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Quick Hit Preview Game 3: Michigan vs. UMass

Feature writer John KayserThis week we have a little breather. Yet, we can’t be too passive when entering this affair especially with memories of the App State horror show still lingering throughout the hallows of The Big House. Although playing the Minutemen is perceived by most to be a “cupcake contest” here’s the real breakdown. And as usual, with brevity.

Michigan may have underachieved so far this season and there is definitely a need for the Wolverines to make a big statement this Saturday.

The Minutemen of Massachusetts will be prepared and they bring with them two connections to the current Michigan program that could benefit them — somewhat — on the field on Saturday.

Michael Cox is the former four year reserve running back Michigan Man and is now a Minuteman. I’m sure Cox has told the UMass coaching staff everything he could about the way the Hoke runs his team. Granted, Cox actually only played one year under the guidance of Coach Hoke, but there are advantages to be gained, if only a little.

Then there’s the UMass first year head coach Charley Molnar who until this season has long been Brian Kelly’s right hand man. He knows a thing or two about preparing to play a Hoke coached team and even more about what it’s like to play “this” team on “our” field.

Yet, as much of an inside advantage those individuals might provide, I still don’t believe the knowledge gained should impact the outcome.

Umass has 18 starters returning from a team that was impressive on the FCS level. Yet all returning starters are on defense or special teams except for 6.

Look for Umass to run a spread with an emphasis on the passing game. Junior QB Kellen Pagel will start again this season after looking inconsistent at best as a starter a year ago.

Michigan on the other hand has struggled so far especially defensively.

The Greg Mattison defense and team in general will most assuredly use this game to keep getting the younger guys valuable game experience and will work them in support rolls to critique certain plays and packages. The coaching staff will continue to evaluate how good the team is and what they still need to improve on. My point is, UMass will be an extended warmup for the real test next week in South Bend. Michigan won’t say that and they shouldn’t. Yet, I can. And did!

I feel a big game coming for three players in peticular. Will Campbell, Roy Roundtree and Fitz Toussaint should finally have breakout performance games this week and will be the keys to the Wolverine victory. If they don’t, then they may never get going.

While I would expect that a majority of UMass’s focus and preparation was and will be spent trying to prevent Shoelace’s arms and legs from leading the Wolverines — once again — to victory that focus should allow for more running opportunities for Fitz and the rest of the running backs to finally get going.

Then as a result of the successful Michigan running attack I expect big opportunities for the wide receivers down field.

The Wolverine defense will create havoc in the backfield, pressure the Minutemen QB and stop the run. Finally a performance to boast about if for only a week.

All in all, I have approached all “gimme” games cautiously after “the horror” some years ago. But this one should only be close for about 3-5 minutes. Michigan wins big. Cox scores against his former team and gets some personal satisfaction and a reward for his perseverance.

Prediction: Michigan – 62, Air Force – 13

Go Blue!!!

You can follow John Kayser on Twitter at MGoYambo.

Last week’s prediction: Michigan – 38, Air Force – 21
Season Prediction Record: 1-1 - May the Hoke be with you! © January 11th, 2011
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