Nik Stauskas* 3-6 3-4 2-4 1 2 3 1 11 4 1 0 1 31
02 Spike Albrecht 1-2 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 1 2 2 0 0 0 7
04 Mitch McGary 5-5 0-0 0-0 0 3 3 1 10 0 4 0 0 14
03 Eso Akunne 0-1 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 2
13 Matt Vogrich 1-1 1-1 0-0 0 0 0 1 3 0 1 0 0 3
15 Jon Horford 0-0 0-0 0-0 1 4 5 2 0 0 0 1 0 10
22 Blake McLimans 0-1 0-1 0-0 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 3
23 Caris LeVert 1-4 1-3 0-0 1 0 1 3 3 0 0 0 0 13
32 Corey Person 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 2
Totals 29-58 8-21 7-11 9 26 35 16 73 18 10 1 7 200
Western Michigan 13-45 2-17 13-21 10 21 31 16 41 10 18 1 3 200

Michigan vs Western Michigan preview/quick thoughts

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012


#3 Michigan v. Western Michigan
Tuesday, Dec. 4
8:30pm ET
BTN
7-0 Record 6-1
Slippery Rock 100-62
IUPUI 91-54
Cleveland State 77-47
Pittsburgh 67-62
Kansas State 71-57
NC State 79-72
Bradley 74-66
Wins Marygrove 85-40
Loyola (IL) 81-71
MD-East. Shore 68-51
USF 58-53
High Point 54-53
Oakland 76-72
Losses Cornell 55-63
79.9 Points Per Game 68.1
60.0 Scoring Defense 57.6
206-for-393 (52.4%) Field Goal % 162-for-369 (43.9%)
167-for-403 (41.4%) Def. Field Goal % 138-for-365 (37.8%)
57-for-132 (43.2%) 3-point % 44-for-119 (37.0%)
40-for-130 (30.8%) Def. 3-point % 48-for-139 (34.5%)
90-for-123 (73.2%) Free Throw % 109-for-157 (69.4%)
12.9 FT Made/Game 15.6
37.9 Rebounds Per Game 37.0
29.6 Opp. Reb. Per Game 29.3
14.7 Assists Per Game 12.3
9.9 Turnovers Per Game 12.3
3.9 Steals Per Game 5.0
2.6 Blocks Per Game 3.7
G – Tim Hardaway (16.6)
G – Trey Burke (16.6)
Leading Scorer F – Nate Hutcheson (13.7)
F – Darius Paul (11.7)
F – Glenn Robinson (7.0)
G – Tim Hardaway (5.6)
Leading Rebounder C – Shayne Whittington (8.6)
F – Darius Paul (6.0)
Sitting at 7-0 with their only non-conference road game now behind them, the Michigan Wolverines travel back to Ann Arbor to welcome in-state Western Michigan University to the Crisler Center tonight (8:30pm on BTN). Michigan is starting to get love from across the country, but the Broncos of the MAC continue to fly under the radar despite reeling off six straight victories, including a big 58-53 win at South Florida. Obviously Michigan is expected to win big once again, but Western is certain to put up their best fight under the bright lights. Here are a few things to pay attention to in tonight’s match-up:
1. Stopping Hutcheson and Ball: Western Michigan’s two biggest wins to date have been a 76-72 tilt over Oakland and a 58-53 victory at South Florida, giving them two solid non-conference Ws on the board already. In those two nail-biters, senior 6’7″ forward Nate Hutcheson and 6’8″ freshman forward Darius Paul combined for 25 points and 14 rebounds. In Western’s season-opening 63-55 loss to Cornell, however, the inside-outside duo went for just 17 points and seven rebounds together. Stopping these two on offense will be the difference between a potentially close game on Michigan’s home court and another mid-major blowout.
2. Size: We all already know about Michigan’s added size and depth down low this year, with four guys 6’8″ and above having seen significant minutes, giving them enough girth down low to compete with just about anyone. Western Michigan, however, actually boasts a much bigger starting line-up, running out a 3-4-5 front court that stands 6’7″ (Hutcheson), 6’8″ (Paul), and 6’10″ (junior center Shayne Whittington). Whittington and Paul will barely shoot the ball from deep, doing the majority of their work down low, but Hutcheson takes nearly half of his shots from long range and makes a third of them. Whittington, the starting center, weighs only 220 pounds but is a man in all big man categories, averaging 9.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks in just 25.1 minutes per game while shooting 45.5 percent from the field. Jordan Morgan, Mitch McGary, Max Bielfeldt, and Jon Horford will have to be on their games to prevent another easy inside-shooting night for the opponent.
3. Lackadaisical Play: Michigan seemingly continues to play hard night in and night out, and Beilein is a master of putting the pressure on his own team, but at some point one would think that Michigan may get lazy for a game or two. If that were to happen, tonight would be an easy day to do it. Western Michigan is not a historically significant team and Michigan is coming off wins over Pittsburgh, Kansas State, North Carolina State, and at Bradley, a pretty solid stretch of match-ups that keeps them comfortably in the top five in the country. Western, however, can play some basketball, and a lazy Wolverine squad might be all it takes to threaten an upset. If the Broncos needed any more motivation against a top-five team, what more could they ask for then to play the big dogs in their own state, a team that passed over just about every player on their roster? I think Beilein and the veteran leaders will have Michigan ready, but it’s certainly something to keep an eye on.
Prediction: Western should put up a good fight for one half or so, but Michigan’s speed and fast break will ultimately do them in. The Wolverines’ rebounding has been too good for the Broncos to challenge in that category and Trey Burke is one of the best players in the country. Look for Tim Hardaway, Jr. to bounce back after a little bump in the road at Bradley. Michigan wins it, 72-55.

The Missing Quarter (Continued)

Thursday, September 8th, 2011


Our cohorts over at UMGoBlue recently posted The Missing Quarter describing what they wished we would have seen had last week’s game gone the full 60 minutes. When I first clicked on the article I was expecting to see more of a statistical breakdown, rather than just general areas in which Michigan could have gotten some more work. So that gave me an idea. To piggyback off their post, I took a look at what the stats would have looked like stretched out to a full game and how that might have played out in the remainder of the game.

Many outside analysts say they weren’t impressed with Michigan’s offense or Denard Robinson. In reality, it was just getting going. Not many teams around the nation looked stellar right out of the gate and neither did Michigan’s offense, but it was starting to take shape the more the game went on even with a vanilla playbook.

Hoke would have liked to have seen a full game in his Michigan debut (Photo by the Detroit Free Press)

When the game was ultimately called, Michigan was getting ready to punch in another score. Robinson started the drive with a 37-yard pass to Junior Hemingway and Fitz Toussaint carried twice for a first down. On what became the final play of the game, Robinson rushed two yards to the WMU 24-yard line, which would have set up a 2nd-and-8 on the 24.

With the stats stretched out the rest of the game, Michigan would have gained another approximately 80 yards of offense. With an average starting field position of its own 27-yard line, and the way things were going when the game was called, the safest bet would be to assume Michigan punched it in for a touchdown on that drive, going up 41-10.

Western would have taken the ball back with approximately 15 seconds left in the third quarter and punted back to Michigan with 12:05 to play. Starting at approximately the 27-yard-line, Michigan would then go 48 yards on six plays and kick a 42-yard field goal to take a 44-10 lead.

Western would then get the ball back on its own 35-yard line and go 35 yards in seven plays and hit a 47-yard field goal with 6:40 remaining. The two teams would trade short drives while Michigan tried to run the clock and the final score would be 44-13.

Michigan would have ended up with 242 yards rushing and 126 passing for 368 total yards, which looks much more respectable than the numbers that will forever be reflected in the stats. Perhaps Toussaint would have broken the 100-yard barrier, having needed only 19 more yards.

It would have put Michigan’s scoring offense at 24th nationally instead of its current 51st, and the rushing offense would have ranked 17th, right in between Penn State and Wisconsin, instead of the current 40th.

The extra time would have worsened Michigan’s defensive numbers and pulled its national defensive rankings back a little bit, so maybe it’s a good thing that only three quarters were played. Michigan’s defense will look better over the course of the season (I kid).

Obviously, averaging partial game numbers over an entire game isn’t 100 percent accurate, but it’s at least a solid estimate of what might have transpired over the final quarter. Hopefully, this week we won’t have that problem and Michigan gets all four quarters to stomp Notre Dame under the lights.

Hoke Debut Victorious in Rain Shortened Contest

Sunday, September 4th, 2011


When Brady Hoke was named the new head coach at Michigan it was received with mixed feelings. When Hoke and the Wolverines took the field on Saturday it was safe to say that the Michigan faithful were all in for Hoke as he brought the traditional Michigan style back to the Big House.

Safety Jordan Kovacs sacks WMU quarerback Alex Carder

Michigan won the toss and deferred to the second half. I’m always a fan of putting your defense out there first, but it’s been a while since Michigan has had a defense worth putting out there at all.

Being a passing team, Western Michigan came out tossing it around.  Michigan looked okay, not playing out of position and missing assignments like the past few seasons, but still looked a bit shy. WMU marched down the field almost unimpeded. Carder completed every pass he threw; not all for large gains, but all were complete.

Western came out in multiple looks, but it was the five-wide set around the nine-minute mark that did the damage. Michigan had one guy covering two receivers and Carder hit his man. Were it not for a great effort by Courtney Avery it would have been a touchdown. Michigan held on 3rd-and-goal but WMU went for it on fourth and put it in the endzone to go up 7-0. Carder was 8-for-8 on a 15-play, 74-yard drive taking up just over seven minutes.

Michigan’s new look offense took the field at its own 24. On the first play, a designed Denard run, gained 11 yards and I couldn’t have been happier. Living amongst Buckeye fans and general naysayers, seeing Borges call a designed run showed he is going to use what he has, and what Denard has is electric feet. Denard’s first throw was not as spectacular, a 3-yard completion to Roy Roundtree.

The Bronco defense had good speed and didn’t look out of place, while Michigan’s offensive line did a solid  job of opening holes for the runners, especially on yet another QB draw which led to a first down.

A great play action pass to Kevin Koger was, in my opinion, the best play of the drive. Denard stood back in the pocket looking poised and threw a strike to Koger, who made a great grab and came down with it while getting railed by the opposing defender. Facing a 4th-and-1, Michigan went for it with a power running play, Toussaint straight up the gut for the first down. While not a big gainer or a terribly exciting play, those of us who grew up watching guys like Tyrone Wheatley and Tim Biakabutuka or more recently Chris Perry and Mike Hart, had been starving for some power Michigan football.

Michigan vs. Western Michigan
Final Stats
34 Final Score 10
1-0 Record
0-1
288 Total Yards
279
190 Net Rushing Yards
96
98 Net Passing Yards
183
17 First Downs
17
1-0 Fumbles – Lost
3-2
1-5 Penalties – Yards
8-50
2-82 Punts – Yards
2-93
18:15 Time of Possession
25:18
3-for-6 Third Down Conversions
6-for-11
1-for-1 Fourth Down Conversions
1-for-1
2-16 Sacks By – Yards
0-0
0-for-0 Field Goals
1-for-2
4-for-5 PATs 1-for-1
2-2 Red Zone Scores – Chances 2-3

Denard looked good in the pocket, not getting happy feet and making his progressions, although the word on the street is Borges has a 1, 2… run progression for Denard. Michigan ate up a fair amount of clock as well, and started the second quarter still in possession and still marching. Toussaint had the honor of scoring the first Michigan touchdown in the Hoke era on a short run up the middle. The drive went for 16 plays, 76 yards and took 8:33 off the clock.

On the kickoff return, Troy Woolfolk, who had a couple tackles and a big hit on the first series, came off the field limping. Not a good sign at all. Carvin Johnson replaced him and he did not return with a sprained ankle, though Hoke said after the game that he could have come back in if needed.

WMU’s next drive was about the same as its first: moving the ball down the field with short, quick passes. Michigan started to apply some pressure, and a Kenny Demens blitz up the middle forced Carder to get rid of it quickly and throw incomplete. WMU settled for a 38-yard field goal attempt but came up shy, missing it wide right. The Michigan defense seemed to be playing a “bend but don’t break” style. Not what I expected but it seemed to be working.

After a 3-and-out by Michigan, Western took over again and started marching down the field just as before. Michigan turned loose a blitz and Carder picked it up, just barely stepping out of Demens’ way, but sophomore linebacker Jake Ryan busted through the line to tip Carder’s pass. It fell into the hands of linebacker Brandon Herron who then took it 94 yards to the house for the longest interception return in Michigan history and the first since Donovan Warren did it in 2009.

For once, broadcaster Craig James said something worthwhile, if not completely obvious, that those are the kinds of plays this defense needs, especially early on, to gain confidence in itself.

After a 3-and-out by the Broncos, Michigan followed up on its next series with some more nifty moves by Denard and another Toussaint touchdown run, this time from two yards out.

Michigan dialed up the pressure again on defense and the all-out blitzes started getting to Carder, but just a hair too late. They resulted in incomplete passes but they’ve yet to get him to the ground. WMU settled for a field goal to enter the half trailing Michigan 20-10.

WMU’s Jordan White had nine catches for 96 yards in just the first half, while Carder started hot but struggled late in the half in the face of pressure.

Michigan’s defense allowed 199 total yards in the first half, looking improved but still in need of a lot of work. Aside from the pick-six, it pretty much got owned by Alex Carder. Receivers were open all day. The blitzes late in the half forced some bad passes but overall WMU looked solid and was able to do whatever it wanted. Were it not for the missed field goal and the tipped pass leading to the touchdown, Michigan might have been down 17-7.

Michigan leaves the field victorious when the game is called due to weather

Denard had 101 yards of total offense overall, with no one else really stepping up on offense. Toussaint had 2 touchdowns, but his per carry average was under four.

At this point, Michigan fans were interested to see what sort of adjustments Hoke and Co. would make at the half, one thing Michigan lacked the past three seasons.

Michigan starts the second half with the ball and at this point, the pouring rain led to the officials call for a 30 minute delay due to the lightning. When the game resumed, Jordan White and WMU picked up where they left off in the first half, passing it all over the field. Michigan struggled to get pressure except when it blitzed up the middle.

Mattison seemed to have enough of the “bend but don’t break” philosophy and started sending more blitzes. Carder got drilled by Jordan Kovacs on a blitz, the first sack of the Hoke era, fumbled. The ball was scooped up and returned for a touchdown by none other than Herron, who became the first Michigan defender with two returns for touchdown in a game since Tom Harmon in 1940.

Mattison continued to dial up the pressure and send blitz after blitz. Carder was having a tough time and Michigan was starting to look like, well, Michigan. WMU was clearly getting rattled and the penalties started to rack up.

Michigan’s next possession looked very much like last season. Toussaint ripped off a 43-yarder, and two plays later, Mike Shaw went untouched 44 yards for a touchdown. A 3-play, 87-yard drive in just 39 seconds, putting Michigan ahead 34-10.

During the next series, play was halted again due to lightning and the stadium was evacuated. The game was called soon after with a few minutes remaining  in the third quarter.

The Hoke era began with a win, as most expected, but WMU showed some of the weaknesses still lingering on the defensive side. It certainly didn’t look as bad as last year, but until Mattison started sending some serious pressure it didn’t look that great.

The offense was solid and it was great to see someone other than Denard lead the team in rushing. Toussaint went for 11 carries for 80 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Shaw had 4-for-54 and a TD. Denard finished 9-for-13 for 98 yards in the air and had 8 carries for 46 yards.

Carder went 22-31 for 183 and an interception, but most of those completions came before the blitzing spree occurred. A sore spot for Michigan last season, pass coverage, showed improvement, though Jordan White still had 12 catches for 119 yards. Is this guy on the Biletnikoff watch list?

The game changer was definitely Mattison sending the pressure with blitzes and forcing three turnovers, two of which were returned for touchdowns.

Who knows what we would have seen had the weather cooperated and we’d finished the remaining 17 minutes. It could be a blessing in disguise for Michigan, allowing Borges to not have to show much of his hand to Notre Dame. All in all, there is reason to be excited in Ann Arbor again. Bring on the Irish!

Friday Pick’em – WMU Staff Predictions

Friday, September 2nd, 2011


Welcome to the first installment of the Maize and Go Blue staff predictions. Since our expansion (you can meet the staff here), we felt like a little friendly competition was in order. This week, we’ll be vying for this fantastic Bucking Bronco trophy (digitally of course). I mean, seriously, who wouldn’t want that thing?

Tomorrow, Michigan kicks off the first season under Brady Hoke against Western Michigan. We all remember two years ago when a young Denard Robinson, on his very first touch of his very first game in the Maize and Blue, he weaved through the Bronco defense and sped into the end zone, electrifying the Big House crowd. This time, he enters as a second-year starter, fresh off a record-setting season, and with high hopes despite trying to assimilate into a new pro-style offense.

When asked how he hopes to control Robinson, WMU coach Bill Cubit joked, “Put a call out to (Usain) Bolt and see if he’d be available and … can run around back there. We don’t have anybody like (Robinson on the scout team). … We’ve just got to help ourselves and make sure we stay in the passing lanes.”

Well, Bolt made headlines this week for getting disqualified from the 100-meter final for false starting the world championships. Cubit better hope his young offensive line, which was one of the worst in the nation last season in sacks allowed, doesn’t false start in the face of Mike Martin.

The picks:

Justin: Michigan starts on defense, forces a punt, Denard takes the first offensive play of the game to the house and does the Desmond in the end zone on his way to the Heisman. Ok so maybe not. But Michigan will be too much for Western just like it was two years ago.

Look for Hoke and Borges to show just enough playbook to win comfortably, but not give away too much for Notre Dame next week. Denard should throw for around 200 yards and Michigan as a team will pound out over 200 on the ground.

Western will probably hang around for the first half or so, but Michigan pulls away in the second as it looks forward to the big showdown under the lights next Saturday.

Michigan 31 – Western Michigan 17

Matt: This is the most excited I have ever been for a Michigan football season. Brady Hoke is the new Michigan coach and I am sure he is ready for the Wolverines to take the field this Saturday.

Michigan’s offense was obviously its strong point last year and its defense was like a train wreck. This year, the team looks to be put together nicely. With Greg Mattison as the new defensive coordinator, Michigan’s D will definitely improve (although it couldn’t get much worse).

I don’t think the WMU Broncos have much of a chance coming into the Big House and knocking off the Wolverines. Watch for Troy Woolfolk to make some big plays, as well as Mike Martin, Craig Roh and Ryan Van Bergen.

It will also be interesting to see how much Denard Robinson will use his feet with Hoke trying to bring in a new pro style offense.

I think the Broncos will find the endzone a few times, but Michigan will score more, and show that their defense is indeed improved.

Michigan 38 – Western Michigan 17

Josh: Even though this is yet another transition year, Michigan is still Michigan. They have superior athletes and coaches to Western Michigan. That said, Western is not a team that Brady Hoke will overlook. Alex Carder had a 3,000-plus-yard, 30 TD season a year ago, and while you may say “we’re Michigan and we’re 27-1 against the MAC,” Hoke will not have that attitude and the guys will be ready to play.

The “new” offense won’t be as new as most people think. Borges is too smart to not let Denard do what Denard does best: run. A few designed runs should yield some big gains and open up the passing game as well. Despite Borges’ insistence on having “one guy” I think early on a couple backs will get their chance to shine. Toussaint, Shaw, and perhaps Rawls and Hayes should be in the mix for a few carries. Hopefully someone will separate themselves from the pack and establish a true #1 back.

The defense’s switch to the traditional 4-3 scheme and added weight and strength on the line should help patch the sieve that was the front six last year. Don’t expect the defense to “wow” us as they have in the good ole days but the improvement should be quite noticeable over the past three seasons. The secondary should benefit the most from the improved front seven, the “best defense for a poor secondary is a good pass rush” comes to mind. While I don’t think they will give up as many big plays as last season they will still struggle at times against a good QB in Carder.
This game should be good confidence booster for Michigan. They won’t look past WMU to Notre Dame but they definitely won’t think they’re gonna lose.
Michigan 41 – WMU 27

Chris: WMU’s 8 returning starters on defense and experience at the skill positions, plus Michigan’s first game jitters in Coach Hoke’s new system, keeps WMU in the game for 2.5 quarters.  In the end, the Michigan D-Line overpowers the young O-Line of WMU and Denard Robinson wills his team to a victory.

Michigan 34 – WMU 17

Game 1 Preview: Western Michigan

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011


Hearkening back to his days as a Michigan assistant under Lloyd Carr, new head coach Brady Hoke turned to a unique motivational technique leading up to the season and this week’s game against Western Michigan. Hoke gave each player on the team a personalized maize and blue trident, the symbol of the U.S. Navy SEALs. Each one hangs from the ceiling of the team’s meeting room, symbolizing teamwork and unity.

While the game of football can in no way compare to the heroic job that the SEALs do, putting their lives on the line to protect our country, the theme sets a tone for the season.

Michigan opens the season this Saturday with Western Michigan, and while Michigan has traditionally had its way with Mid-American Conference foes (27-1 all-time), the parallel with the SEALs proves that no mission can go overlooked. That one defeat at the hands of a MAC school came just two years ago and Hoke is intent on never letting it happen again. Do the Broncos have a chance of pulling off another big upset in the Big House? Let’s take a look.

Michigan vs. Western Michigan
Sat. Sept. 3
3:30 p.m. ET
ABC
0-0 Record 0-0
7-6 (3-5 Big Ten) 2010 Record 6-6 (5-3 MAC)
Gator (L 52-14) 2010 Bowl None
32.8 2010 Scoring Offense 32.3
238.5 2010 Rushing YPG 125.9
250.2 2010 Passing YPG 285.8
488.7 2010 Total Offense 411.7
35.2 2010 Scoring Defense 23.8
188.9 2010 Rush Def. YPG 166.6
261.9 2010 Pass Def. YPG 221.3
450.8 2010 Total Def. YPG 387.8
19 2010 Takeaways 30
29 2010 Giveaways 27
18/11 2010 Sacks By/Allowed 28/30
77/172 (45%) 2010 Third-down Conv. 73/183 (40%)
4/14 (29%) 2010 Field Goals 10/12 (83%)
36.1 2010 Net Punt Avg. 35.1

Quarterbacks:

Both teams have accomplished quarterbacks returning. For WMU, junior Alex Carder is a talented signal-caller, having completed 63 percent of his passes last season for 3,334 yards, 30 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions.

Denard Robinson, however, has the ability to change a game on any given play, and certainly has the attention of WMU head coach Bill Cubit, who joked earlier this week that he would need to call in Jamaican track star Usain Bolt to stop him.

Edge: Michigan

Running Back:

Western doesn’t have an established running back returning, but a pair of sophomores will split the load. Brian Fields and Tevin Drake saw limited action last season, but after senior Aaron Winchester made the move to cornerback in the offseason, the pair will shoulder the responsibility. Fields averaged 6.5 yards per carry on 56 attempts last season, while Drake led the Broncos with 405 yards in only six games of action.

Michigan will also go with the running back by committee approach, at least until a workhorse emerges. Michael Shaw was listed first on the depth chart with an “or” separating him from Fitzgerald Toussaint, and it looks like the decision will come down to game time, but offensive coordinator Al Borges isn’t a fan of the committee approach.

The coaches have also been high on freshman bruiser Thomas Rawls and he could see some carries as well. Regardless, Michigan has more experienced backs and a deeper pool to draw from than do the Broncos.

Edge: Michigan

Receivers and Tight Ends:

Western probably has the best receiver that will take the field in the Big House on Saturday, in sixth-year senior Jordan White. Last season, he caught 94 passes for 1,378 yards and 10 touchdowns while working alongside fellow 1,000-yard performer Juan Nunez. Nunez is gone, leaving White as the only established wideout. Cubit will be looking for Robert Arnheim, Ansel Ponder, or Chleb Ravenell to step up.

Michigan suffered a big blow when senior Darryl Stonum was suspended for the season for a second DUI-related offense. His speed will be missed, but the Wolverines don’t lack for experience. Junior Hemingway and Roy Roundtree have the most talent, with Roundtree having led the team with 72 receptions for 935 yards and seven touchdowns a year ago. Hemingway added 32 for 593 and four TDs. Martavious Odoms, Kelvin Grady, and Jeremy Gallon round out the two-deep, along with experienced tight ends Kevin Koger and Brandon Moore, giving Michigan more targets than the Broncos.

Edge: Michigan

Offensive Line:

The Broncos primary weakness last season was its offensive line. It gave up 30 sacks and paved the way for one of the nation’s worst rush offenses and now has to replace the loss of three starters to graduation. Michigan transfer Dann O’Neill and left guard Anthony Parker are the only returning starters, while junior Kyle Galeher, with three career starts, seems a lock to start at center. That doesn’t bode well for the Broncos against Michigan’s defensive line.

Michigan returns three starters including All-Big Ten first-team center David Molk and left tackle Taylor Lewan. The unit gave up a Big Ten best 11 sacks last season (though much of that could be contributed to Robinson’s legs). Though slightly undersized as a group, it will benefit from an emphasis on a power rushing attack.

Edge: Michigan

The WMU Defensive line dubs itself "Team Train Wreck," photo by Jonathon Gruenke (Kalamazoo Gazette)

Defensive Line:

The Broncos have a group of solid linemen in tackles Drew Nowak and Travonte Boles and end Paul Hazel. The unit tallied 28 sacks last season, good for 34th nationally, eight of which came by Hazel. The 6’5″ junior terrorized Notre Dame in the first half, racking up one-and-a-half sacks and two tackles-for-loss before the Irish started running right at him. The group as a whole goes by the name of “Team Train Wreck” because, as they say, “If you get in the way of a train, you’re a casualty.”

Michigan has its own stud on the line in senior captain Mike Martin, an All-Big Ten second-team pick last season. With defensive coordinator Greg Mattison switching to a four-man front, Ryan Van Bergen will man the center with Martin, while Craig Roh and Will Heininger get the nod on the edge. It’s certainly an experienced group that should greatly benefit from the move to the 4-3, and Mattison plans to use a steady rotation of bodies.

Edge: Push

Linebackers:

Senior linebacker Mitch Zajac is a heady player who led the Broncos with 97 tackles in 2010. Joining him in the middle of the defense will be sophomores Desmond Bozeman and Johnnie Simon, both newcomers to the starting job.

Michigan also has some starters to replace, and it appears that Cam Gordon, Kenny Demens, and Mike Jones will get the nod. Gordon and Demens started last season and the group can’t fare as poorly as it did last season, especially with Mattison coaching them up. Regardless, the advantage has to go to WMU with Zajac returning.

Edge: WMU

Secondary:

Western has a star in the making in sophomore Lewis Toler, who led the MAC with 14 passes defended and also recorded five interceptions as a redshirt freshman in 2010. However, WMU needs to fill the other corner spot. Similarly, the Broncos have a talented strong safety, senior Doug Wiggins, who recorded 55 tackles and two forced fumbles last season, but need to fill the free safety position.

Michigan struggled mightily in the secondary last season, but much of that was a result of losing cornerback Troy Woolfolk for the season right before the opening game. Woolfolk is back and J.T. Floyd returns from injury as well to give the Wolverines a pair of experienced corners. At strong safety, former walk-on Jordan Kovacs holds onto his spot, and at free safety, Thomas Gordon captured the starting spot. Kovacs was the Big Ten’s second-leading tackler a year ago with 116 tackles.

Edge: Push

Special Teams:

Western returns both a talented kicker and punter in John Potter and Ben Armer, respectively. Potter hit 10-of-12 field goals a year ago and has connected on 72 straight PATs. Armer averaged 41.2 yards per punt last season and booted 14 more than 50 yards.

Michigan’s kicking struggles were well-advertised last season, connecting on just 4-of-14 field goals. Hoke says Brandon Gibbons will take the kicks rather than hyped freshman Matt Wile. Returning punter Will Hagerup was suspended for the first four games of the season leaving the punting duties to Wile.

Edge: WMU

Overall, Michigan is the more experienced and explosive offensive team and based on last season’s results doesn’t have as good a defense. However, Mattison is the x-factor on that side of the ball as it remains to be seen how much improvement the defense will show. The Broncos will hang around for a half or so, but Michigan will be too much to lose this one.

Prediction: Michigan 31 – Western Michigan 17

Good to Know:

Three current Michigan coaches served as assistants at Western Michigan together in the early 1980s: Hoke (1984-86), defensive coordinator Greg Mattison (1982-86) and special teams coordinator/tight ends coach Dan Ferrigno (1982-86)

Michigan head coaches are 14-3-1 all-time in their debuts

Michigan is 108-20-3 all-time in season-openers and 92-15-2 in season openers at home

Another Season of Meechigan Football is Upon Us

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011


Football is a religion and Saturday is the holy day of obligation. Legendary Michigan football broadcaster Bob Ufer uttered those words many years ago and they still ring true today. Each year, as summer draws to a close and hurricane season gears up, we can hardly hold back our anticipation of Saturdays spent in front of the TV, stuffing our mouths with burgers and beer, and watching the Maize and Blue take the field to The Victors.

Bob Ufer's quotes still live on in Ann Arbor every Saturday

This season, we begin anew with “Michigan Man” Brady Hoke at the helm looking to return Michigan football back to what Bo Schembechler established 42 years ago and Moeller and Lloyd carried on before Rich Rodriguez was brought in to transform the program into an SEC team.

If you’ve read this blog for the past couple of seasons, it’s no secret that I supported Rodriguez and truly believed it could have eventually worked out. But I’m not going to dwell on that any longer, since that era is over and each thing Hoke has done since taking over has effectively brought Michigan a few giant steps in the right direction.

So as we begin the 132nd season of Michigan football this Saturday, let’s take a look at what we can expect from our beloved Wolverines.

September 3 – Western Michigan

Junior quarterback Alex Carder brings a talented passing attack into Ann Arbor to challenge Michigan’s rehabbed secondary. Carder threw for 3,334 yards, 30 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions a year ago. Can Troy Woolfolk and J.T. Floyd, both of whom return from injuries, hold Bronco receiver Jordan White in check?

Defensively, WMU is inexperienced in the secondary, but has a solid line that will have to control Denard Robinson. Nobody really knows what to expect from Michigan’s offense in its first year under Al Borges, but look for a somewhat vanilla playbook so as not to show too much for Notre Dame a week later.

Michigan 31 – Western Michigan 17

September 10 – Notre Dame

A lot of people are high on the Irish this season with 17 returning starters including linebacker Manti Te’o and receiver Michael Floyd. Both are impact players on their respective side of the ball. Michigan held on to beat ND in South Bend last season, but did so by knocking quarterback Dayne Crist out of the game. Crist is back this season and the Irish finished last season strong, winning four straight including at USC and a 33-17 Sun Bowl victory over Miami.

This year’s matchup has ESPN Game Day in attendance for the first ever night game in Michigan Stadium history and Michigan will be looking to win for the fifth time in six years. Expect a high-scoring shootout in this one, going right down to the wire.

Michigan 34 – Notre Dame 31

September 17 – Eastern Michigan

Former Michigan defensive coordinator Ron English is trying to build the Eagles into Mid-American Conference contenders, but it’s been slow going thus far. After a winless season two years ago, EMU won two games last season and only returns 12 starters. Quarterback Alex Gillett is more of a runner than a true passer, having ran for 766 yards last season and thrown for just 1,633 yards, 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

Defensively, the Eagles return three starters on the line and two in the secondary, but ranked at the bottom nationally in scoring, rushing, and total defense a year ago.

Even with Mike Hart on the sidelines coaching EMU’s running backs, don’t expect this one to be a contest.

Michigan 52 – Eastern Michigan 21

September 24 – San Diego State

Ryan Lindley may be the best QB Michigan will face this season

Brady Hoke’s old team will be coming to Ann Arbor hoping to throw a wrench into the coach’s plans to turn Michigan around. Unfortunately for Michigan, Hoke left the Aztecs in great condition, fresh off a 9-4 record and a 35-14 Poinsettia Bowl victory over Navy.

Fourteen starters return including quarterback Ryan Lindley, who enters as a fourth-year starter, having thrown for 9,537 yards and 67 touchdowns in his career against just 39 interceptions. If Michigan doesn’t have its secondary shored up by Week 4, Lindley has the talent to pick it apart, although last season’s top two receivers are gone.

Sophomore running back Ronnie Hillman, last year’s Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year, returns as a pass catching threat out of the backfield. He ran for 1,304 yards and 14 touchdowns in his first season with the Aztecs.

On the defensive side, only five starters return, but it was a group that ranked in the top third in college football a year ago. New head coach Rocky Long, despite being a quarterback in his playing days, has been a defensive coordinator most of his coaching career and guided New Mexico to one of the nation’s top defenses throughout the 2000s.

Many will circle this game on the schedule as a toss-up, but expect Hoke to have the Maize and Blue playing with renewed vigor and toughness and pull out a close defensive battle.

Michigan 24 – San Diego State 20

October 1 – Minnesota

Another school with a new head coach, Minnesota returns 15 starters from a squad that went 3-9 a year ago. Jerry Kill succeeded at Southern Illinois and Northern Illinois, but it will take a lot more to turn Minnesota into a Big Ten contender.

The first thing Kill did was move the Gophers’ second-leading receiver, Marqueis Gray, to quarterback, the position he played at Ben Davis High School in Indiana as the nations third-ranked dual-thread quarterback. Despite losing Gray at the receiver position, the Gophers still have a threat in Da’jon McKnight, a 6’3″ wideout who caught 10 touchdown passes last season.

On defense, Minnesota ranked last in the Big Ten in rush defense last season and recorded a nation-low nine sacks. Expect Michigan to pound the ball on the ground early and often with a few long pass plays here and there when the defense keys on the run.

Michigan 41 – Minnesota 17

October 8 – Northwestern

Michigan’s first road trip of the season is across Lake Michigan to take on a dangerous Northwestern team that returns 17 starters including quarterback Dan Persa, who set the Big Ten record for completion percentage (73.5). What remains to be seen is whether he can fully recover from a ruptured Achilles’ tendon at the end of last season. Receivers Jeremy Ebert and Drake Dunsmore also return to give Persa some weapons. The main question is who will step up in the backfield.

Can Dan Persa fully recover from a ruptured Achilles' tendon?

Defensively, seven starters return, including three-fourths of the secondary, but must fill some holes in the middle. The Wildcats gave up 29 points per game last season and finished with the 97th-ranked total defense. Those numbers are a bit skewed, considering the entire team fell apart when Persa went down.

A night game on the road could give Michigan fits and this is definitely a trap game before the battle with Michigan State. But Hoke won’t let the veteran group get ahead of itself and Michigan will pull away late in the game in front of a pro-Michigan crowd.

Michigan 32 – Northwestern 24

October 15 – Michigan State

When Hoke took over, he immediately put an emphasis on Michigan’s rivalry games. This is one that he has been looking forward to as Michigan gets a chance to retake the upperhand in the sibling battle for the state of Michigan.

The Spartans are one of the front-runners to win the Big Ten, fresh off an 11-win season and a share of the Big Ten crown. They have all the makings of a BCS caliber team with a returning senior quarterback in Kirk Cousins, three talented backs in Edwin Baker (the Big Ten’s leading returning rusher), Le’Veon Bell, and Larry Caper, and two experienced receivers in B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin. The line is the only question mark on the offensive side, having to replace three starters.

Defensively, six starters return, led by tackle Jerel Worthy and head coach Mark Dantonio expects big things from end William Gholston. The secondary will need to find a couple to step up from last season’s 60th-ranked pass defense.

Coming off a few close games, Michigan will have a hard time beating the Spartans in East Lansing. However, MSU will be coming off a road matchup with Ohio State. Still, I think Michigan is a year away from beating Dantonio’s crew and we’ll have to suffer through another year without state bragging rights.

Michigan State 33 – Michigan 27

October 29 – Purdue

Purdue suffered a huge loss when quarterback Rob Henry tore his ACL last week, but will need former Miami transfer Robert Marve to step up. Marve, ironically, tore his ACL last season, opening the door for Henry to take over. Marve is more of a pocket passer suited for a Purdue offense, but he will need the line to protect him better than last season.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Boilers have to replace All-American end Ryan Kerrigan, but there are some talented players remaining. Tackle Kawann Short and corner Ricardo Allen will need to step up.

Michigan may be coming off a loss to rival Michigan State and will be hungry for a win, so look for the Wolverines to bounce back with a solid effort before heading into the tough stretch of the schedule.

Michigan 35 – Purdue 17

November 5 – Iowa

Iowa could be a dark horse contender for the Big Ten title, although it probably isn’t likely since the Hawkeyes return just 11 starters. At quarterback, replacing Ricky Stanzi should be fairly smooth with junior James Vandenberg having gained some experience a couple of seasons ago when Stanzi went down with an injury. He’ll have a great line to stand behind and a big, talented receiver in Marvin McNutt to throw to, as well as an emerging star running back in Marcus Coker.

Defensively, Iowa is always stout, but lost three key starters in Adrian Clayborn, Christian Ballard, and Karl Klug. Defensive end Broderick Binns recorded 9.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in 2009 and will be one to watch this season. Linebacker James Morris was a Freshman All-American last season and cornerback Shaun Prater was All-Big Ten.

In Iowa City, Michigan will have a hard time getting the win. This may be the first time we get to see how Hoke’s pro-style offense fares against the a true Big Ten defense. We all know how Rich Rodriguez’s vaunted offenses struggled in late Big Ten play, but Hoke is bringing the toughness back to Ann Arbor. Still, Michigan will probably see a drop-off offensively in this one.

Iowa 24 – Michigan 20

November 12 – Illinois

Every season, Ron Zook seems to be on the hot seat. Known as a great recruiter but mediocre coach, Zook brought in two new coordinators last season and finished with a 7-6 record and a dominating 38-14 bowl win over Baylor. He’ll have a hard time improving on that this season after losing his top three players, running back Mikel Leshoure, defensive tackle Corey Liuget, and linebacker Martez Wilson.

Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase leads the Illini after earning Freshman All-America honors a year ago. If not for Denard Robinson, Scheelhaase may have been the talk of the Big Ten at the quarterback position, having thrown for 1,825 yards, 17 touchdowns and just eight interceptions, and run for 868 yards and five touchdowns.

On defense, only four starters return. The ability to replace Liuget and Wilson will determine whether the Illini can reach a second-straight bowl game or not.

Michigan will need to win this one with Nebraska and Ohio State remaining. Don’t expect another record-setting offensive day for both teams, but Michigan should be able to put up plenty of points once again.

Michigan 41 – Illinois 27

November 19 – Nebraska

The last time Michigan and Nebraska played, in the 2005 Alamo Bowl, it was a disappointing end to a disappointing season for the Maize and Blue. Michigan lost 32-28. In 1997, Nebraska stole some of Michigan’s thunder when it claimed the national title in the Coaches Poll. Needless to say, Michigan is due.

Luke Fickell has a tough task taking over from Jim Tressel

Unfortunately, Nebraska is probably the favorite to win the Big Ten in its first season in the conference. Led by quarterback Taylor Martinez and defensive tackle Jared Crick, Nebraska will be a force this season. The nation’s ninth-best scoring defense and 11th-best total defense last season, the Huskers will give Michigan fits .

Nebraska 27 – Michigan 20

November 26 – Ohio State

The single-most important game on the schedule got a lot more interesting over the offseason when Jim Tressel was forced to resign, Terrelle Pryor bolted for the NFL, and five other players were suspended for the first five games due to an improper benefits scandal in Columbus. Defensive coordinator Luke Fickell takes over a still-loaded team and will have to find a way to make it through the first five games unscathed, but by the time the Buckeyes travel to Ann Arbor, all should be fixed.

Senior Joe Bauserman and freshman Braxton Miller are battling it out for the starting spot, all the while trying to do so with unproven youngsters at running back, receiver, and offensive line for the first five games.

Defensively, the Bucks are always strong and weren’t hit as hard with suspensions. However, only four starters return. Two new corners will need to step up, but Ohio State always has athletic, talented players to retool that position.

The first few weeks will be interesting, and may keep Ohio State from winning the Big Ten, but they’ll be ready for Michigan come November. I just think the combination of Hoke’s emphasis on beating Ohio, and Fickell’s first season at the helm with a new quarterback will lead to Michigan breaking the decade-long spell that Tressel had on the Wolverines.

Michigan 31 – Ohio State 21

The forecast: 9-3

The so-called “experts” aren’t as high on Michigan, but the Wolverines have enough talent and experience on offense to continue to put up points like they did last season. The difference will be the mentality that Hoke has instilled to keep the offense going late in the season. Defensively, there are still holes and question marks, but a stout line and a rebuilt secondary is bound to improve under the guidance of new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison. Notre Dame and Ohio State are coin flip games that could be the difference between 9-3 and 7-5.

Introducing the Michigan Man 5-Spot Challenge

Saturday, August 27th, 2011


We are proud to announce the launch of Maize And Go Blue’s new weekly challenge, the Michigan Man 5-Spot Challenge. Do you think you’re the ultimate Michigan Man? Are you more dialed in to Michigan football than anyone else? Well now is your chance to prove it.

Each week before a game, five questions will be posted. These will be assorted predictions for the upcoming game. Simply answer all five and you’ll have a chance to win a weekly prize or the grand prize* at season’s end. Make sure to enter the same unique username each week so your results will be added together throughout the season. It’s as simple as that.

All entries must be received before kickoff of that week’s game. Entries submitted after kickoff will be disqualified. Also, only one entry per username per week is allowed. If multiple entries for the same username are submitted, the first one submitted will be recorded.

Season-long standings will be posted following each game.

Here’s the link for the Week 1 questions, or fill out the form below. Good luck!

*Stay tuned for the list of prizes. We’re working hard to bring you compelling prizes each week.

Non-Conference Preview : Western Michigan

Sunday, August 14th, 2011


Western Michigan
Date Saturday, Sept. 3
Time 3:30pm
TV ABC
Location Michigan Stadium
2010 Record 6-6 (5-3 MAC)
Head-to-Head Michigan 5 – Western Michigan 0
First Meeting 1917
Last Meeting 2009 : Michigan 31 – Western Michigan 7
Returning Starters 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.

Schedule
Sept. 3 at Michigan
Sept. 10 Nicholls State
Sept. 17 Central Michigan
Sept. 24 at Illinois
Oct. 1 at Connecticut
Oct. 8 Bowling Green
Oct. 15 at Northern Illinois
Oct. 22 at Eastern Michigan
Oct. 29 Ball State
Nov. 8 at Toledo
Nov. 16 at Miami (OH)
Nov. 25 Akron

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.

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