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Who is the More Talented Football Team? The Michigan Wolverines or the UConn Huskies?

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While perusing the interwebz yesterday I started trying to compile a list of opposing blog previews of Michigan for the 2010 season. In doing so I came across a 2010 Michigan preview done by our SBNation colleagues over at The UConn Blog. The Preview is quite good, and done without the standard "LOL! Wur N Deir HOUZE! LOLverines!" that seems to accompany so many previews these days. If I had a gripe, it would be to substitute Stephen Schilling for David Molk on the list of key offensive personnel, but that's just me.

However, while going through their thoughtful preview, I saw this at the end of it:

Despite those concerns, the bottom line is thatUConn is the more talented team and the Huskies should win this game. Although it is by no means a lock that they will, the team better look good, because otherwise it might get pretty depressing around these parts. [Ed. Note - Emphasis mine.]

Now that's something I didn't expect to see. UConn has definitely made strides since becoming a Division 1 football program. They are consistently competitive and are probably the second or third best team in the Big East this season (Sorry, UConn fans, I've got Pitt winning the Big East this year). But the assertion that they are more talented than Michigan, even with the last two down years, seems a bit off to me.

So, to either refute or support their conclusion, I decided to dig up the recruiting profiles for each starter on the UConn team and contrast that with the recruiting profile for Michigan's starting lineup. I know this isn't the most scientific method of determining "talent", but it's the best information we've got without getting into the cross conference "who's better than who" nonsense. Every one of the kids playing on September 4 was once subject to the same scrutiny and evaluation by an independent source, in this case Rivals for simplicity, and each of them received a star grade based on their projected effectiveness at the college level and talent.

Let's be clear, talent is not a predictor of performance. Michigan or UConn may be the most talented team on the field over Labor Day Weekend, but talent does not ensure victory. Believe me when I say that Michigan fans are very much attuned to this truth. Talent is nothing unless matched with desire. Michael Jordan may have been the best basketball player of his generation, but he was also the most ruthlessly competitive person the game had ever seen. And he will admit, with a giant smile on his face, that it was his competitiveness that drove his success.

This little exercise is just to check the numbers and see which team's starters are considered the most "talented." Which team has the greater desire and competitive nature will have to be determined on the field.

After the jump, I'll break down the UConn starting roster, player by player..


The UConn Offense

LT Adam Masters(RSo., 6-4, 270) Two stars

LG Mathieu Olivier(RSr., 6-6, 276) Two Stars

C Moe Petrus (RJr., 6-2, 292) Two Stars

RG Zach Hurd(RSr., 6-7, 323) Two Stars and this beyond awesome photo

Zach Hurd

RT Mike Ryan (RJr., 6-5, 332) Two Stars

TE Ryan Griffin (RSo., 6-6, 240) Two Stars

TE John Delahunt(RSo., 6-3, 243) Two Stars

TB Jordan Todman (Jr., 5-9, 190) Two Star

TB Robbie Frey(RFr., 6-0, 199) Two Stars

FB Anthony Sherman (Sr., 5-11, 242) Two Stars

QB Zach Frazer(RSr., 6-4, 236) Four Stars

QB2 Cody Endres(RJr., 6-4, 223) Two Stars

WR Michael Smith (Jr., 6-0, 200) Two Stars

WR Kashif Moore(RJr., 5-9, 177) Two Stars

WR Isiah Moore (RJr., 6-1, 183) Two Stars

For purposes of keeping things fair, I'm using the end of spring practice depth chart as reported by the New Haven Register. If these position rankings aren't correct, or if someone else has taken a slot, please let me know and i'll correct it. However, the rankings are pretty clear, this is an offense comprised entirely of two star recruits and Zach Frazer. Irrespective of how these kids performed last season, these are their numbers and the numbers that many coaches and programs relied upon while recruiting their teams. If there's one thing you can definitely say about this team is that it is veteran. Two stars or not, they did better a much more talented Notre Dame squad last season, so keep that in mind.

By comparison, the lowest rated offensive player for Michigan is surprisingly Patrick Omameh, whom Rivals slated as a two star recruit. After that, the Michigan offense is comprised of three, four and five star recruits all of whom have impressive offer sheets. Each of Michigan's starting receivers and TE Kevin Kogerare slated as four star recruits. Starting tailbacks Mike Cox and Vincent Smith are both three star recruits. The rest of the offensive line is two four stars (David Molk and Taylor Lewan), a Five Star Stephen Schilling, and a three star Mark Huyge. According to the talent evaluators, Michigan has the edge in paper talent.

The UConn Defense

DE Jesse Joseph (So., 6-3, 231) Two Stars

DT Kendall Reyes(RJr., 6-4, 287) Two Stars

DT Ryan Wirth(RSo., 6-2, 275) Two Stars

DT Twyon Martin (RJr., 6-2, 270) Two Stars (they were listed as "or" so I sloted all three DT's even though only two will start).

DE Marcus Campbell (Jr., 6-2, 227) Two Stars

[As a side note, UConn's starting DE/LB Greg LLoyd who was second on the team in tackles last season with 91, was lost for the season to a knee injury.]

"Husky" LB  Jory Johnson(RSo., 6-1, 219) Two Stars

MLB Scott Lutrus(RSr., 6-3, 240) Two Stars

WLB Lawrence Wilson (RSr., 6-1, 217) Two Stars [BTW, he led the Big East with 140 tackles. The next closest in conference was at 109].

CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson (RSo., 6-0, 184) Two Stars

S Jerome Junior(RSo., 6-1, 208) Two Stars

S Kijuan Dabney (Sr., 6-0, 214) Two Stars

CB Dwayne Gratz(RSo., 6-0, 190) Three Stars

So, just like with the offense, this is a defense built on the backs of two star talent that are arguably outreaching their projected talent level. for comparison's sake the lowest rated starter on Michigan's defense is Jordan Kovacswho was not rated out of high school. To Kovacs' credit he was a Freshman All American, but I don't think you're going to see him on any kind of watch lists in the future. Unless the kid has another gear in his running that we haven't seen yet, i think he's pretty close to his ceiling. The next lowest rated recruit on Michigan's starting defensive roster is J.T. Floyd, who was still a three star cornerback with a bevy of BCS offers. After that, probably three star Greg Bankswho had everyone in the midwest on his recruiting tail. Obi Ezeh and Troy Woolfolk were both three star recruits as well. However, after that, everyone left is four star or higher.

The Takeaway

What I think our friends at the UConn Blog are getting at is that UConn is a veteran laden, talented group. They've got plenty of depth and a lot of good players. Looking at Michigan's roster, however, I think you'd be hard pressed to find areas where the Huskies possess higher rated recruits. Talent only goes so far unless you've got guys that will execute. Personally, I feel that football is one of those games where effort can top talent in any game. And if you've got organized talent, well, you're in great shape.

It's impossible to deny that the Huskies are a talented team, though I don't believe they're as talented as Michigan is position-by-position. What they are is a very organized and well coached team, and that by itself may be enough for them to trump Michigan's talent advantage.

But we won't know whether this analysis holds up until the teams take the field on September 4th.