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September 19, 2014 - Image 11

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2014-09-19
Note:
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Preview: Tempo a test

By ALEJANDRO ZUNIGA
ManagingSports Editor
Will Utah really threaten the
Michigan football team Saturday
afternoon at the Big House?
If you believe the betting lines,
yes.
The Utes (2-0) are just 4.5-point
underdogs after averaging nearly a
point a minute in a pair of blowouts
to start the season. Travis Wilson,
in his third season at quarterback,
boasts the second-highest passer
efficiency rating inthe country and
hasn't thrown an interception.
Receiver Dres Anderson, who
averaged nearly 19 yards per
catch last year, has gotten off to
a similarly explosive start in his
senior season. Two of his three
Im receptions against Fresno State
were for touchdowns, and he has
already accumulated 195 yards.
Because of an early bye week,
Wilson and Anderson had extra
time to prepare to face a Wolverine
secondary that coach Brady Hoke
admitted was "embarrassed"
two weeks ago in a 31-0 drubbing

against Notre Dame. And Utah
has a precedent of winning at
Michigan Stadium, taking down
the Wolverines in 2008.
The Utes run a spread offense,
which Michigan defensive
coordinator Greg Mattison
compared to Indiana's because
of its high-speed tempo. And last
year, the Hoosiers burned the
Wolverines for 572 yards and 47
points, frequently snapping the
ball before the defense could get
fully set.-
But don't necessarily expect the
Utes to roll over Michigan.
As MGoBlog's Ace Anbender
noted, despite Utah's frequent
four- and five-receiver sets, it
utilizes a spread-to-run attack,
meaning it relies on the rush to
set up the pass. In that aspect, the
Wolverines are well-suited; they
have allowed fewer than 100 yards
on the ground in their last two
games combined.
Of the defensive linemen,
senior end Frank Clark could be
Michigan's most effective player
Saturday. He has just two tackles

for loss this season but has become
the Wolverines' most consistent
threat at shedding his blocker and
disrupting a play.
And if Michigan's coaches have
their way, they'll avoid a track
meet between the two offenses
Saturday.
"We've got so much that we
want to accomplish on defense, and
this is the next game," Mattison
said Monday.
Another reason for optimism
for the Wolverines comes in the
quality of the Utes' opponents,
or lack thereof. Fresno State
and Idaho State have only one
combined win - the Bengals beat
Division II Chadron State by five -
and despite Michigan's struggles,
it'll easily be the most talented
team Utah has faced.
But the Utes are no cupcake,
and the Wolverines will have their
hands full come Saturday.
NOTE: Before the game,
a 15-aircraft flyover will
commemorate the centennial
anniversary of the University's
aerospace engineering program.

Q&A: Utes beat writer Ryan Miller

ALLISON FARRAND/Daily
Michigan's offense will have to keep pace with Utah's quick-strike attack Saturday.
'D' faces challenge

By GREG GARNO
Managing Sports Editor
The Michigan football team
last met Utah in 2008 - a 25-23
loss - when the Utes were a part
of the Mountain West Conference.
Now, Utah is finding its place in
the Pac-12. The Daily spoke with
the Utah Daily Chronicle's Ryan
Miller, an assistant sports editor,
to take a look at the Wolverines'
next opponent.
The Michigan Daily: There's
a lot of hype surrounding Utah
quarterback Travis Wilson.
What does he do so well that has
allowed him to carry the Utes? '
Ryan Miller: Really, he's
playing in a safer passing game.
The new offense put in by
(offensive coordinator) Dave
Christensen has been all about
limiting turnovers. Wilson,
last year, was known to air it
out. If it's an interception, it's
an interception. He'd have six-
interception games.
This year, he hasn't had one
because he's just making safer
throws. The offense is designed
where there's always a check-

down guy, always an easy slant
route. There's a throw to be
made, often for a few yards if
anything else. He's making those
decisions rather than think 'I
gotta go 40 yards.' I think it's
the better decision making and
better offense that'd helped.
TMD: I know it has been
just two games, but has anyone
shown signs of slowing down
Utah's offense?
RM: Right now, it seems like
no one can, but that's really more
of the opponent than anything.
They could have put i up even
more against Fresno State.
I don't really think they've
revealed everything, either. But
they're finally facing a team that
has the athletes to stop an offense
like this. It'll be interesting to see
what Michigan does.
TMD: Utah's defense is a bit
overlooked by its potent offense.
Where do its strengths lie?
RM: Well, at first against
Idaho State, the defense didn't
look - good. But against Fresno
State, they shut them down. The
defensive line, has been, and
always will be, the strength under
(head coach) Kyle Wittingham.

I'd be more concerned about
the secondary. I think they'll be
able to withstand the Michigan
run defense, which will be really
important. If they can hold the
rushing attack then I think they
have a pretty good chance in this
game.
TMD: The Utes enter off a bye
week early in the season. Will
that help them come Saturday or
is that not much of a factor?
RM: Aside from last season,
Wittingham actually had a great
record coming off a bye. But I
really think what will help is
coming off of injuries. They
were pretty banged up after
Fresno State. We know Jason
Wittingham won't be playing
the linebacker, but they hope to
have Gionni Paul coming back
for his first game. Michigan has
the same policy, where Utah just
won't talk about them at all.
TMD: What's your prediction
for Saturday?
RM: I've been going back and.
forth on this all week.
I actually think this will be
the coming-out party of Travis
Wilson. I'llsay a 27-20 victory for
Utah.

By ALEXA DETTELBACH
Daily Sports Editor
Michigan pass offense vs.
Utah pass defense
Against Fresno State two weeks
ago, Utah sacked the quarterback
seven times. Defensive end Nate
orchard anchors a Utes' defense
that leads the nation in sacks (5.5)
and tackles for loss (10.5) per game.
On the bright side, the Wolver-
ines should be getting junior wide
receiver Devin Funchess back,
and it will significantly open up
the offense for quarterback Devin
Gardner. And the Utes have only
intercepted one pass over their last
nine games.
Edge: Michigan
Michigan rush offense vs.
Utah rush defense
Utah's rush defense allowed just
55 yards against Fresno State. The
strong performance came after the
defensive line was called "soft" by
Idaho State's coach, following the
Utes' week one performance. The
defense also racked up 13 tackles
for loss.
Edge: Utah

Utah pass offense vs.
Michigan pass defense
Senior receiver Dres Anderson
is a big playmaker and averages
over 16 yards per catch over his
career, so the Michigan secondary
will have its hands full.
But Utah's offense will meet
its first big test against the Wol-
verines' seventh-ranked defense.
Mattison's unit is holding oppo-
nents to 252.7 yards per game and
4.12 yards per play.
Edge: Utah
Utah rush offense vs.
Michigan rush defense
Utah's offense goes beyond its
passing attack - it has three run-
ning backs averaging five yards.
per carry. Combine that with Wil-
son's dual-threat abilities, and the
Michigan linebackers will be on
their toes all afternoon.
But the Wolverine defensive line
is arguably the team's deepest unit
and has held opposing offenses to
an average of 80 rushing yards per
game.
Edge: Michigan
Prediction: Utah 38, U-M 31

-"" 4 FootballSaturday, September 19, 2014

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