Michigan vs. Akron
Ann Arbor, MI | Noon; BTN
Enemy Blog: Hustle Belt
Michigan just completed a stressful but spectacular win against a bitter rival in primetime in the second-ever night game hosted in the Big House, and it was led by a fully-operational
Death Star Devin Gardner who put up nearly 400 yards and five touchdowns. What is the opposite of that atmosphere?
Saturday Michigan will take on Akron in Ann Arbor in the team's first noon game of the season. Akron is Akron and has always been Akron in both name and in a more vague but largely consistent football sense. This is a game one step short of me using air quotes all the time around that word. Yes, I am probably laying on the jinx-able over-confidence a little thick, but this team isn't very good and a Michigan loss or even a win that isn't more than 20 is probably cause for concern.
When Michigan has the ball
Try these numbers on for size:
- 450 yards/game allowed (99th), 35.6 points/game allowed (104th)
- 305.4 yards/game allowed (7th), 12.7 points/game allowed (2nd)
Those are the defensive stats of Akron and Notre Dame in 2012, as well as the national rankings. Akron isn't going to provide much of an impediment to Michigan's offense, but there will be some important keys in this one.
Up front, Akron doesn't have a whole lot of size. Just one defensive lineman is listed over 300 pounds, although Keontae Hollis is close. This was hardly the case last week. The mandate becomes clear, then. Michgian is going to run the ball, then run the ball, then take a quick break for some Gatorade before going back out and running the ball until Akron curls up in a ball.
I know Michigan will pass the ball, but I don't think it would be a huge deal if that never happened. The offensive line needs further seasoning and there are a couple young running backs that could use game carries to further acclimate themselves to the college game. Feed the young guys.
If Michigan does decide to throw the ball, the odds are good that it goes well. Excusing Gardner's one "OH GOD NO" play a game, Akron has given up 314 and 310 yards this season, with three touchdowns in each game and only one interception. Gardner should take a couple deep throws (maybe to Jehu Chesson?) just for the hell of it, try to hammer down his footwork on the underneath stuff, and maybe break one big run. Other than that, shelf him and let Shane Morris run the offense for at least an entire half.
Even considering that this schedule also includes Central Michigan, UConn, and Indiana, this is the worst defense that Michigan will see this year. Better bring your sealin' club.
When Akron has the ball
When you envision MIchigan's defense vs. Akron's offense, think about last week, but then dial back the level of the offense and you have a close approximation of what is going to go down. Akron is a passing spread that will try to pick apart a defense with short passes.
Right now there are two quarterbacks receiving snaps. Kyle Pohl has about 75% of the team's throws while Nick Hirschman has a nice 68-yard completion to skew his stats so that it looks like he is appreciably better at throwing the ball down the field. He isn't, really. As a team Akron is throwing for 8.9 yards/attempt, but that 68 yard pass removed drops it .8. Michigan's safeties looked more than capable of keeping Notre Dame's athletic receivers in front of them for no big gains, and this one should feature even less time to pass because this line should be easier to generate pressure against than Notre Dame's.
The line also struggles to run block. Akron is currently at 205 yards on the season and a 3.4 yards/carry average. Of course, more than one-quarter of this yardage comes from one 55 yard scamper against JMU, so you can judge this rush offense accordingly. Junior Jawon Chisholm is the main option with sophomore Conor Hundley the backup.
As long as the safeties continue to play smart and the defensive line can get an appropriate amount of pressure, Michigan should make short work of this Akron offense.
When someone is kicking the ball
Brendan Gibbons is still Brendan Gibbons. But...
The big worry here is that mistakes elsewhere will cook Michigan's goose. Matt Wile went from Mr. Dependable some approximation of Will Hagerup with his horribly and badly timed shank last week. Dennis Norfleet giveth and he almost taketh away as that muffed punt was very nearly a give away that would have seriously changed the tenor of the game early.
Meanwhile Notre Dame got nice returns in both the kicking and punting games, and Michigan threw in a stupid late hit for good measure. If Akron wants any chance of making this one interesting, it will come by self inflicted wounds where Michigan swings field position advantage vastly into Akron's favor with a cavalcade of egregious errors.
Central Michigan feels so long ago.
Keys to the Game:
- Minimize mistakes: Not because there is a huge chance that a couple turnover swing this one, but because we all just want to see Michigan play one game without a couple horrible mistakes. So far this team seems like its 95% good, 5% bone-headed. Games like these when it is easy to sleepwalk through are a good barometer of how well a team is learning to focus and execute.
- Get the youth in: Michigan is going to rely on a lot of young players this year. Those players need some extended time in this one.
Alternate Programming: Last week was great and all, but sometimes it is nice to have a tune up, noon game fall on the same day as a solid flow of games all day. This is one of those weekends. There really isn't anything else of interest on at noon, so you can focus on Michigan's game. The 3:30 times slot is headlined by Alabama vs. the Fighting Johnny Footballs with Oregon-Tennessee as the undercard. Iowa-Iowa State starts at 6pm so you can watch as somebody can haz sad. I'd also keep an eye on Illinois-Washington in case this Beckman fellow is for real. OSU-Cal could be interesting at 7pm and should at least get you until 8pm for Ole Miss vs. Texas (hi Gerg), Oregon State-Utah and Wisconsin-Arizona State should be good late night games.
Inanimate Object Threat Level - 1: I once punch a wall and indented the plastic end of a tack into my knuckle because of a game of March Madness 04. Even in the least excusable circumstances I am prone to do something stupid. Hence the one.
Final Thoughts: Michigan does one thing that makes me want to punch a wall — probably on special teams — but holds Akron out of the end zone while marching to a cool half-a-hundred. We are all satiated for a day and then realize we get to do it all over again next week.
Michigan 51 Akron 6