Remember this time a week ago when everyone and their cousin was questioning whether the young pups on defense for Michigan would be ready for the big stage? Those questions were answered swiftly as the Wolverines suffocated the Florida Gators in the opener, allowing just 192 yards of total offense in the 33-17 victory.
Cincinnatialso was able to secure a somewhat comfortable 26-14 opening win over FCS member Austin Peay for first-year head coach Luke Fickell despite not scoring until the 10:54 mark of the second quarter. Starting quarterback Hayden Moore compared it to last season’s slow start against another FCS foe until the offense began to find its groove leading into halftime.
If the Bearcats are to have any chance this week against the Wolverines at the Big House, a slow start cannot happen.
Cincinnati at Michigan
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 9 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ABC
Spread: Michigan -31.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Flashbacks of last season
I am sure there were a few (myself included) that had flashbacks to the Ohio State game last season when Michigan held the narrow lead against the Buckeyes until a Wilton Speight pick-six swung the momentum. Similar situation in Week 1 with Michigan up 10-3 over the Gators until the senior quarterback threw back-to-back pick-sixes that gave the Gators a touchdown advantage. While the turnovers didn’t end up costing the Wolverines in this game, there has to be some concern moving forward if Speight cannot avoid the turnover bug. Head coach Jim Harbaugh did confirm the Speight is still the quarterback moving forward, though it is expected that backup John O’Korn will see reps as well.
2. Open up the offense
There were some reports that Cincinnati kept the offensive game plan relatively bland against Austin Peay in Week 1 due to its pending matchup the next week. Hopefully that is the case as the Bearcats were relatively unimpressive offensively. The ground game failed to get going despite a 100-yard performance from starting running back Mike Boone. As a team, Cincinnati averaged just 3.3 yards per carry on the day. Junior quarterback Hayden Moore was not very accurate throwing the football, especially in the first half, but rebounded with three touchdown passes. If Cincinnati is to make this a game over four quarters, the offense will have to take some chances to keep the vaunted Wolverine defensive line from pinning their ears back all day.
3. Sleepover paid off
Remember a few years back when Harbaugh had a sleepover at a recruit’s house trying to persuade him in joining the Wolverines? Well, that visit paid off then and the team is now reaping the benefits as Quinn Nordin was named co-Big Ten special teams player of the week after booting four field goals against Florida, including two of 50 yards or more. The redshirt freshman kicker actually broke two records on the day. Nordin became the first player in program history to hit multiple field goals of 50 yards or more. His 55-yarder is now the longest field goal ever made by a collegiate player in AT&T Stadium as well. If Michigan’s offense continues to play sporadically as it did in the opening week, having a reliable kicker and solid special teams will provide a huge boost.
Don’t anticipate the first-ever meeting between the two schools to be a close one. Michigan certainly looks faster and possibly even more talented than last year’s squad that went 10-3, and now gets to play in front of 100,000-plus of their fans in the home opener. And if you thought Florida’s offense was inconsistent, just wait until you see what Cincinnati is bringing to the Big House on Saturday. Expect much of the same from the Wolverines’ defense in what will end up being a comfortable home-opening victory.
Prediction: Michigan 41, Cincinnati 13
— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Follow him on Twitter @MBainbridgeCFF.