Saturday’s prime-time matchup between the Michigan Wolverines (1-0) and Washington Huskies (0-1) was supposed to feature two teams coming off victories in Week 1 as heavy favorites. Only the Wolverines head into Saturday undefeated, as the Huskies suffered a shocking 13-7 defeat at the hands of FCS opponent Montana. Washington mustered just 291 total yards of offense, including three costly turnovers from starting quarterback Dylan Morris.
As for the Wolverines, it was a near-perfect Saturday afternoon defeating in-state rival Western Michigan 47-14 with a dominant showing on both sides of the football. A devastating season-ending injury to one of Michigan’s top offensive playmakers and team leaders put a damper on the win, but it was the kind of performance the Wolverines needed after what transpired last season.
Sets up to be an important showdown on Saturday night for both teams.
Washington at Michigan
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 11 at 8 p.m. ET
Spread: Michigan -7
When Washington Has the Ball
Nothing went right offensively for the Huskies last weekend. Morris threw three interceptions, and the Washington running game totaled just 65 yards on the ground despite bringing back all five starters along the offensive line. After starting the contest a perfect 6-for-6, Morris completed only 50 percent of his passes the remainder of the game and averaged just 7.2 yards per attempt — down from 10.2 a year ago. Much of that was due to getting rid of the ball quicker than hoped with Montana defenders breathing down his neck consistently as the offensive line failed to protect.
Head coach Jimmy Lake squashed any talk this week that we might see a change at the quarterback position with freshman Sam Huard waiting in the wings, but the calls will grow louder from the fan base for the 5-star recruit should Morris continue to struggle.
Things won’t get any easier this week against a Michigan defense that, for the most part, looked improved from a year ago after allowing 34 points per game in 2020. The Wolverines held a good Western Michigan offense to just 14 points and were giving the Broncos varying looks in the new 3-4 scheme under defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald.
When Michigan Has the Ball
As good a start as it was for Michigan offensively last weekend, there was a dark cloud over last week’s outcome with the season-ending knee injury to one of the team captains in Ronnie Bell. The senior receiver was off to a tremendous start with a 76-yard touchdown reception and had another highlight-reel catch that was nullified due to an unfortunate penalty prior to the injury. With Bell sidelined, the Wolverines will look to junior Cornelius Johnson and a plethora of underclassmen receivers to pick up the slack. Overall, the passing game was efficient last week behind starting quarterback Cade McNamara, who completed 9 of 11 throws for 136 yards and two touchdowns.
The Wolverines didn’t need to put the ball in the air much with how successful they were on the ground, accumulating 335 rushing yards, spearheaded by the breakout performance of sophomore Blake Corum, who had a career-high 111 yards and two total touchdowns. Running lanes won’t come as easily this week against a Washington defense that allowed just 10 first downs to Montana, although the Huskies unexpectedly surrendered 127 rushing yards to an undersized Grizzles team. If Michigan can assert itself again on the ground, it will go a long way towards deciding Saturday’s outcome.
This sets up to be a low-scoring affair between defensive-minded programs each featuring offenses with lingering question marks coming out of Week 1. How will the Wolverines deal with losing one of their best offensive weapons? And can the Huskies move the ball with any consistency through the air or on the ground against a far more difficult opponent this week? Home-field advantage will give the Wolverines a boost on Saturday night and force this Washington offense into a few more turnovers to give Michigan a narrow victory.
Prediction: Michigan 24, Washington 20
Podcast: Week 2 Preview, Predictions and Picks Against the Spread
— 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.