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This Week at The Wolverine Den
Utah at Michigan
September 20, 2014 - 3:30 p.m. ET
The Michigan Wolverines return to the gridiron to face the Utah Utes on Saturday at Michigan Stadium. For Utah, this is a BIG game – one that could provide them with the momentum to make some noise in the Pac 12. Like the Big Ten, many of the “contenders” in the Pac 12 have shown weaknesses. UCLA has struggled in three games. USC lost at unranked Boston College. Arizona State and Arizona have both shown vulnerability. Only Oregon has proven to be a dominant team. But Oregon is in the Pac 12 North. A victory over Michigan would catapult the Utes into the conversation for the Pac 12 South title – and the Utes know it.
Utah has started the season with two blow-out wins. They are 3rd in the nation averaging 57.5 points per game. They run a fast-paced offense that is balanced between run and pass. QB Travis Wilson is starting for his 3rd straight year. He is 6’7” and 233 lbs with some versatility. After throwing 16 interceptions last year, Wilson has not been picked off in 2014 and currently sits 2nd in the nation in pass efficiency. Dres Anderson is the senior wide receiver that had over 1,000 yards in 2013. He is averaging over 27 yards per catch this year. Kenneth Scott is the possession receiver, returning from an injury that cost him most of last season. It’s been a true running back by committee for the Utes, although Devontae Booker is best of the bunch. The competition has been weak thus far but Utah has still given up over 8 tackles-for-loss per game this year.
On defense, Utah leads the nation is both sacks and tackles-for-loss. Nate Orchard is the only returning starter from the D-Line. Eric Rowe has had 37 career starts at safety. But the depth at linebacker and in the secondary is limited. Utah plays an aggressive defense and is prone to giving up the big play.
The Wolverine Den Trivia
The crowd at Michigan Stadium on Saturday against Miami (OH) was the 253 consecutive game over 100,000 – but just barely. However, it was the first time in years that we weren’t “the largest crowd watching a football game anywhere in America today.” The 102,824 in attendance was the smallest crowd since when?
Special teams are often a deciding factor in close games. Utah has some of the best special teams players in the country. Punter Tom Hackett leads the nation in punting at 51.1 yards per kick. Kaelin Clay has already returned both a kickoff and a punt for TDs this year. But there are some intangibles that negate some of these advantages. Utah is one of the most penalized teams in the country with 86 penalty yards per game. They also have not won a road game outside of the state of Utah since 2012.
Michigan cannot take this game lightly. The Michigan defense must control the fast-paced offense and make stops on 3rd down. Our defense is only giving up 252.7 yards per game, 7th best in the nation. They will need to slow down the Utes if we are to come out on top. The Michigan offense should be able to take advantage of the Utah aggressiveness with short passes and draw plays. But this is not a game that we can just show up and win. There can’t be three turnovers this week.
Michigan and Utah are tied 1-1 in the series history, Michigan winning 10-7 in 2002 while Utah won 27-25 in 2008 (on their way to a perfect 13-0 season). Michigan will travel to Salt Lake City in 2015 to open the college football season on Thursday, September 3rd.
The Wolverines are a 5˝ point favorite.