Make no mistake, the game on Saturday in the Big House is the biggest game in Brady Hoke’s coaching career at Michigan…this week!
And there is plenty of talk going around that the Utes from Utah and their 3rd ranked scoring offense will be too much to handle for the Maize and Blue.
The media in Utah seems quite comfortable picking the Utes to do something they struggle to accomplish — much like the Wolverines — these past few years; win on the road (2 victories since 2011).
And the Utah players themselves have spoken openly about how big of an opportunity it will be to take the field in the Big House and play among the 100,000 fans sure to be in attendance.
Plus the last time Utah visited Ann Arbor early in a season (2008), they did in fact earn a close 25-23 victory en route to an undefeated 13-0 season.
The Wolverines have proven too they are capable of losing big games and make no mistake: This is a very big game. It’s the last non-conference tune-up before Big Ten play begins played against a team from another power conference (Pac-12).
It’s also another chance for Brady Hoke to silence his detractors and quiet the groundswell of public disdain towards the job he’s doing as leader of the leaders and best.
Going for Michigan
After three games the Wolverine defense is ranked 7th in the nation for total yards allowed giving up an average of only 252 yards per game. Greg Mattison’s squad is defending the run better than the pass as it’s ranked 20th for yards allowed on the ground and 37th against the oppositions aerial attack.
The Michigan offense is 23rd best running the ball and sophomore running back Derrick Green is 23rd in the nation with a 110 yard-per-game average with three touchdowns scored.
Even though Utah is 2-0 this season, they are coming off back-to-back 5-7 seasons. And the quality of opposition they faced in 2014 is not the caliber of the Wolverines, no offense! So much has yet to be learned about how good the Utes really are.
Going Against Michigan
The health of the Wolverines top wideout Devin Funchess is in doubt again for Saturday’s game. After sustaining an undefined leg injury in the loss against Notre Dame, Funchess was held out of the contest last week against Miami (OH). With Brady Hoke’s tightlipped injury disclose policy, it won’t be until game time that we know.
Without Funchess, Devin Gardner will need his receives to step up and fill the void.
The Wolverines also played the game against the RedHawks down five starters (including Funchess). So depth will be a concern at spots.
Utah’s offense is ranked 3rd overall in scoring averaging 57 points-per-game.
The match-up will be season changer for the program that wins and loses. If Utah earns the win, they move to 3-0 and prove to themselves they can beat a quality opponent on the road in a big game. That would set the Utes up nicely for the games to follow.
If Michigan wins then they did what was expected of them to do. And the Wolverines open Big Ten play with a 3-1 record and a two-game winning streak. Coach Hoke gets to breath a bit easier and his program gains back some respect.
As much as the Utes scare me and this game looks ripe for an upset, in the end, Michigan should be victorious and when all said and done, pulls out a 27-24 victory.